I remember November 2001 being at Lucas & Sarah's rehearsal dinner, sitting at the same table as John, Kelly Kiser and her mom, and . . . (I don't remember who else), when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone came up in conversation. A bunch of folk were planning on seeing it that night after the rehearsal, but I had caught a matinee before the rehearsal and everyone was envious. I enjoyed that first film because it did a good job of introducing the world. That first book wasn't all that great and, ultimately, the movie wasn't either, because both had this monumental task of creating a new world. The movie so slavishly followed every plot of the book that it lacked the spirit of the story, something Chris Columbus failed at again in Chamber of Secrets.
But Prisoner of Azkaban is a completely different film. And a far better one.
I was initially excited when I heard that Alfonso Cuaron would direct. And that proved to be a good choice, because this film really does a good job of capturing early teen angst, development, and identity problems (yet in the metaphorical way that we Buffy fans valued about that tv show). And I love the humour of the opening shot of Harry playing with his wand.
Immediately you realize you are in a different film. The colours are darker. It's a little grainer. The camera moves more realistically. I found myself jumping at things and being creeped out by a thing or two. This one really captured the sense of magic with all its ambiguity.
I watched it with my new seventh graders and some other youth as part of VBS. It was funny to hear their reactions. They are dedicated readers of the stories and complained when every detail wasn't right, though most did acknowledge this one to be the best. One kid complained this one was too short (2 hours and 15 minutes isn't 2 1/2 hours, I guess?).
Blair kept asking what my favourite scene was. It is the scene where Harry is trying to defend Sirius from the Dementors, the first time you see this sequence of events. It is visually powerful and emotionally raw.
Thinking last night, I realized that the metaphors work for more than young teens. Many of us have dementors in our lives -- those things that can suck our souls (or at least part of them). I think of my many friends who battle depression or other illnesses. Last night was one of those nights (not every night but maybe once a week, or, when I'm better, maybe once a month) when I lie awake trying to go to sleep but the overpowering sense of loneliness keeps me awake. I then toss and turn throughout the night. And awake wanting to stay in bed and not get up and go have fun with kids and teenagers because fun is the furtherest thing from my mind. It's in moments like these when you sometimes feel that there is maybe some part of you that's dying, that being drained away. I just wish I knew the patronus spell for that.
We've come a long way from that night in 2001 when the dazzle of the new world enchanted us. Now we're dealing with serious issues. And Harry's story gets even darker from here.