Harry, Ron and Hermione are in a race against time to track down and destroy the Horcruxes; hidden parts of the evil wizard Voldemort’s soul that guarantee him immortality. To make matters worse, they learn of the existence of the Deathly Hallows, three powerful magical items that grant mastery over death. Voldemort is seeking the ‘Elder Wand’ – one of the Hallows – and if he finds it he will become impossible to defeat.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (2010) – Director: David Yates
Running Length: 146 mins
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes
It is well-known that the Harry Potter movies, as the books, became darker as they progressed. ‘Deathly Hallows – Part 1’ marks a high watermark for tone. Right from the opening montage, which depicts Hermione wiping all memory of herself from her parents, it is clear that the order of business here will be a morose, depressing and bleak atmosphere; and the film is better for it. The previous instalments have introduced the characters, the concepts and the principles upon which this fantasy world operates. ‘Deathly Hallows – Part 1’ takes advantage of this by not concerning itself with over explanation or re-hashes of previous elements. While this may make the plot a little baffling for people who have not followed the series to date, for fans it means that the world of Potter has never felt more real. The splitting of Deathly Hallows into two movies (thereby reserving the climactic battles for Part 2) gives this penultimate entry the space it needs to breath. Whether it be skipping Hogwarts to go on the run from forces ready to kill, or standing by a cold tent in a desolate forest and taking a moment to show the resolve draining from our heroes: the direction has the time to establish the desperate gravity of the situation. The central concept of ‘Deathly Hallows – Part 1’ is survival.
Most of ‘Deathly Hallows – Part 1’ takes the form of a road movie. Harry, Ron and Hermione are on the run from the forces of the evil Voldemort. They flee from constant life threatening danger and take to living on the road, questing to find the hidden pieces of Voldemort’s soul. Not only trying to find them: searching for how to destroy them. There is a smattering of ‘The Lord of The Rings’ in this – in that the piece of Voldemort’s soul (called a ‘Horcrux’) our trio already have exerts a dark influence on whomever holds it, raising tensions and bringing buried bitterness to the surface. The colour palette is dark; the mood is desperate and the film benefits greatly from having the time to explore character rather than just dazzle with fantasy set pieces. ‘Deathly Hallows’ is a great adult fantasy story. It is likely to be far too bleak for younger children due to the lack of light relief. However, for kids who have grown up year on year with each Harry Potter movie, the fact that ‘Deathly Hallows – Part 1’ takes raising the stakes very seriously makes it ultimately one of the strongest movies in the Potter series.
IS ‘HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – PART 1’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?
The amount of potentially unsuitable content in ‘Deathly Hallows – Part 1’ is much increased compared to previous instalments. Therefore, in detailing scenes below with kids in mind, we will highlight the strongest elements on the basis that if you believe your child will be alright with them, then they should be ok with the rest of the movie.
Right at the beginning of the film, around three scenes in, there is a long scene with the evil Voldemort and his followers. They are seated around a long dining table and at the other end there is a character levitating on her back. She clearly cannot move and whimpers quietly throughout the scene as Voldermort talks to those present. He makes it clear that she is a teacher at Hogworts, the school for magical students present in all the previous movies. As the scene comes to a close she is terrified and begs Severus Snape (played by Alan Rickman) to help her, saying, “Severus please! We’re friends!”. Voldemort then uses the killing curse (“Avada Kedavra”). This takes the form of a bolt of green light erupting from his wand which then strikes the ex-teacher and she drops, dead. He then talks to his giant snake, saying, “Nagini, dinner”. The angle of the camera shows Nagini slithering straight at the screen and it strikes by lunging forward quickly. This is a long, dark and tense scene and if your child struggles at this point then they are unlikely to enjoy the rest of the film.
Several characters are killed in ‘Deathly Hallows – Part 1’. There is increasing emotional distress each time this happens. Kids who have grown to love these characters may find this increasingly emotional. The first instance is over very quickly although Harry does shout “No!” when it happens, and mentions it again in grief later. Another character is killed during this sequence but we do not see this happen; Harry learns of it later on. Yet another child favourite is hurt and other characters are upset at his injury. Right at the end of the film there is an extremely emotional loss and we recommend you judge how your children has taken the losses up to this point as the ending is designed to pull hard on the heartstrings.
In terms of physical violence on-screen there are a few scenes to note. Ron, Harry and Hermione can teleport using magic (called ‘Disapparating’) but this requires concentration or not all of the body will materialise correctly (referred to as being ‘Splinched’). On one occasion Ron becomes ‘splinched’. His arm is torn and bloody. He writhes and grunts in severe pain whilst Hermione is clearly very upset. This lasts a few minutes and is a drawn out scene of suffering and emotional distress. Similarly there is a later scene where Hermione is attacked by Bellatrix Lestrange (played by Helena Bonham Carter). Hermione is pinned to the ground by Bellatrix whilst the camera stays behind them. Bellatrix picks up a sharp object and although we don’t see it directly, it is clear that she is cutting into Hermione’s arm. Hermione screams loudly in pain and struggles to break free but without avail. Later, she is prone on the floor in the position she was before with tears falling down her face and we can see the word ‘Mudblood’ has been carved into her forearm. This is a strong scene attacking a central character and may cause upset.
Lastly on violence there is an animated sequence wherein the ‘Tale of the Three Brothers’ is told. This is done in stylised silhouette but does feature a throat being cut (which is stated in the voice over as, “slit the brother’s throat for good measure” and there is a blood splatter of white ‘blood’ on a black background) and a hanging (this is a done in the background and to the left of the screen but is lingered on for 5 seconds or so).
There are a couple of moments that may be too scary for kids. When Harry, Hermione and Ron get to Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place (established as a safe house in ‘Order of the Phoenix’, there is some smoke that forms into the shape of a ghost. It gathers and lunges at our trio but this is over quickly and not too intense. Later, however, there is a close up of a character’s face disintegrating as the body collapses in on itself. This is done to surprise and all is not as is seems but the shot lasts around 10 seconds, takes up most of the screen and leads into an action conflict.
The remainder of the content we want to highlight is to do with dialogue and conflict. As mentioned above, the presence of the Horcrux that our trio carry causes the characters to be quick to anger (much like the One Ring in ‘The Lord Of The Rings’). This leads to some very spiteful and angry conversations between Harry and Ron particularly. Again, for children who enjoy these characters’ previous camaraderie the breaking down of the group may be upsetting. Lastly there is one rather odd moment near the end when the Horcrux is defending itself against attack. It creates a fake Harry and Hermione to taunt Ron. Their dialogue implies that they are being physically intimate. They become naked (although both of their lower bodies and Hermione’s chest is obscured by black ‘magical mist’) and then embrace and kiss passionately. This is essentially the finale to the movie and may come as somewhat of a surprise. The scene lasts around 1 – 3 minutes.
CAN I SEE A CLIP?
‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1’ is a dark and bleak affair. It is expertly made, wonderfully acted and arguably the best film of the Harry Potter series. However it is also probably the most adult entry and due to the large amount of scary, violent and emotional content we feel that this film is not appropriate for children under 10, and kids between 10 – 12 should probably be supervised on first viewing.
- Violence: 4/5
- Emotional Distress: 4/5 (there is next to no light relief and several established characters die or get injured; with other characters mourning or worrying)
- Fear Factor: 3/5
- Sexual Content: 2/5
- Bad Language: 2/5 (some infrequent mild cursing)
- Dialogue: 3/5
- Other notes: Deals with themes of sacrifice, fascism, bigotry, fighting against the odds and committing to a cause.
Words by Mike Record