Potter weaves more of his magic

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“Dark and difficult times lie ahead”, the posters ominously warn. Harry Ppotter is back, riddled with teenage angst and tormented by vexing dreams in the fourth cinematic adaptation of JK Rrowling’s series. More brooding and suspenseful than ever, this instalment sees continuing to struggle with the knowledge that the wizard Voldemort, who killed his parents, is gaining in power and (again) harbouring the malicious intent to kill Ppotter once and for all. Worse still, Hharry has to find a date for the Yule Ball.The events of the film take place around the Ttriwizard Ttournament, a deadly competition between the most prestigious magic schools, Hhogwarts, Beauxbatons Aacademy,and Durmstrang Institute. Reinstated after a hundred years by Hogwarts’ Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, the tournament is an attempt to strengthen bonds between the schools, given the growing storm of dark rumours he begins to hear. From each school, a champion is selected to compete by the magical Goblet of Fire. Troubled by the raising of the Dark Mark and the reappearance of the Death Eeaters, Harry’s paranoia deepens as the Goblet selects him as a fourth champion in the tournament despite his being too young to compete.Director Mike Newell takes hold of the reins for this outing (the first Englishman to do so), the wide range of experience of his previous efforts – Mona Lisa Smile (2003), Donnie Brasco (1997) and Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) – allowing him to mould the multitudinous facets of the story artfully. Hhis public-schoolboy experiences allow him to bring out the awkwardness and japery of the boarding school environment, adding a wry and convincing overtone to the action.The theme of adolescence is never far away, pubescence providing many humorous and touching moments as Harry, Hermione and Ron grapple with their raging hormones amongst the myriad other dramas besetting them. Comically, the Yule Ball triggers more upset than the sinister plot unfolding, as and try to muster up the courage to approach a girl and ask her out. agonises over his crush, Cho Chang, while Hermione picks Durmstrang action man Viktor Krum, much to Rron’s chagrin. Indeed, the Yule Ball scene is reminiscent of an Aamerican teen movie, with dresses, dances and tearful endings. Even Hagrid develops a love interest amidst the hormonal melee, with the towering Madame Maxime – the headmistress of Beauxbatons, played sublimely by Frances de la Ttour.The three tasks of the Triwizard Tournament punctuate the developments of the subplots providing an exciting framework to the story and the opportunity for some astounding set-pieces and CGI. The dragon scenes are jaw-dropping, with vertigo- inducing shots of the action as Hharry zooms around the landscape trying to outwit the dragon in a vast, rocky stadium filmed in the Scottish Highlands. Harry’s eventual confrontation with Voldemort is dark and hugely satisfying. Ralph Fiennes (currently starring in The Constant Gardener), disfigured into the lithe embodiment of blind malice that is Voldemort, is particularly impressive.The Goblet of Fire is perhaps the hardest of the four books to adapt to film. Iits length and numerous sub-plots and diversions make it a challenge for any director to preserve the core story while not losing too much subtext. Certainly, Mike Newell has taken more than a few liberties with the storytelling, in some cases distorting key clues and red herrings, and has left a sizeable part of the book’s material on the cutting room floor. Yet the magic survives. He has performed fantastically, skilfully transforming, arguably, the best book of the Potter series into, certainly, the best of the films made so far. Essential viewing.ARCHIVE: 6th week MT 2005

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