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The beginning of the end.

No better words can be used to describe the first

installment of the Deathly Hallows, the epic finale of the Harry Potter movie series. It
was with a mix of excitement, sadness and nostalgia that I watched Harry Potter and the
Deathly Hallows - Part 1. Excitement for what is to come next; sadness as I feel the
emotions the characters feel as they struggle to overcome each new obstacle; and
nostalgia for my childhood, and the actor’s too, is, in a way, coming to a close with the
official finish to the franchise.
Before we have even seen one frame of the film, we know that the sole purpose of
Part 1 is to set the stage for, what we can only assume will be, the epic Part 2. Splitting
J.K. Rowling’s seventh book into two films, while leaving much more room to tell the
story, also leaves Part 1 in extreme risk of suffering from “middle movie. Syndrome:”
pointless plots that are not worth watching if you don’t watch the next film as well. While
it is true that the film would never stand alone, it is also true that it left me the exactly
right amount unsatisfied. The purpose of Part 1 is to build up Part 2, and it did an
excellent job of doing just that.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 finds the heroic trio of friends
Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley as they attempt to follow along, the
now deceased, Professor Dumbledore’s path of destroying Horcruxes in order to stop the
Dark Lord Voldemort’s reign of magical terror. The three must deal with reaching
adulthood and consequently the dangers of ultimately being on their own and
unprotected, except by each other. Lord Voldemort’s Death Eaters are everywhere,
wreaking havoc on the magical and muggle world alike, creating a constant state of
paranoia and fear. The future for Harry, Ron and Hermione is left unclear as they bravely
fight through obstacles in the form of torture, anger, doubt and loss of friendships.
Cinematically, Part 1 is the best of the bunch so far. Dark gray and silver colors
saturate the screen, appropriately emphasizing the desolation and hopelessness Harry,
Ron and Hermione feel throughout the film. Director David Yates shot the film with such
a grace and ease that is expected from a third time Harry Potter director. While the story
runs naturally slow in the first installment, the audience is surprisingly well kept at alert.
This is impressive, not because of the pace of the film, but because roughly 97% of the
audience already knows what happens. Yates expertly uses key action scenes such as
Harry’s ambush at Privet Drive and Bathilda Bagshot’s house escapade to liven the film
and keep audiences on edge.
Guided expertly by Yates are our three heroes who we have watched now for
nearly 10 years. Oh how far they have come since the Sorcerer’s Stone! Daniel Radcliff
(Harry), Rupert Grint (Ron), and Emma Watson (Hermione) have finally hit their stride
with the Deathly Hallows and seem to be more comfortable in their characters than ever.
The emotional weight of Part 1 is by far greater than the other films, but the actors carry
it well as they lead the audience along with them as they face every emotion from
heartbreak to mortal danger.
As ever, it is the heavyweight actors that truly hold the film together from every
angle. Ralph Fiennes manifests the character of the evil Lord Voldemort so well that it’s
impossible to not feel uneasy whenever he is simply onscreen. The film unfortunately
lacks the impressively creepy presence of Alan Rickman’s Professor Snape but the one
scene he is a part of at Voldemort’s dinner table, is excellently acted, and terrifying.
However, what stands out the most about Part 1 is the utter faithfulness it gives to
Rowling’s book. Of the seven Harry Potter movies out thus far, Part 1 felt the most like
watching on screen what Rowling wrote on paper. This is a clear compliment both to the
filmmakers for respecting the book, and to Rowling that her plotline and scenarios were
able to play out as well visually as in writing. Even exact dialogue lines from the book
are said in the film when Hermione and Ron exchange jokes of “always the tone of
surprise.” This unswerving replication of the book is what I have felt was lacking in the
previous movies and I found myself constantly being thrilled when little details from the
book were highlighted in the film.
Perhaps my favorite scene in Part 1 is a rare divergence from the book. Ron has
just stormed off after a fight with Harry and Hermione is left heartbroken, having made
the decision to stay and help Harry rather than go after Ron. In the scene, Harry leads
Hermione in an impromptu dance, lightening the mood, albeit temporarily, for both
Hermione and the audience. After the dance is over Hermione goes back to missing Ron
and we go back to despairing.
More than anything Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 leaves us
lowly muggles desperate for what can only be called one of the most anticipated series
finale of all time. With all the hype and high expectations of millions of people
worldwide, the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 has a lot to live up to, but if the first installment
is any indication Part 2 won’t disappoint.