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

Recruitment Genius: Appointment Maker / Telesales

£15000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading supplie...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Field Sales Executive - Dereham

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organisation is proud to b...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Field Sales Executive - OTE £30,000

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organisation is proud to b...

Recruitment Genius: Audit Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Graduate Opportunities are available at a lead...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Conservative MP Louise Mensch has made enemies in high places through her fearless pursuit of the hacking scandal  

Thank heavens for Louise Mensch and her foul-mouthed tweets to world leaders

Grace Dent
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London  

When rents are so high that you have to share a bed with a stranger, surely the revolution can’t be far off

Grace Dent
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project