Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

The second Harry Potter, film Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was, as the first, a self contained film which can be enjoyed in isolation from the first and subsequent films by is also an integral part of the master story as well as a chronicle of growing up feeling different from the majority of  humanity, an  experience with which I can  identity although unlike Harry I missed out to a significant extent on sharing my experience with those in a similar situation. True I did have some Muggle friends for a time during my adolescent years, but it was only as  a young adult that i enjoyed the regular company of those with a similar interest, traditional jazz and then as part of the non violent direct action movement against weapons of mass destruction. For Harry Potter the world was also divided between good and evil and a fight to avoid domination and potential total destruction,

As with the first  film we find Harry at home with his Muggle relatives, the Dursley’s  isolated all summer as he has had no contact with either Ron or Hermione or others from the school, not even one letter.

He then finds a number of unexplained happenings which he learns are caused by a House Elf Dobby intent on stopping Harry returning  to Hogwarts school because he knows an attempt will be made to kill him. House elves are to be found the  homes of the established households of Wizards and Witches and in effect House slaves who much obey every command from their masters and can only become independent if their master present them with clothing. Their lives in service is monitored by a special branch of the Ministry of Magic which has issued guidelines on  their treatment and has a unit which allocates elves to individual homes and will organise their reallocation.

In this instance it is only later in the film that we lean that Dobby is the House  elf to the Malfoys and therefore his behaviour is not only unusual but dangerous for him risking the severe rest punishment for disloyalty and disobedience. The film does not explain why Dobby is acting in this way, something which may happen in the book. The impact of Dobby’s well intentioned but misdirected behaviour  has the impact of making Harry’s life at the Dursley’s even more difficult than usual, especially when his uncle is entertaining a potential business client. The consequence is that Vernon takes decisive action to prevent Harry leaving their home for Hogwarts, locking  him in his room and placing bars on the windows.

It is Ron who drives up across London in the flying car  with his elders brothers to rescue Harry attaching  the car to the bars at the window to pull them  off and to load Harry and his trunk and then takes Harry to the family home, the Burrows. This is an extraordinary creation on several floors in a countryside setting which I understand to be Devon, effectively run my the matriarch figure of Molly played by Julie Walters with her adventurous husband, an unassuming man played by  Mark Williams. The Burrows becomes Harry’s second home where he establishes a friendship with Ron’s younger sister Ginny who is to commence in her first year at the school as Harry Ron and Hermione commence their second.

During  the stay they visit Diagon Alley to re stock on supplies using Floo powder which looks like fire ash and which involves entering the fireplace below the chimney but because Harry is nervous his flight is slightly off course and is separated from others and ends up in a store selling black magic products and spots the father of Draco Malfoy there who boasts his support for Voldemort. Harry also attends the book signing of the famous Gilderoy Lockhart played by Kenneth Branagh who appears  as something of self interested showman and who is to become the new Professor of Defence against the Black Arts at Hogwarts.

When Harry accompanies the Weasley’s to Kings Cross Station for Platform 9 ¾ they find they cannot enter so Ron uses the flying car to try and catch up the train  arriving at the school they land on to one of the Whomping Willows, an aggressive tree which attacks anyone coming within its orbit and their arrival is witnessed by Snape to declares they should be expelled for using the vehicle and being late. Profession McGonagall supported by Dumbledore argues that as head of the House she is responsible for discipline and the punishment will be detention.

In this second film the opportunity is taken to present more the schools activities. However before this Ron receives a Howler from his mother. A feature of letters in the series usually delivered by an owl is that they contain oral and visual messages in this instance a hologram of Molly berating her son for taking and wrecking the car with the missive delivered in front of all the students at Breakfast.

