Wednesday 30 November 2016

Wizardhood (2016)

In 2016, Tim Stiefler edited all eight Harry Potter films into one single 78-minute movie. It’s a great work of editing, telling one lean story instead of seven busy ones. This is the tale of Harry versus Voldemort. That’s not to say it’s all Voldemort-centric scenes - by no means! But that’s the core, and that’s the story ’Wizardhood’ serves.

It’s edited together with incredible economy, cutting out anything that doesn’t sell the overall narrative of the series. The entire second half of 'Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone' (2001) is cut. The film sets up Harry at Hogwarts, Harry vs Snape and Harry vs Malfoy - but the whole climax, the confrontation with Quirrel and Voldemort is deemed unnecessary. I was surprised, but it works. That’s part of the joy of watching ‘Wizardhood’ - finding out how little you can get away with. ‘The Chamber of Secrets’ (2002) and ’The Prisoner of Azkaban’ (2004) are over almost as soon as they begin. We don’t need all the details. We just need the core.

I'm glad to say Minerva McGonnagal still gets plenty of good bits
It sounds like it ought to be an awful rush, but it’s anything but. This isn’t hectic or bitty, nor composed of short, perfunctory scenes.  Sure, you could do it that way - a supercut including far more subplots and moments - but it would be unwatchably fast and untidy, an overwhelming experience like ‘2Everything 2Terrible 2: Tokyo Drift’ (2010). The choices here make it a far better film than it could be in less-artful hands. Each moment is given adequate time and atmosphere. This is a film to watch and enjoy. Astonishingly, it feels well-paced.

I’d recommend this to anyone interested in making films, and learning how shots and cuts tell stories. It’s a chance to see how much can be removed from familiar scenes, and how this lets them serve a different purpose and mood. Harry’s first experience with brooms is included, with a large portion of the action cut from the middle. There’s room in the movie for action, but not here. It still serves its purpose - though the students’ cheer at the end feels a little unearnt. However, cut forward 30 minutes and 6 movies, and the same students cheer for Harry in the room of requirement, in a way which seems far better merited. I’m glad the earlier celebration stayed, so the latter moment could echo it.

Just as gradual and intense a build-up. This is the midpoint of the film
Other parts keep their meaning and their mood - Dumbledore’s final moments feel just as careful and gradual and cold as they always did. There must be a lot removed from that scene, but it feels like it was always this way. It retains its power. Heck, ‘The Deathly Hallows (part 1)’ (2010) is a movie largely about drear waiting and despair, with Ron running away before eventually returning - and over the course of fifteen minutes that whole story is told here, retaining its full power. To be honest, this cutdown is my favourite telling of it.

Huge swathes are cut away. Lupin and Sirius and Rita Skeeter are gone. The Dursleys are never seen. But they’re no more ‘missing’ than Ludo Bagman. This is Harry Potter without any Deathly Hallows. They’re important to the books, but they’re details ‘Wizardhood’ can do without.

Harry grows old before your eyes. It's like watching the beards grow in 'Das Boot' (1981)
I love these books, and I delight in all that the movies added to them. Of course, they were always imperfect renderings, because it’s nigh-impossible to make a full length novel into a movie without sacrificing either the plot or the characters. It’s why I prefer ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ (2016) over the full gamut of Harry Potters - it’s trying to be a movie, not a book adaptation. Since I can accept the abbreviations in the movies, it's easy to warm to this great abridgement. It takes what was good about the films - the strong central performances, the design and imagination and direction, and distils them into something strong and satisfying.

Wizardhood can currently be seen here, and I hope it remains there to be seen for a long time. A few days later it's been taken down, for copyright reasons. Understandable, but it's a good work on its own merits, so I hope you find a way to view it, within reason.

Tune in next time for a review that isn't by me that isn't of a film!


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