Friday, November 19, 2010
Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, Part 1
"My soul is sorrowful, even unto death. Stay here and keep watch." Mark 14:34
When filmmakers decided to break J. K. Rowling’s seventh tome, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, into two parts – there was much uproar amongst fans and Potter purists who felt this was a very poor decision. Even outsiders were skeptical that the fissure of the book’s storyline was simply a case of financial greed on the part of filmmakers and would ultimately tarnish the experience.
Now after seeing the first installment of this two-part experience, I am starting to agree with those naysayers.
The end of Deathly Hallows, Part 1 leaves you hanging. It’s not the cleanest cut in a story I’ve ever seen - and perhaps it will make more sense next summer when the second part is finally released. But at this moment, the inconclusive nature of the movie leaves me uneasy.
By cleaving the story in half, this film is able to focus on one thing very well. In this case, it’s a survival travelogue of our three central characters, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson), and Ron (Rupert Grint).
Having distanced themselves from their classmates at Hogwarts and suspicious of the government, the trio hide in whatever ways they can: by disguising themselves (as seven Harry Potters to confuse Death Eaters), by escaping to the Weasley’s homestead, and after those are foiled, by apparating into forests, towns, and even downtown Muggle London – wherever they can feel safe… for a little while.
On this perilous journey, Harry, Hermione, and Ron try to figure out how to find and destroy “horcruxes,” items of special significance in which are held pieces of the soul of the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). But as they get closer to figuring things out, they also become more visible to the enemy.
Not only does this hiding and seeking wear down the trio, it also causes tension between them. As they get closer to defeating darkness, they are also led deeper into temptation, jealousy, and anger. The tight friendship they share begins to unravel just when they need each other the most.
Good relationships in life run that risk. The closer people get, the more vulnerable and exposed they are to each other. As we grow closer to love and holiness, the stronger the darkness wants to creep in.
In the New Testament, Jesus has his own close-knit group of friends: Peter, James, and John – who witnessed the raising of Jarius’ daughter (Mk. 5:37) and the Transfiguration on the mountain (Mk. 9:2). As the movement began to unravel in the final days, Jesus drew them close to his side again in the Garden of Gethsemane, confessing privately to this trio: “My soul is sorrowful, even unto death. Remain here and keep watch.” (Mk. 14:34) Then only a stone’s throw away, Jesus experiences the pain of temptation (Mk. 14:35-36) and anger at the drowsiness of the disciples (Mk. 14:37-38,40).
Our own closest friendships and our most intimate relationships can be wonderful and joyous, but like Harry, Ron, and Hermione – and Jesus, Peter, James, and John – they can also be closest to our biggest struggles. Because of that, we must take great care of those people and be ever mindful of our experiences, conversations, and reactions to them.
In Deathly Hallows, as in previous Potter films, the greatest “magic” is the love, support, and sacrifice of friends. In a way, Harry never defeats his foes due to any spells or incantations, just like our own troubles won’t go away so easily. Instead, in each movie, it’s the people and their relationships with Harry that ultimately save the day.
In our own Muggle world, the keys to our survival and success are the connections of the people we have around us. Our own future depends on the health and fulfillment of the bonds we have with our friends, family, and loved ones. When those connections are weak, so are we.
Perhaps the abrupt ending to Deathly Hallows, Part 1 is a mirror to our own lives. Unlike half-hour sitcoms or many two-hour movies, life’s problems don’t get solved so quickly. And just when we close the door to one situation, another seems to open. Most of life is lived in the in-between phase, just like audiences will be from winter to summer between Parts 1 and 2 of this seventh Potter film.
So what are we to do? Taking a cue from the movie itself, it is best to survive the great in-between with the company of other people, especially those most dear to us. Alone, we get caught in our thoughts and temptations – but with others, we grow stronger and better.
In his own great in-between phase in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus needed to be surrounded by his cherished companions, Peter, James, and John. While they may irritate him at times (look to Simon Peter’s encounters with the Lord for a few examples of this), they were the ones he loved so much – and they were the ones who continued the movement beyond the cross to come.
With months to go before the final installment – and with the finality of our life’s challenges somewhere in the distance – why not experience this in-between time with those God has given to journey with us? It’s what Jesus would do.