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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service

Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson star in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1."
The Hogwarts gang is on the run in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" (Warner Bros.), the penultimate film in the wildly successful franchise based on J.K. Rowling's fantasy novels. As in Rowling's final volume, the tone here is darker, the action more intense, and the violence intended to shock as the forces of good and evil are set on their inevitable collision course.

"These are dark times, there's no denying," intones Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour (Bill Nighy) as the film opens. And how. The Ministry has been taken over by Death Eaters, loyal to the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). Their mission is twofold: Rid the world of Half-bloods (part witch, part nonwitch or "Muggle") and their supporters, and find Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe, of course), the "Chosen One."

No one is safe, not even a kindly Hogwarts teacher fond of Muggles. She is brutally tortured, then murdered by Voldemort and fed to a giant snake in one of the many intense moments that would have younger viewers diving under their seats.

But the main focus is Harry, and his loyal pals Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint), who rally to his side.

Casting spells that enable them to travel instantaneously from place to place, Harry, Hermione and Ron jump all over the real world, from Piccadilly Circus in London to the Scottish Highlands. Director David Yates offers a picturesque travelogue of the British Isles that is a soothing respite from the film's clashes.

The film offers lessons about perseverance, loyalty, friendship, and self-sacrifice as it builds to a cliffhanger climax.

Rowling's novels are famously irreligious, yet "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" has some welcome, pseudo-Christian moments. Returning to Harry's birthplace in search of clues, Harry and Hermione find themselves outside a church on Christmas Eve. They listen wistfully to the hymns sung within, thinking of happy family moments of long ago.

Similarly, Ron finds his way back to his friends on Christmas Day, when a mysterious light appears, directing him to the source of all good.

Less welcome is an incident that sees one of Harry's friends and protectors wounded by a Death Eater, who leaves a gaping hole in his head. The victim exclaims, with a grin, "I'm a saint. I'm hole-y. Get it?"

The magical elements in the script are benign, serving to support the plot, not endorse the evils of sorcery. The romantic tension of earlier films takes a back seat to the action this time, with a few exceptions: stolen kisses, close dancing, and a peculiar fantasy scene, invented by Voldemort, showing Harry and Hermione implicitly nude and about to have sex—all designed to enrage Ron, which it does.

The film contains much action violence with frequent peril, brief partial nudity in a sexual context, scenes of murder and torture and a few vaguely sexual references. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

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Charles de Foucauld: Born into an aristocratic family in Strasbourg, France, Charles was orphaned at the age of six, raised by his devout grandfather, rejected the Catholic faith as a teenager and joined the French army. Inheriting a great deal of money from his grandfather, Charles went to Algeria with his regiment, but not without his mistress, Mimi. <br /><br />When he declined to give her up, he was dismissed from the army. Still in Algeria when he left Mimi, Charles reenlisted in the army. Refused permission to make a scientific exploration of nearby Morocco, he resigned from the service. With the help of a Jewish rabbi, Charles disguised himself as a Jew and in 1883 began a one-year exploration that he recorded in a book that was well received. <br /><br />Inspired by the Jews and Muslims whom he met, Charles resumed the practice of his Catholic faith when he returned to France in 1886. He joined a Trappist monastery in Ardeche, France, and later transferred to one in Akbes, Syria. Leaving the monastery in 1897, Charles worked as gardener and sacristan for the Poor Clare nuns in Nazareth and later in Jerusalem. In 1901 he returned to France and was ordained a priest. <br /><br />Later that year Charles journeyed to Beni-Abbes, Morocco, intending to found a monastic religious community in North Africa that offered hospitality to Christians, Muslims, Jews, or people with no religion. He lived a peaceful, hidden life but attracted no companions. <br /><br />A former army comrade invited him to live among the Tuareg people in Algeria. Charles learned their language enough to write a Tuareg-French and French-Tuareg dictionary, and to translate the Gospels into Tuareg. In 1905 he came to Tamanrasset, where he lived the rest of his life. A two-volume collection of Charles' Tuareg poetry was published after his death. <br /><br />In early 1909 he visited France and established an association of laypeople who pledged to live by the Gospels. His return to Tamanrasset was welcomed by the Tuareg. In 1915 Charles wrote to Louis Massignon: “The love of God, the love for one’s neighbor…All religion is found there…How to get to that point? Not in a day since it is perfection itself: it is the goal we must always aim for, which we must unceasingly try to reach and that we will only attain in heaven.”   <br /><br />The outbreak of World War I led to attacks on the French in Algeria. Seized in a raid by another tribe, Charles and two French soldiers coming to visit him were shot to death on December 1, 1916. <br />Five religious congregations, associations, and spiritual institutes (Little Brothers of Jesus, Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Little Sisters of Jesus, Little Brothers of the Gospel and Little Sisters of the Gospel) draw inspiration from the peaceful, largely hidden, yet hospitable life that characterized Charles. He was beatified on November 13, 2005. American Catholic Blog You know, O my God, I have never desired anything but to love you, and I am ambitious for no other glory.

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