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Reload the Canons!

This series of articles is an attempt to play through The Canon of videogames: your Metroids, your Marios, your Zeldas, your Pokemons, that kind of thing.

Except I'm not playing the original games. Instead, I'm playing only remakes, remixes, and weird fan projects. This is the canon of games as seen through the eyes of fans, and I'm going to treat fan games as what they are: legitimate works of art in their own right that deserve our analysis and respect.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hugs from Voldemort

Heavens, is it This Week already? I suppose I should actually put one of these blog post things up then, shouldn't I? Today's article is a bit shorter. Wednesday's article will be a bit longer and will include an absurd number of pictures. I have no idea what I'll be doing on Friday. C'est la vie.



The last Harry Potter post was written so that you didn’t have to be familiar with the work to get the gist of the argument. This one is. Be forewarned.

Although, as I've noted before, I quite enjoyed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II, one scene puzzled me. You know the one. It's when Voldemort gives Draco Malfoy the single most awkward hug ever put on screen. It's forced, bizarre, and a total mood killer. Everyone in my particular theater reacted to the moment by bursting out laughing. The same goes for Voldemort's bizarre laugh at the beginning of that scene. It's even more strange coming, as it does, right after Ginny's heartwrenching dialogue.

I didn't really understand it until I talked it over with my sister a few days later, and she suggested that the scene was constructed that way in order to convey Voldemort's most fundamental character trait:

He is completely inhuman.

The whole scene marvelously demonstrates just how far removed from reality he is. Voldemort is, in essence, capable of going through the motions of being human, but those motions are bizarre and forced. The Deatheaters follow him not because he is particularly charismatic anymore but because he spits killing curses at the drop of a hat and has a habit of feeding people to his snake. That, and most of them seem to be legitimately awful people who may be just as cracked as he is. (Bellatrix fits this category quite well--it's interesting to consider whether she was always that deranged, or she became that way after years at Voldemort's side. Or, even worse, that she became truly unhinged after her stay in Azkaban.)

What's more, it makes perfect sense to portray him this way, because at this point we have seen his true face. In fact, it makes more sense to undercut the tension there, because the tension is ultimately unsustainable. We know Harry is alive, and at this point we know that he's going to win, so portraying Voldemort as anything other than a blustering, warped madman would be to cheaply attempt to wring more feeling from the audience. It would be, ironically, rather dull to sit through.

But this way we get to see the truth about Voldemort as set up in his confrontation scene and continued in the King's Cross sequence (which is probably one of the most brilliant moments of the whole film). Here, we see the hints already of Voldemort's complete unraveling. Pay close attention to how he behaves during his confrontation in the woods with young Mr Potter--he's scared. Behind all that bluster is real fear, and even in victory it seems clear that he has slipped further away from sanity. Even as he boasts later to the assembled defenders of Hogwarts he declares Potter's death with dazed amazement. And, of course, of course, there is the thing under the bench in King's Cross. It is in that quick flash where we observe the remnants of Voldemort's shattered, gibbering psyche, and hear Dumbledore sadly pronouncing the fact that they can do nothing to help it, that we fully understand the truth of Voldemort.

He is a pitiable creature. No longer threatening, no longer powerful, simply a being so warped by his terror of death and desire for power that he has completely lost touch with humanity.

So, it makes sense to portray him not as a shrieking villain but as a terrible actor, desperately trying to create an air of grandeur but failing utterly. The scene is far from a failure. On the contrary, I would consider it a resounding success. The movie made us fear him, and it made us hate him, and finally it made us both pity him and laugh at him.

I would compare it, perhaps, to the climactic scene of The Labyrinth. Ultimately, our laughter serves the same function as Sarah's play lines. We look evil in the face and reply, "You have no power over me."

3 comments:

  1. This post was a bit... weak. It was, as usual, an explication of a complex piece of literature (yes, people, FILM IS LITERATURE), but without the snarky, "Take THAT!" aimed at academia as a whole.

    I like snarky. >_>

    ReplyDelete
  2. Bahahaha. I'll try to be more offensive next time.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I disagree. I thought this was a well-thought out analysis of a scene that has received a great deal of ridicule. Instead of serving as a take-that of Academia, its more a take-that to the common populace, that would dismiss something out of hand without taking the time to really think about it. If you only take shots at one target, it becomes stale.

    ReplyDelete

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