Friday, Nov. 12, 2010
THE BEGINNING OF THE END: PROFESSORS DISCUSS MAGIC OF SEVENTH HARRY POTTER FILM
MANHATTAN -- The on-screen battle between The Boy Who Lived and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is nearing its conclusion. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" will soon arrive in theaters, much to the anticipation of scores of Muggles, including two Kansas State University professors.
The film's Nov. 19 release will bring the movie franchise based on J.K. Rowling's popular book series to an almost-conclusion. Warner Bros. will release the second portion of the seventh film in July 2011.
"I think dividing the seventh book into two films actually makes a lot of sense, because this is a large book and there is a lot to cover," said Philip Nel, K-State professor of English and director of the children's literature graduate program. "One of the difficulties of adapting a book into a film is deciding what to cut and take out. It's especially hard for these books because it is a multi-volume mystery. Details are important. If you cut the wrong detail, then later there is a problem."
Nel and Karin Westman, associate professor and head of the department of English, are both experts on the Harry Potter series. They have studied and written about the series and teach K-State's popular undergraduate English course, "Harry Potter's Library." This fall Westman is teaching a new graduate seminar, "Harry Potter and Literary History."
The latest Harry Potter film follows Harry and his friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger as they try to complete Dumbledore's mission of finding and destroying the Horcruxes to defeat Voldemort, who has ascended to power. The film is set to end at Chapter 24 in the book, right after Voldemort obtains one of the three Deathly Hallows -- the Elder Wand.
"One of the fan descriptions of the first half of the seventh book is 'Harry Potter and the Very Long Camping Trip,'" Westman said. "So, the question here will be how the film's producers, director and writer decide to create dramatic tension during a course of time when the three of them are basically camping and trying to stay away from those who are trying to kill them."
While the camping is seen almost entirely through the eyes of Harry in the seventh book, the characters turn to other means to learn what is going on in the wizarding world. That has left filmmakers with the challenge of showing what is happening in the outside world to the three characters who do not know what is going on, Westman said.
Both professors hope that Neville Longbottom, Harry's clumsy classmate and friend, will have a more prominent role in the film because of his importance in the seventh book.
"Voldemort could have attacked either Neville or Harry to try and kill him. He chose Harry," Nel said. "The importance of Neville is the importance of choice. That's one of the big themes of the books -- what we do with our choices."
In addition to the storytelling, both professors are curious to see how the filmmakers use their magic to produce specific scenes -- such as Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour's wedding -- and create wizarding objects, such as Hermione's beaded handbag, a small purse that can magically carry items such as clothes, camping gear and even a small library.
Such recreations show the filmmakers' interpretation of the books and allow them to adapt and translate the books into a new medium, Nel said. A book and film are two different media and one cannot be rendered as the other.
"What makes the Harry Potter books work and the magic of the Harry Potter books come to life is the storytelling and the characters," Nel said. "That's what makes you connect with the books. That's what makes you care about what is going on."