Friday, 7 December 2012

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

I now come to the first film Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

As previously mentioned when a baby after surviving the attack of Lord Voldemort who then disappeared, Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall decide that Harry should be brought up in ignorance of his background and destiny by his Muggle relatives and is taken to them by Hagrid.  The films gives examples of Harry’s bad treatment by his Uncle and Aunt and the way his cousin exploits the situation to his advantage. The films also shows that Harry has the means to retaliate although he does not understand the nature and extent of his powers with the best example a visit to the Zoo. The son demands action and involvement so when Harry finds that he can communicate with a  large Snake held behind a glass screen, Harry removes the glass to release the snake which eyes the cousin who understandably panics, and then having freed the snake Harry restores the glass so that his cousin is now the exhibit for everyone to look at, to the understandable horror of his parents. That Harry can communicate with snakes will become important later.

My supposition is that because Harry has magic abilities and because his parents were known to have possessed magical abilities is why his uncle destroys the increasing number of letters which arrive  at the house advising that as Harry’s  11th birthday is approaching it is time for him to commence at the Hogwarts School of Magic.

Such is his relative’s opposition to Harry going to the school that takes the family to a small island but this cannot prevent Hagrid gaining entry and rescuing Harry returning him first to London where they call in a secret street providing resources for Wizards and Witches called Diagon Alley where Harry is to acquire his essential school text books, a familiar, in Harry’s instance a caged owl (Headwig),although not named in the film, and a wand. The wand is the most crucial aspect in the conflict between good and evil as it can be used aggressively and to kill when combined with the right spells. Wands are of different sizes, woods, shapes and textures and have an individuality which enables them to reject as well as select a user. They also possess varying powers and the one chosen for Harry is the same as that created for Voldemort and both contain feathers from the same Phoenix. The Wand master is John Hurt.  

