Evil in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

768 words | 3 page(s)

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) is one of the seventeen adaptations of the best-selling books written by J.K. (Steve Kloves) Rowling. Lead character, Harry Potter, is played by Daniel Radcliffe who takes the role of a young inexperienced wizard looking to perfect his art. However, Harry Potter is plunged into the evil world of Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witch-craft where he struggles to recover the Sorcerer’s stone from Lord Voldemort. The cinematographic techniques used to portray evil qualities of Lord Voldemort include camera angles, visual components and narration.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is the shortest adaptation of the Harry Potter movies composed of only 309 pages (Shafer 71). The film is based on a popular literary technique, crossover literature, used in both adult and children fiction stories. The film incorporates fantasy fiction that involves supernatural phenomena, such as supernatural powers, magic and wizardsry (Cheng 91). For example, Professor Minerva McGonagall demonstrates the technique of transfiguration to the students by transforming her desk to a pig (Conn 1177). Other illustrations of supernatural events include flying brooms, magic spells, and the invisibility cloak. Fantasy fiction is a popular genre that actively engages the imagination of children through magical story telling.
Chris Columbus the director of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone has worked on additional films such as Home Alone (1990) and Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) (Shafer 75). As a result, the director incorporated as much of the literary narrative as possible to produce the closes film adaptation of the book. The McGonall’s transfiguration is closely adapted to The Chapter House in Durham Cathedral to keep the authenticity of the setting (Shafer 81). However, some of the plot events were altered to create a unique cinematic expression on film. For example, Harry porter is characterized as an awkward boy in the Harry Potter books with: “….. black hair, and bright green eyes” (Shafer 79). Yet, Potter’s green eye color was altered in film after an allergic reaction to green contact lenses. As a result, his blue eyes were juxtaposed against Lord Voldemort’s red eyes to explore the thin line between good and evil. Color theory uses symbolic representations to produce an emotional reaction towards the characters. Red and blue colors can also be manipulated to communicate a sense of mystery or danger.

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Camera angles are used in the film to emphasize the behaviors and actions of the characters. Camera angles can be used to portray characters as; weak or powerful, good or evil. For example, low camera angles can portray a character as overbearing to the audience. On the other hand, low camera angles achieve a feeling of vulnerability. In addition, high camera angles combined with long angle shots creates an emotional distance between the viewers and the action (Thon 12). For example, the great wall is rendered in space to display all students sitting on four long tables that are laid with thousands of candles and golden plates. In one of the scenes, Harry Porter looks up to see:”…. Velvety black ceiling dotted with stars…” (Shafer 82). The smallness and vulnerable nature of the children is overemphasized in this scene. The semi-omniscient narrator is combined with the camera angles to give access to the non-diegetic experiences of the characters (Thon 13) Diegetic sounds are used to reveal Harry Porters experiences within the story plot, while non-diegetic sounds take the viewers out of the story plot.

The general impression surrounding the Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone film is the appeal it provides to the young audience. Literary themes such as size, magical transformation and triumph over evil are overemphasized in the film. The cinematographic techniques used to emphasize evil include camera angles, visual components and narration. The evil characters, like Lord Voldemort possess the same magical powers as the lead character. Therefore, the director uses cinematographic techniques such as pensiveness to draw the audience into a world of evil that needs to be destroyed.

  • Cheng, Liang. “Subtitling Harry Potter’s fantastic world: linguistic and cultural transfer from britain to China in a subtitled children’s film.” (2018), 11 September 2019, www. helvia.uco.es/bitstream/handle/10396/18382/transletters_1_2_5.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
  • Conn, Jennifer J. “What can clinical teachers learn from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone?.” Medical education 36.12 (2002): 1176-1181, https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2923.2002.01376.x
  • Shafer, Philip M. Transfiguration Maxima!: Harry Potter and the Complexities of Filmic Adaptation. Diss. Middle Tennessee State University, 2016, 11 September 2019, www. jewlscholar.mtsu.edu/bitstream/handle/mtsu/4873/Shafer_mtsu_0170E_10558.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
  • Thon, Benedicte. Representing Evil-Harry Potter from Page to Screen. MS thesis. NTNU, 2018, 11 September 2019, www. ntnuopen.ntnu.no/ntnu-xmlui/bitstream/handle/11250/2575108/Masteroppgave%20Thon.pdf?sequence=1

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