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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

By
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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Bernard of Clairvaux: Man of the century! Woman of the century! You see such terms applied to so many today—“golfer of the century,” “composer of the century,” “right tackle of the century”—that the line no longer has any punch. But Western Europe's “man of the twelfth century,” without doubt or controversy, has to be Bernard of Clairvaux. Adviser of popes, preacher of the Second Crusade, defender of the faith, healer of a schism, reformer of a monastic Order, Scripture scholar, theologian and eloquent preacher: any one of these titles would distinguish an ordinary man. Yet Bernard was all of these—and he still retained a burning desire to return to the hidden monastic life of his younger days. 
<p>In the year 1111, at the age of 20, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux. His five brothers, two uncles and some 30 young friends followed him into the monastery. Within four years a dying community had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot. The zealous young man was quite demanding, though more on himself than others. A slight breakdown of health taught him to be more patient and understanding. The valley was soon renamed Clairvaux, the valley of light. </p><p>His ability as arbitrator and counselor became widely known. More and more he was lured away from the monastery to settle long-standing disputes. On several of these occasions he apparently stepped on some sensitive toes in Rome. Bernard was completely dedicated to the primacy of the Roman See. But to a letter of warning from Rome, he replied that the good fathers in Rome had enough to do to keep the Church in one piece. If any matters arose that warranted their interest, he would be the first to let them know. </p><p>Shortly thereafter it was Bernard who intervened in a full-blown schism and settled it in favor of the Roman pontiff against the antipope. </p><p>The Holy See prevailed on Bernard to preach the Second Crusade throughout Europe. His eloquence was so overwhelming that a great army was assembled and the success of the crusade seemed assured. The ideals of the men and their leaders, however, were not those of Abbot Bernard, and the project ended as a complete military and moral disaster. </p><p>Bernard felt responsible in some way for the degenerative effects of the crusade. This heavy burden possibly hastened his death, which came August 20, 1153.</p> American Catholic Blog One of the things that we need to remember is that we’re preaching Jesus, not the institutional Church. It’s easy to get caught up in the rules and regulations of the institution and forget that we are saved not by the Church but by the person of Jesus or the Church as the body of Christ.

 
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