As this and subsequent films progress we learn that there are other centres for Witches and Wizards in London.  Harry is able to purchase the best items because his parents had on deposit a fortune at Gringott’s Bank. The lives of beings with magical abilities. including education,  employment, the justice system and intelligence including surveillance are all controlled from the Ministry of Magic, a vast subterranean HQ, and from which a  Daily newspaper is also produced. There is also a secret residential centre used by the Order of Phoenix, a kind of Masonry defenders of the Light and the Good and of Harry Potter and his destiny. Each of these centres has hidden and magical accessibility known only to those within the magic world. There is also an Inn which Hermione and Harry use at one point which I presently assume is also London based and at Diagon Alley with the same Victorian, Dickensian atmosphere about them.
There is also another feature which has become a world wide place of pilgrimage. In order to get to Hogwarts  by most if not all the pupils, they have to take a train from Platform 9 and ¾ at Kings Cross Station as this is the East Coast line and school is placed somewhere in the Scottish countryside close to a Loch and a dark forest.  In order to get to the platform one had to go through one of the central pillars between Platforms 9 and 10 at the station and this became somewhere to be visited by those not necessarily wanting to board a train on the adjacent platforms. Since the recent upgrade to the station the entrance to Platform 9 ¾ has moved  to a pillar in the new entrance area to the station and is suitably marked.
It is on the train that Harry meets up with Ron and then Hermione who share the same compartment. Harry chooses to join their School House Griffindor over Slitherin although selection is made by a magical speaking hat which is placed on each new pupil as they enter the great hall to enjoy a feast at the start of the term. This decision as his instinctive reaction to Draco Malfoy of Slitherin governs he rest of the film and series,
The other two houses are Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. The students who are members of Hufflepuff tend not to feature in the competitive life of the school because they tend to concentrate on hard  work, especially team work and are self effacing although one of the members is to  feature in a  significant way in a later film. The members of Ravenclaw are known for their intelligence and general knowledge about which they are not shy of broadcasting and to enter their separate male and female dormitories they have to answer a riddle where as to gain entry to  The films tend to concentrate on the rivalry between Slitherin led by Draco Malfoy and Gryffindor led by Harry as they  become older.
The deeper reason is that guided by his parents Draco has been brought up to regard himself as a leader and he resents the fact that it is Harry who is immediately treated by teachers and other pupils as the chosen one, something which Harry is having to adjust when he finds everyone in the magical world knows of him and treats him with respect and awe being the only one who Voldemort could not kill and who ended the man’s power and influence as a consequence.
It is a feature of subsequent films that the pupils enjoy sumptuous meals of unlimited supplies of their favourite foods with huge plates of Southern fried chicken, mountains of  profiteroles and large bowls of jelly noted. Ron also become noted for gorging himself on what is available although he remains a slim young person. Another feature of the train journey which has a traditional corridor to one side and six person compartments is a trolley serving an assortment of interesting and strange sweets and snacks including items with unusual tastes, something with has appealed to young people in the past.
A feature of the early films is Harry’s involvement in the school sporting event called Quiddich, a team game where those involved fly on broomsticks, and apart from the  first session of broomstick use in which Harry excels and leads to his been chosen by Professor McGonagall for the House Team, I cannot remember the broomsticks being in regular use by the pupils as one might have expected
In Quiddich teams compete to score goals by throwing an item which adds points but a major increase in points can be gained by the leading member of the team called a Seeker getting hold of a gold flying object called the Snitch. Harry is presented with Broomstick to mark his birthday soon after arrival as is selected to the team as Seeker, a position held by his  father. A feature of the school Quidditch ground is that spectators sit in tall towers which enables those in the highest seats to witness the best of the action. In the first game in he first film  Severus Snape appears to be putting Harry off his game but he succeeds and gains the Snitch. In the second film Draco Malfoy is given the same role in the team as Harry and the Slitherin Team are equipped with the latest top notch flying broom stick. In a subsequent film while Harry has become the non playing team captain he takes action to ensure that  Ron who has taken over his role, triumphs and in a further film Harry, Ron and his family together with Hermione attend the Quidditch World Cup,
When Harry is taken to get funds from Gringott’s bank to buy supplies at Diagon Alley, Hagrid also takes from the Bank a secret package for Professor Dumbledore which is then secure at Hogwarts on a  floor forbidden to pupils and guarded by a three headed dog. The printed  daily paper reveals later that just after Hagrid and Harry left the bank there was an attempted robbery. The thieves were after the Philosophers Stone now protected in Hogwarts. At one point Harry notes that Snape is being treated for a leg bite from the dog which alerts Harry that Snape may be after the what the dog is guarding.
At the Halloween Night dinner Professor Dumbledore sends everyone back to their dormitories  after Professor Quirrell has reported that a Troll has entered the building,  a huge creature, but instead Harry and Ron go in search of Hermione who left her place earlier after becoming upset because Ron who she likes had criticised her for being too clever in the potions class. They find her and the Troll and do successful battle. Although pleased that the Troll is captured, the Professor are concerned that the new pupils disobeyed the instruction to go to their dormitories and Hermione explains it was her fault which seals the bond between the trio. Although Hermione and Run tell Hagrid they spotted Snape uttering spell during Quidditch match at the same time that Harry got into difficulties and which led Hermione to distract the Professor, Hagrid defends Snape and appears to let slip that the creature who attacked Snape is defending the Philosopher’s Stone which belonged to Dumbledore and someone  called Nicholas Flamel.
