Wednesday, 19 October 2016

"They treated him like vermin"

Years ago, I was watching The Elephant Man, the 1980 film starring John Hurt, when it was broadcast on the Turner Classic Movies network.  Younger daughter, who was waiting to go up to bed, was sitting quietly in a corner of the couch, and informed me gravely, after a scene when John Merrick is pursued by a panicky crowd:  "They treated him like vermin."

I stifled my astonishment - younger daughter didn't say much beyond what was concrete and present in those days - and managed a calm agreement.  She had adapted the words from Dobby the Elf of the Harry Potter books and movies, when he's explaining his plight as a house elf.  It was an early indication to us of just how much she understood and perceived.

You see, in the early "aughties", when younger daughter was a newcomer to the public school system, she "scripted" a great deal to express stronger emotions.  Among her sources were the Harry Potter movies.  I remember her confronting me from the top of the stairs to convey some powerful disappointment when she was about six, using Hermione's despairing cry near the climax of the giant magic chess game in the film of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone:  "But you cawn't!  There has to be some other way!"

Another favourite came from the ghostly Moaning Myrtle in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets:  "I don't know!!! I was distraught!!!"  This was delivered complete with Received Pronunciation vowels. The scripting eventually diminished, and younger daughter now relies on texts, emails, and indignant Word documents when spoken words fail her.

Anyway, when the opportunity came for viewing Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in IMAX, you'll understand why I had to take younger daughter, despite having seen this film on DVD scores of times.

In 2001, younger daughter was five and not quite ready for feature-length films.  I took nine-year-old elder daughter to the rather grubby Rideau Centre Cinema, which closed about three or four years ago.  The film was slightly out of focus, so you couldn't quite make out details such as what was going on in the magical moving portraits at Hogwarts Castle.  The cinema staff were unable to fix it, so I scored a couple of free passes by complaining online.

In this IMAX presentation - which marks the fifteen-year anniversary of HP and the PS, and promotes the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - every detail was crystal clear, as was the soundtrack which enveloped us, so I rather enjoyed the show and the memories that came with it.

Back in 2001, I marvelled at how closely the visuals matched my mental imagery of the books, especially Diagon Alley, the wizards' market concealed behind the streets of London.  In 2016, I smiled at the not-quite-convincing performances of the three beginning actors in the lead roles, the rather clunky special effects (by today's exacting standards), and how Daniel Radcliffe, as Harry, switches from small boy to pre-adolescent and back from scene to scene.  Clearly, the episode in Ollivander's Wand Shop, plus the Quidditch match, were filmed last, when Radcliffe was nearly a year older.

The next day, we moved from memories stemming from 2001 to those from 2005, when we went to catch Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - all the films have been showing at Cineplex this week, all in IMAX format. The Goblet of Fire is the first HP film that I recall being available in IMAX, but eleven years ago, the only IMAX theatre in Hades was at the Museum of Civilization, and an evening trip to what was then Hull and is now Gatineau was too challenging.

GoF is quite possibly younger daughter's favourite Harry Potter movie; she loves the Yule Ball and the musical score. It's one of my least favourite of the series, possibly mainly because GoF is my favourite Potter book, and there is no way that the film could properly capture both the complicated plot and the sly humour of the original writing. (Let's not get into the uncharacteristically clunky acting, even by the seasoned pros of the cast - which I suspect is the director's fault.)

However, the special effects, by 2005, were stunning. In 2016, younger daughter lingered until the end of the lengthy credits, drinking in Patrick Doyle's wistful music.

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