Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

23 July 2009

HP6

I recognize that a lot of popular film critics have commented that there are far too many feelings in the movie. But the problem with David Yates's Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince as I see it is that it spends far too little time on feelings that matter and too much time on nonsense.

The most important feelings (as I recall--and it's been awhile, so I could be screwing this up) in the book version of HP6 are Draco Malfoy's personal struggle with trying to get that transporting cabinet to work, his coping with being a failure etc. and the brilliantly written chapter of the book where Dumbledore and Harry go to destroy the locket/horcrux in the grotto. In the book Dumbledore begs Harry not to feed him any more of the liquid because he is in so much pain and Harry, despite his love for his teacher, uses trickery and deception to get Dumbledore to drink it. In other words, he knows that he is causing his father figure pain, but he pushes through it, at much psychic expense to himself. It is a thrilling, powerful sequence. In the book.


In the movie neither of these real emotional struggles is given much time. They don't seem that important to screenwriter Steve Kloves or director Yates. Michael Gambon doesn't even really step up his acting in this sequence.

Instead of interesting and complicated emotions, Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince spends most of its time surveying the lovesick machinations and foibles of the teenage denizens of Hogwarts. HP6, of course, has nothing new to say about teenage love, and it isn't particularly interested in bringing a new perspective, anyway. Rather, it spends its time confirming everything we already know about adolescent emotional rollercoasters, and in making us all feel like we are so much wiser than the kids in the film. We smile at their lovesicknesses and absurdities because we have already emerged from this phase of our lives and into the "serious phase" where love has actual consequences. It's all very shallow.

Still, there is some good stuff in HP6. Jim Broadbent is a wonderful Professor Slughorn. And he is actually acting in the film (unlike Gambon). I also really like Nicholas Hooper's score. And I think that the three leads are becoming really delightful actors. Daniel Radcliffe has some moments as Harry that I would even venture to call inspired. (I thought the entire Liquid Luck sequence was fantastic). And I love me some Emma Watson.