Harry and the Weasley’s spend Chistmas at the school during which Harry receives a Cloak of invisibility which belonged to his father enables him to move about the school after the bed time curfew and into forbidden areas without attracting the attention of the Caretaker Argus Filch played by David Bradley in all the films as a Fagan looking character, sometime comic, mostly a spoil sport, hostile to Harry, and an enthusiast when the school is taken over by a strict disciplinarian. Argus is a Squib, the opposite of a Muggle in that although born to parents who both have magic he does not. Although he appears to live full time at the school and its neighbouring village where only others with magic appear to live and trade, other Squibs live as Muggles in general Society but have connections with the Magic world including access to communications such as the Daily Newspaper. Harry uses to the cloak to investigate the background to the Philosopher’s Stone and Peter Flamel in the Library closed to pupils.
It is while Harry was making use of the Cloak the he encounters one of several magical features at the school which provide opportunities to engage with spirits, past and present, look back as well as look forward. All the pupils are aware of Sprits at the school because Ghosts move openly, including John Cleese while the oil painting portraits which cover the wall of the area of the central staircases or guard the entrance to dormitories contain moving, singing, speaking characters such as Dawn French as the Fat Lady who takes over the part after the actor in the first films died. Photos in the Daily paper, or in frames and books become digital videos as they have come to exist in reality
During one of his after hours explorations Harry finds the Mirror of Erised (heart’s desire) in which he sees his parents and  Ron success in the Quidditch but when Harry become addicted to being with his parents Dumbledore removes the Mirror because Harry is becoming disabled  by his attachment. The third magical device controlled by Dumbledore comes later and similar to that in Lord of the Rings, is the ability to look into the past and the future via the equivalent of the Crystal Ball which is directly controlled by Dumbledore.
Harry was prevented from finding out about Peter Flamel alerting Filch to his presence by picking up a shrieking book but then accidentally finds out about the man when aiding another pupil who is being tormented by Draco. The man originally possessed the Philosopher’s Stone which had rejuvenating properties leading to immortality and when he overhears Snape asks the Professor for Spells Against the Dark Arts, Quirrell, if he has found a way of getting passed the guard dog for the Stone, Harry assumes it is Snape who has the bad intentions.
There are then events that I believe  brings him into direct contact with Voldemort. I cannot remember when Harry first commenced to have day as well as night visions of events which feature Voldemort but the sense  that his destiny is somehow fixed and involves Voldemort is already with him.
I now come to an issue where my memory appears different from the notes of others read so far, My impression is that Hagrid took a class of new arrivals which includes the Trio, Draco and his two closest friends and others to meet the baby creature he had found and was caring for in the Forbidden Forest. For some reason I did not associate the creature as a Dragon, perhaps because of the presentation of baby Dragons in the TV series Game of Thrones and Merlin or the film How to Train a Dragon. I thought that Harry although nervous makes friends with the creature and learns to fly on its back but this may have occurred in  a later film with a  different creature. .
I thought Draco had been humiliated by his reaction to the creature and  reports the event as the Ministry has banned possessing or helping such creatures. However I now know that the reason the trio get into trouble may not have been related to the baby dragon and Hagrid‘s, plan to enable the creature to go to Romania where it would be safe but because Draco had had seen the trio make their way to Hagrid’s after hours and is also punished by Professor McGonagall because he had also broken the curfew.
The  unusual and unexpected punishment, designed to progress the main story line is in the form of helping Hagrid look for and help an injured unicorn seen in the Forbidden Forest. Harry and Draco are sent off together as one search team and they find the unicorn, dead surrounded by its blood. A hooded figures  starts to drink the Blood and Draco  flees. The hooded figure approaches Harry who experience a great pain emanating from his scar and he loses consciousness.  When Harry regains his awareness  the hooded figure has departed. I am not sure if we are made aware that Harry knows the figure was Voldemort.
Having overheard the conversation between Snape and Quirrell about how to get passed the Dog and then by using the Invisibility Cloak at the local Inn and a conversation with Hagrid that the animal guarding the entrance to  when the Stone is being kept can be neutralized through music, the trio go to warn Dumbledore but find he is away.. They therefore embark on the mission to prevent the Stone falling into the wrong hands themselves.
I can only now remember two of the obstacles they encounter. The first is a room full of flying keys with one needed to open the door to the next stage and a broom stick is used to get the right one. The most memorable aspect is the chess game in which the trio participate on which the giant pieces smash each other when one takes another. It is Ron who works out he must sacrifice his piece, and by implication, potentially sacrifice his own life in order for a checkmate and Harry to make his way across the room and to where the Stone is kept. Ron is badly injured but survives and entering the next area. Harry finds Professor Quirrell and not Snape. It was Quirrell who was putting the jinx on Harry that nearly got him killed during the Quidditch match and Snape who was trying to stop him with his spell. The action of Hermione had stopped Quirrell’s concentration. Similarly Quirrell had organised the Troll to enter Hogwarts.
Quirrell tells Harry to look into the Mirror of Erised and this causes Harry to finds  the Stone in his pocket.  As he questions Harry on what eh has seen Quirrell removes he Turban that has covered his head throughout the film to reveal that he is two headed with Voldemort on the back. Voldemort  says he will bring Harry’s parents back to life if he gives him the Stone. Harry refuses and attacks Quirrell who turns to dust while Voldemort escapes from the room by passing through Harry‘s body and as he does so renders the boy unconscious again. Harry wakes up in hospital and Dumbledore explains that he was able to destroy Quirrell because his mother had died to save him. The Stone has been destroyed and his two friends are also alright. The film ends on a high note at the end of school year Feast when Dumbledore announces who has won the School Cup and appears to award to Slitherin, but before announcing the winner explains that additional points are awarded because of recent events and this brings the Cup to Gryffindor to  their delight and the fury of Slitherin. Everyone goes to take the train to their homes with Harry aware that Hogwarts is not his Home.

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