Welcome to Fistful of Words’ first ever Campfire Conversations. For years, the hub of interesting conversation in the workplace has wandered from the break room to instant messenger programs. Our contemporaries probably spend surprisingly large chunks of their workday discussing their lives or the latest pop culture phenomenon over Gchat or Facebook, when they’re not watching YouTube videos of course. Honestly, how are we still a productive society?
We tried to approximate the workplace discussion of hot topics in this unoriginal, yet immensely fun, medium. For the FoW Campfire discussion, one writer picks a topic and then emails their thoughts on the subject to some of our other authors. A discussion ensues via email until all the questions are answered, everyone gets bored, or one of us has to do actual work. The number of writers in a conversation can vary from two to all six of our current contributors.
So, enjoy our conversations that occur when we should be working. Chances are you should be working right now as well. But who are we to judge?
Topic: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I will be released at midnight tonight November 18h. In honor of the seventh and final installment being released in two parts, this FoW Conversation will come in two parts. We will have a two part preview of the movie posted today discussing themes, topics, and hopes for the movie. Check back in on Sunday for a review of the film in the same Campfire format.
T.S. Oldman, Thomas Hokum, and Elaine Dunaway were brave enough to declare their inner Harry Potter nerd by making public their emailed thoughts before and after the film.
[Spoiler Warning! This preview contains discussion events from the entire Potter book series including the ending].
T.S. Oldman: While I’ve only watched the Harry Potter movies once through, I have to admit that I have read the entire book series three times. (I figured I might as well come out swingin’ and ‘fess up early to being a complete and utter fan). After the death of Cedric Diggory in the fourth installment, the Harry Potter story is supposed to take a decidedly darker turn. The fifth book and movie both have a fleeting angst to them that feels like a teenage hormone-fueled mood swing. However, in the book series, somewhere between Snape killing Dumbledore and the midway point of The Deathly Hallows, the story has shifted from young adult fiction to hard edged adult fiction. Angst has given way to despair, laughable English euphemisms have been traded in for real swearing, and there is a noticeable malice and danger associated with the violence.
Yet, despite Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince being the best executed movie of the series (in my opinion), I really want the last five-minutes re-filmed. Is it odd that the movie ending of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince left me longing for… despair? No, really. Go back and look at the closing scene of Harry Potter six. In the story line for the books and the movie: Dumbledore is dead. Snape is now a known murderer. Harry knows the locket in his possession is a fake horcrux. Harry has no idea where the other horcruxes are located. Harry knows he’s leaving the safety net of Hogwarts. And yet, in David Yates film, we have an ending scene with early morning skies; a sleepy-looking, sullen Ron; and Harry and Hermione are talking about how beautiful the grounds of the school are and Ginny and Harry toning down the kissing in front of Ron.
Pardon me as I ask, “WHHHHHATTTTT?!!!!”
One of the most brilliant features of the J.K. Rowling series is that the book ages with the audience. The first two books feel like children’s fiction. Watching the movies feels the same way. Emma Watson’s frizzy hair. Daniel Radcliffe being impossibly small. Everything feels like a children’s story. However, by the time Fenrir Grayback and the other Death Eaters show up in the Half-Blood Prince, I feel as if the movies could have been Rated R. Maybe my opinion that every movie or television show would be better if the directors had more license to tell a real story (imagine if Lost were shown on HBO or Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight could have been rated R), is short sighted. Every Harry Potter film was destined to be PG-13, because not allowing teenagers into the theater would have left hoards of money on the table.
So, heading into Part I of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows I’m hoping for despair. I need Harry, Ron, and Hermione to be beaten down by their quest. I need them to feel isolated and alone and frustrated. And I need Part I to finish that way. Is that too much to ask or will I be disappointed and feel moderately happy as I leave the theater?
Elaine Dunaway: I suppose I should, like T.S., give my Harry Potter creds before presuming to speak about the series. I have read all of the books at least twice and my favorites three or four times. I've also seen all of the movies at least twice. (For me, a good series only gets better the more times you read/view them.) So now that you know where I stand in regards to our wizarding friends, let's jump into the conversation!
I would have to disagree with T.S. on a rather central element of his assessment: that is, I feel that the ending of the sixth movie was appropriate to the overall feel of the series. In my opinion a central theme of Harry Potter is that love -- be it romantic, filial, or friendship -- truly does conquer all. An offshoot of that is that love brings hope in even in the darkest of times. Thus, when the sixth movie ends with a rather Samwise Gamgee "I'll never leave you" moment from Hermione and Ron, I feel that is the movie's way of demonstrating how much friendship and love are an essential element for Harry to have the strength to continue fighting in the face of overwhelming despair. This is a theme which is only strengthened in the seventh book, when Hermione is, at times, the only thing standing between Harry and utter isolation and/or death.
So, while I do hope that the seventh film brings the audience into the isolation, frustration, despair, sadness, and hopelessness of Harry's quest, I hope that it maintains the sense of hope that we've seen present in the series up to this point. While "going there" in a more mature, rated-R kind of way might make sense, I don't think that would stay true to the novels. Yes, the last books are written at a more mature level; however, the series as a whole has a much more hopeful feel than The Road, which is how I'm seeing T.S.'s vision of this movie. Rowling never leaves her readers without hope, as there is always a tight-knit, loving community ready to fight against evil. Because of this, I'm counting on leaving the theatre early Friday morning with a sense of humanity's potential.
Thomas Hokum: Unlike my fellow FoW nerds, I was late to the Potter scene and only read each book once. A kid on the floor of my freshman dormitory was big into the books and excited that the next one, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, was due to come out soon. Being an avid reader, I borrowed his collection and quickly caught up. In retrospect, it was an odd experience because the Potter books I actually read back-to-back focused on Harry’s youthful experiences at Hogwarts.
I only read each of the books once because my general attitude towards reading is to focus on the horizon. I keep a healthy ‘To-Read’ list and I can actually remember (even through the college daze) that the next book I picked up was the Ultimate Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which contained all the books in the series. Suffice it to say, I put some distance between Hogwarts and myself between each book, and doubly-so for each movie.
This leaves me with the unique experience of having to actually “try” to remember what each book was about, as if I actually lived them. (Hint: Wikipedia helps) What I take away from the series is the division between the first four books and the last three, although the fourth seems to be a transition piece.
The first three books were about world building. Rowling introduced us to this amazing hidden culture and provided all the details that a young boy would notice, while a full grown adult would be in too much shock to care. Even at their scariest moments these books were innocent and largely self-contained in their plot structures. Rowling easily could have kept the series going this way until long past Harry left Hogwarts; but half way through, she decided to begin the ‘kill cycle’ on the story she was really there to tell: an orphan boy grows up to slay an evil wizard. At some point, if we are to believe this wizard is truly evil, someone has to die. And with the death of Cedric Diggory, the story’s fate is sealed. Voldemort returns, and so, a timer is started until Harry or he must die.
As far as the movies, I’ve found they get better like the books with each one, and that they do, in fact, get darker each go around. But this doesn’t mean they need to be R rated or have people dropping f-bombs and casting spells that blow off people’s arms. They just need to convey the fear a young boy would feel watching his friends get hurt by someone he’s destined to kill or be killed by. If the movies get you inside that head-trip, they’ve done their job.
Click here for Part II of Fistful of Words preview of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.