Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1
Release Date: May 11, 2010
The idea for Harry Potter may have popped into JK Rowling’s head on a train from Manchester to London, but her bespectacled boy began to take on real depth the day her mother died.
“It was a terrible time. My father, Di and I were devastated,” she would write later. “Probably because we could not bear to contemplate the idea that she could die so young.”
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 is the beginning of the end for her wizarding hero, so it is no surprise that JK has him and her audience battling an enemy far bigger than Voldemort.
The seventh Harry Potter film is a thrilling ride and a worthy continuation, but it is no overstatement to say that it is drenched in death. From the opening moments it appears in its most hideous forms – sad, tortured figures; fatal head-wounds; snakes eating bodies – and alongside these images, the creeping horror its presence brings to every character.
HP7 is a wartime film. With the passing of Albus Dumbledore, the wizarding world has lost its Winston Churchill, and the enemy seeps into every corner of society. Voldemort’s servants, the Deatheaters, take over the Ministry of Magic and establish a new order strongly reminiscent of Nazi Germany, right down to its obsession with ‘pure bloods’. Like so many non-Aryans before him, a frightened elderly magician is dragged into a back room by jack-booted thugs, pleading:
“There’s been a mistake! I’m only half a muggle!”
Is death the problem? Should we be shielding children from that particular obscenity? No, but neither do we want to create in them the terror that Rowling’s characters feel. The intrepid trio Ron, Hermione and Harry are all petrified by what Voldemort’s rise could mean for their nearest and dearest. “No-one else is going to die for me,” Harry tells Ron. Not even Voldemort’s Deatheaters are immune. They nervously serve their master, fearing their own demise. And what of the dark lord himself? He spends the film frantically seeking the most powerful wand ever created, “… as if his life depended on it.”
The hope HP7 offers lies in a fable about three brothers who meet Death. One manages to hide from him long enough to enjoy a long and full life. When he is finally ready to leave this world, the brother reveals himself and “greets death as a friend.”
As key characters fall left, right and centre, this is the lesson we are meant to learn.
Death can be accepted by those who are happy with the lives they have lived. But when I look back on the real horrors HP7 so realistically represents, I think this will be small comfort to Voldemort’s victims.
There is a third perspective on death that Harry discovers, though no camera angle will draw it to your attention. In a snow-covered graveyard Harry finds the headstone of his parents. Printed along its bottom edge is the comfort the Bible offers:
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”
Death does not have to be accepted; it is our enemy. Nor does it have to be feared; its destruction is coming. Those who buried Harry’s parents at least had some knowledge of the victory Jesus Christ won over death and the resurrection he can deliver. It would be well worth drawing this to the attention of your fellow filmgoers, and adding it to their store of miraculous knowledge.
* 1 Corinthians 15:26