For most people, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban — the third Harry Potter book — is their favorite. It’s the last of the books in the series to be tightly written (and edited), but the first to really explore its themes in a complex manner. And the climax is marvelous.
I didn’t really care for the first two Harry Potter films (though we had fun attending the second film in costume); I found them loud and garish and, well, annoying.
I’m happy to report that the third film adaptation is a refreshing change. The overall presentation is darker — the visuals and the sets, I mean. There’s more of an emphasis on character and story and less of an emphasis on gee-whiz special effects (though Buckbeak the hippogriff is amazing, the best CGI character I’ve seen yet: on a par with Gollum). There’s far, far less Quidditch, and no mention at all of the House Cup. This is the best film of the three so far, just as the third book is the best in the series.
In fact, from its middle, this film is nearly perfect. And it’s nearly a perfect adaptation. I actually had tears in my eyes as I watched my favorite scenes unfold, scenes I’d imagined in my mind for years, scenes created on screen in pitch perfect accuracy (unlike Peter Jackson’s mutilation of The Lord of the Rings).
My favorite part of the book/film is when Harry learns (and then uses) the Patronus charm. The Patronus is designed to ward the Dementors, the terrifying guards of Azkaban, the wizarding prison. Dementors suck joy, happiness, and hope — and eventually the soul — from their victims. They’ve caused trouble for Harry, and he wants a way to protect himself.
A wizard creates a Patronus by concentrating on the happiest moment of his life. This strong, positive emotion wards him from the despair and hopelessness represented by the Dementors.
How would my Patronus manifest itself? Which moment in my life was happiest?
In many ways, I feel as if Kris and I are trying to recreate happy moments from our childhood with this new home. If we follow our plan, the downstairs living area will feel very much like your grandparents’ house might have thirty years ago.
The furniture and painting Kris received when her grandmother died will be featured prominently around the house. We recently purchased a kitchen stool exactly like the one in my grandparents’ kitchen (only ours is yellow and theirs was pink); we have a heavy black rotary-dial telephone like my grandparents had; we’ll be hanging mirrors on the walls — as the current owners have — and one of the mirrors is one that hung on my parents’ bedroom wall when I was growing up; and so on.
I can’t keep away from the new house. I drive past it whenever I travel to or from Portland (which I’ve done several times this past week). Yesterday, before the movie, we stopped for a visit. The annual neighborhood garage sale was in progress, so we were able to see the stuff John and Mary Jo (and Gerry) don’t plan to keep.
“Hey!” I said, pointing at an old leather-covered chair. “They’re selling my chair.” When we first toured the house, I fell in love with this chair, which had been sitting in the kitchen. It’s old, and a bit rickety, but it’s comfortable (and comforting). I had wanted to write the chair into our offer, but Kris and Mary argued that it would be too frivolous.
“You want that chair?” asked Mary Jo, disbelieving. She laughed. “That’s Gerry’s chair. He loves it, too.” (Gerry is her housemate.)
Gerry appeared, beaming. “The chair is $25, but for you it’s only $20,” he said. I thanked him, paid him, and then carried the chair back to its proper spot in the kitchen.
“Do you want this old end table?” Mary Jo asked when we’d gone back out to the garage sale. “It’s forty years old. It was my mother’s. She loved it. I hate to sell it, but we don’t have a place for it.”
“Sure,” I said. “We can use that.” And so I carried the coffee table back into the living room.
The current owners have a long Davenport in the front room. Though it’s large and its form is fine, it’s rather ugly.
“Do you want this Davenport, too?” Mary Jo asked. We did not.
But, in a way, I did. My grandfather had a long, ugly Davenport, too: a mauve-colored beauty with a flowery pattern etched in the fabric. (The fabric was very firm, so that if you slept on it, the pattern would be etched in your cheeks). Every day, after a lunch of Campbell’s bean with bacon soup, grandpa would sleep on the Davenport for fifteen minutes to half an hour. Then he’d rise suddenly, get to his feet, and say, “Well, time to get back to work.” And then he’d go out to his garden or his cows or his woods.
Things from our childhood are comforting, are they not?
I really like the house’s current owners. They seem like good people.