Sarah Sands: Passion, drama, agony: a British institution in the making

Share
Related Topics

On Friday evening, even as Scotland's latest most famous son saw his dreams dissolve at Wimbledon, the country's adopted daughter played out hers at Leicester Square.

Such passion, such drama, such agony. It could only be the pre- release screening of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. No wonder the Scots like to claim J K Rowling (on the basis she started to write when she moved to Edinburgh).

The cinema audience was asked to hand in mobile phones, presumably to prevent anyone from fashioning a miniature pirate video. Since this sixth book in the Harry Potter series has been read by most people in the world, selling nine million copies within the first 24 hours of publication, I can't imagine it was to prevent the plot line from coming out.

Four years ago, when we were on holiday in the Mediterranean, a friend coming through Gatwick on launch day kindly carried advance orders. She was mobbed as she arrived on Elba. No child had to be cajoled to read a book that summer. The only difficulty was persuading them to eat or sleep.

Recent interviews with the star actors in the film have mused on childhoods defined by Harry Potter. Warner Brothers is desperate to finish filming the final book before the cast start to have children themselves. Their fans, too, have grown up. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was published in 1997. I remember reading it to my three-year-old daughter.

On Friday she watched the film with me, a composed teenager of nearly 15. The audience was full of teenagers who were just the right age to sympathise with newly sexualised Harry, Ron and Hermione. Mischievous spells tend to do less damage in this film than fickle hearts.

The conspiracy theory among teenage Potter fans is that the film's release was delayed to allow some distance from its American rival Twilight. The books and films appeal to the same audience. Robert Pattinson, the starring vampire in Twilight, began his film career as Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

The latest Harry Potter is the most Twilight-like in its depiction of teenage romance. It is full of lunges and longing. Little Ginny Weasley is now dead cool and sexy. Because filming schedules have been racing to catch up with real-life puberty, there has long been a tension between reality and fantasy. Harry Potter's voice broke when he was still meant to be a child. Emma Watson as Hermione has bad hair and an emotional immaturity. Yet a couple of miles from the cinema are posters of the actress sleek and sultry, posing for Burberry.

Yet teenage snogging is not at the heart of Harry Potter, as it is with Twilight. It is not a rom com, it is a narrative epic – all the greatest stories ever told wrapped into one. The Twilight books are said to nod to Pride and Prejudice, Romeo and Juliet and Wuthering Heights. Harry Potter has everything thrown in from Dante to Beowulf to Dickens. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince reminds me most of the Old Testament. Dumbledore as played by Michael Gambon is not the kindly old man we remember from Richard Harris's performance. He has turned into God.

How proud we should be of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince as a glorious national institution. J K Rowling's great gift to British cinema was to insist on an all-British cast. The latest old darling to join is Jim Broadbent. Forget Wimbledon. We still rule the world with Harry Potter.

Sarah Sands is deputy editor of the London Evening Standard

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ice skating in George Square, Glasgow  

How many Christmas cards have you sent this year?

Simon Kelner
 

Al-Sweady Inquiry: An exercise in greed that blights the lives of brave soldiers

Richard Kemp
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need