The first lesson involves Herbology(Professor Sprout!)  where in  a green house they learn  how to transplant the Mandrake plant, a plant which is not only living  but with human aspects and a personality, The plant has important properties when mature and which has a crucial role later.. The second class concerns Transfiguration  beginning with changing the shape of objects although the process also applies to humans (Shape Shifting was a feature of Star trek and other fantasy books and films.  Ron has problems because his wand was broken in the car crash and it is repaired with magic tape with good and bad consequences The third class is with Lockhart who seizes the opportunity to increase his publicity by attaching himself  to Harry. Ginny Weasley who has a crush on Harry  is also a member of his fan club.

The next development is Quiddich practice for Griffindor but they find that Slitherin has also been sent out to practice with Draco now a leading member after his father has equipped the team with the very latest competition  broomsticks. Draco insults Hermione calling her a Mudblod and Ron tries to put a curse on Draco but because of his damaged wand it misfires and it he who starts to vomit in uncontrolled fashion  slugs. (Because of the wet summer it has been an extraordinary good year for slugs who have flourished). Ron is taken to Hagrid for the spell undone.

These are all preliminaries to when during detention  Harry becomes aware of a voice,  threatening, and ice cold and Hermione finds  a message  on a wall announcing that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened. The legend is that when Salazar Slitherin graduated he provided the Chamber as a gift which when opened would release a creature capable of destroying students who were of Muggleblood to which he and the those in the House became opposed.

Caretaker Filch’s cat has also been petrified, a dark form of transfiguration and Filch finding Harry with the animal blames him. McGonagall and Dumbledore intervene and we learn that only an heir to the founder of the House of Slitherin has power to open the chamber, and Harry is convinced that this is Draco. The teaching staff emphasise that this is only a legend and that they have searched the school many times and no trace of he Chamber has been found. Soon as the attacks continue everyone changes their minds

The Trio believe that there is a Chamber and that Draco is responsible for the opening because of his hostility towards Hermione and those like her. To try and  prove this Hermione, the brains of the trio, especially in relation to potions, suggests they create  a Polyjuice potion which enables them to transform themselves temporarily into someone else and to trick Malfoy and his associates to revealing their secrets. The potion will take a month to prepare and some of the ingredients have to be taken from Snape’s controlled store.

During the month a Quiddich match between Gryffindor and Slitherin takes place with Harry and Draco fighting it out to catch the snitch. During games all the players have to avoid another flying object called the Bludger but in this instance it attacks only Harry suggesting someone has intervened. Harry triumphs again. However his arm  is damaged and Professor Lockhart offers to fix it but manages to remove all the bones from the arm. This is treatable but Harry finds himself in the school hospital again. The skill of Lockhart is first questioned.

A new feature in the school this year is the establishment of a duelling involving the use of wands and spells,  under the auspices of Lockhart and Snape and where the key match is between Harry and Draco. Draco conjures a snake and Harry uses his ability to communicate with snakes to pacify. Hermione discloses that this was something applicable to the founder off Slitherin which has the unintended consequence that the rest of the school believe Harry is the Heir and responsible for the opening of the Chamber of Secrets. The trio get their opportunity to use the Polyjuice potion during the Christmas holidays when they find that Draco and his henchmen are staying in school so Harry and his friends also sign up to stay. The plan misfires because they find that Draco is not the Heir involved in creating the opening.

In order to make the potion the trio had used one of the girl’s toilets which is not entered by anyone because it is also the location of a young ghost, Moaning Myrtle who screams and rants about her lot. She was killed by Slitherin‘s creature  on orders of Voldemort, why I  not certain although I assume because like Hermione she was born of two Muggles. Myrtle had also become isolated and teased at he school because of her appearance which included the wearing of spectacles. It is in the lavatory that Harry discovers a book, an enchanted book, from fifty years before belonging to one Tom Riddle and it is this book which  appears to  incriminate Hagrid as the true Heir and therefore responsible for the opening of the Chamber some fifty years before and it is assumed more recently.. Shortly after this development the Minister of Magic arrives accompanied by Draco Malfoy’s father  who is a leading member of the school Board to announce that Professor Dumbledore is being suspended and that Hagrid is to be arrested and taken to the prison centre of Azkaban, an Island in the North Sea where those  imprisoned are guarded by black spirit creatures called Dementors who cause suffering and drain their victims of all happiness. By this time other school members have become petrified with the last person Hermione which understandably causes Harry and Ron great distress. The school is threatened with closure.

