Okay, context. I am not a Harry Potter fan. I’ve read the first book, and that’s about it. I was mostly put-off by Harry Potter and the Chambers of Secrets, as that was the scariest thing I’d ever read or seen at the time. And yet… Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is definitely one of the greatest motion pictures I’ve ever seen. Why? Because it achieves what all great franchises should – transcending itself, to exist on its own, without the support of what comes before or after it. Normally, I’m critical of halving finales, which this series was the first to do, inspiring Twilight with Breaking Dawn, The Hunger Games with Mockingjay and even inspiring Peter Jackson to divide The Hobbit into three strenuous epics.
What makes Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 such an achievement, is because of its overwhelming theme of ending. Not loss, or despair – all of which could be used by filmmakers with a preference for grit over realism – but of the concept of endings itself. From the very beginning, we’re in the middle of affairs. Which is why this manages to escapes its bonds within the Harry Potter series to become a self-standing tale of what it means to reach that inevitable moment in life when you all move on and leave behind what you used to be, and into the great unknown future to become something else. That’s the case in the Harry Potter world, as well as in the real world. Both cast and crew had spent the past decade in a world so vividly created it might as well be real. Stars Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson began their acting careers at its commencement, and had almost no other life. David Yates might not be the only Harry Potter director, but he’s contributed to the most. And it shows here, because his career’s been defined by working with these actors, who’s lives in turn have been defined by growing up in a world so fantastical that it probably made them until that point delirious with love for that world and those characters, living in two worlds, and now being expected to leave one of them behind, and continue working as actors, rather than living as wizards. All with the cruel irony of being forever remembered as those wizards in everything they do beyond that.
And that’s the reason the overarching theme of ending is so apparent – because it’s true. This was the conclusion to a life’s work, that not just the actors had grown-up with, but people. The series had, and still does, inspire so many people worldwide. They feel they’re being allowed to escape whatever it is that makes them want to leave their muggle life, and Hogwarts has given them a place to go and be inspired by dreams of acceptance. As Dumbledore says, “Of course it’s all in your head, Harry. But why should that mean it isn’t real?”. That line of itself is testament to Rowling’s inspiring skills as a storysmith. With this universe, she’s poured all of life into seven books, with which she, the characters, the stars, and the feelings of hope imbued within the readers, will live forever. The Harry Potter books are Horcruxes, and this makes the final part of the story metaphysical. Rowling wrote how it felt to reach the end of something. To let go of the thing you loved the most, but also to free of its burden, and to be allowed to go on and create other things, and be another thing. And that allowed the cast of characters – all of whom are given the respect they deserve and defining moments of what they meant and mean to us – to be so believeable. They really were approaching their final journey in that world, and the characters are shown to know that. They know this is what will define the lives they’ll come to have, and what the world after this event will be like.
Such a combination gives a canvas to the audience, and gives them faith to continue. I’m writing this on New Year’s Eve. Everyone’s reflecting on what this year’s meant to them, and what they’re going to do next year. It is the end of something today. The end of an important chapter. People will have met the people they’ll be spending the rest of their lives with. Others may have departed. Some will have begun school, as I did over a decade over. Others will have left, as I did earlier in this decade. The final day was a massive deal for all of us. We knew it meant, because we’d already seen it in the form of Deathly Hallows. But that gave us context, and allowed us to feel that it was good. I myself remember the final moment with my form tutor, one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met. And the crushing feeling of knowing that the person I’d spent the past five years pining-after might not even think about me again. I remember my first day, and my last day. Even now, I’m applying for University. I’ll leave behind my college adventures, and begin something a new. A new life, which, in turn, will end. In my final school year, I’d taken part in a social experiment. One of the best artists I’ll ever know made YouTube videos every day of 2012. And over that year, we became closer than I ever thought we would. And we felt as if we’d defined ourselves in those 365 days. By the time it ended at the New Year, it was as if an entire chunk of our lives, a whole year, had ended. That’s what these characters faced – their final school year. It taught me the power of art, and how it can change lives. Honestly, writing this, I can’t tell which of those two worlds I’m talking about anymore.
So listen. And let me tell you something.
The final shot of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 could be my favourite last shot in all of cinema. Because everything preceding it had felt like the summary of a lifetime. The heavy spirit of knowing it was the last time these characters would laugh together, and run together, and fight together. Even if they still did after the story ended, but we’d never see that. I don’t want to. It was ended perfectly, and should never be continued. I may be the only person that forbids J.K. Rowling from adding to the Harry Potter series. The final shot, as Potter, Wealsey and Granger look on, now in the present day, and parents, at their children, as they travel onwards toward Hogwarts. That shot? It… changed me. Because, to quote the final words of the source material, “all was well”. They’d had their adventure, but now an even bigger adventure began. They’d created a world safe for their children to inhabit, and had been given the reward of having those children. That it had all been for something. In the end, they really all did live happily ever after. But in a way that we can relate to. Of the past, and the future. And the present. They were so proud of what they’d accomplished, and I felt that pride for them. Because I saw in them myself. What I could do – whatever I wanted. That, even if things are emotional now, it, all of it, everything will pay off. And that we’ll look back and it will all make sense. Maybe in years to come, we’ll get to where we started, and nothing will have changed at all. The walls will have come tumbling down, the cities we love will have changed. But it might not have to feel like it.
More than anything, it makes me want to create. To tell stories. To attempt to understand what it means to be alive, and to have lived. If, when I am done, I’m as pleased to have worked for my happiness as much as the cast, crew, and Rowling herself, were of this… then I shall be happy indeed. Because that’s what’s out there. I thought I feared time and ageing. But not anymore. Now, I see time for what it really is.. What a way to begin a new year. The year I leave college, and go to University. And I don’t want to miss a thing.
The only thing I regret is not being a part of the Harry Potter fanbase when it began. To have read The Philosopher’s Stone with everyone else, and to have heard it was being adapted. And to go on that journey. But the way I’ve experienced this series is mine only. And nobody can take that away from me. Because, as JK Rowling once said: the stories that we love the most live inside of forever.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: what to have lived means. 10/10