Socialist Worker

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: casting a spell on the screen

by Sam Norman
Issue No. 1776

J K Rowling's bestselling series of books based upon the adventures of an 11-year old wizard, Harry Potter, have become a worldwide phenomenon. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone has sold over 100 million copies in over 46 languages.

The film based on the first of the novels, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, has hit cinemas everywhere. It's a real feel-good movie that tells the story of a boy who learns on his eleventh birthday that he is the orphaned son of two powerful wizards and possesses unique magical powers of his own.

After being rescued from his muggle (non-magical) aunt and uncle, Harry embarks on an adventure of a lifetime. He enrols at the Hogwarts School of witchcraft and wizardry. The cast is superb, although at times it does seem as if some of the characters are just making purely cameo appearances and aren't on screen for nearly long enough.

This is especially the case with the wonderfully pathetic Professor Quirrell played by Ian Hart, who acted in the film Land and Freedom. Lots has been made of how protective Rowling is of her work, and how she had previously refused any tie-ins with multinationals.

Director Chris Columbus was hired because his vision of the film was closer to Rowling's than any of the other directors who were interested in making the film. My feeling is that many of the original strengths of the books are lost. At times in the film it is just Harry who is battling alone, whereas the books are so great and relevant because he is strongest when he unites with his friends.

A few of the themes, such as anti-racism, which ran through the books and made them so enjoyable, were negligible in this first film. Very possibly it could be that J K Rowling's vision of Harry Potter has changed.

Well, after a million pound deal with Coca-Cola and the usual film merchandising, maybe things no longer look the same. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is a very enjoyable film, in the mould of most films aimed at children.

Unusually for a film aimed at both adults and children, the movie is over two hours long, and it has captivated both adults and children alike. Sometimes it's very reminiscent of the recent Star Wars film, The Phantom Menace, and it's an even better marketing strategy for toys, sweets and racing brooms.

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Sat 24 Nov 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1776
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