Before Dumbledore leaves he tells Harry to follow the spiders to discover the truth. Harry has noted spiders leaving the school every time there has been an attack which leaves someone or thing petrified. Given that Ron hates spiders that he agrees to accompany Harry, this is a measure of his growing attachment to Hermione.  First Ron and then Harry enters the underworld of the Forest where they encounter a giant spider creature which fifty years before had been involved with Hagrid in incidents which led him to be accused of Opening the Chamber of Secrets. The creatures declares that Hagrid was not in fact responsible and that although the Credit was taken by Tom Riddle for naming Hagrid this was false.
However far from enabling the boys to leave and make use of this knowledge, the creatures decides that they will  become food for all its offspring and their families, The boys are only able to escape by using Ron’s car which has survived the  confrontation with the Whomping Tree.

On return there is a further turn for the worse in that they find that Ron sister Ginny Weasley has disappeared, presumed  into the Chamber while a piece of paper clutched in Hermione’s hand reveals that the Chamber is guarded by  a snake like creature, a basilisk, Professor Lockhart, responsible for the Defence against the Dark Arts is expected to deal with the situation but he says he needs to first return to his room.

When Harry go to provide the information found in the possession of Hermione  they find the man packing to make a quick get away as he is forced to admit he is a fraud having used memory erasing charms to pinch the ideas of other Wizards and Witches to form the basis of his published writings.

Harry had previously commented to Moaning Myrtle that the first incident of the petrified  cat  had taken place outside the lavatory and Tom Riddle’s memoir had also been found  there, the scene also of her death by the creature subsequently. From this Harry concludes the entrance to the Chamber is in this area and force Lockhart to accompany them who loses his memory after using Ron‘s broken wand in attempt to use the spell on them.

The truth emerges that Tom Riddle exists  as a memory in the book and is in fact  the young Voldemort who now in the Chamber summons his creature to attack Harry but when all looks lost Dumbledore’s  familiar arrives, a Phoenix, and gives Harry the Sorting Hat under which is the sword of  the former founder of Gryffindor which Harry uses to kill the creature  but who before this manages to get a fang into Harry’s arm and poison him. Harry takes the embedded fang which he sticks into Riddle’s Memory diary, an act which destroys its creator, and Ginny regains consciousness to witness the dying Harry being rescued by the curative tears of the Phoenix. The Phoenix is able to also rescue Harry and Ginny from the Chamber where they join Ron and Lockhart whose memory loss has become permanent.

With this development the immediate threat of school closure is averted and Dumbledore is reinstated in a coup against Malfoy senior with the assistance of the other governors. This  because they that Malfoy senior had  given the diary to Ginny via his son as a means of opening the Chamber as part of his plan to get rid of the head and Hagrid, and close the school. Ginny was unaware of all this until regaining awareness.

Dumbledore  arranges for Hagrid to be released and while this is cause for everyone to celebrate, Harry growing concern about his  position dominates and he queries with Dumbledore if he should be in Slitherin  and not Griffindor. The Professor explains that only a true son of the Gryffindor would have the power to summon and use the sword.

When Malfoy seniors plans are thwarted Dobby, the Elf is at his side and Harry understand why the creature was so intend on stopping him returning to Hogwarts. Realising that the creature had the best intentions and is now in deep trouble he tricks Malfoy into giving Dobby a small item of clothing which is all that is needed to free him from servitude thus Harry gaining his eternal gratitude which is to have an important consequence later.

Hagrid arrives back at the end of year Feast and embraces Harry meanwhile back in Diagon Alley Lockhart’s latest book ins on sale with the title  Who am I? Featuring  the man in a strait jacket suffering from total memory loss. As with the first film, it ends on a high note, making the audience feel hood despite the black deeds, sounding alarms and information about what is to come that ahs been introduced,

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