Wednesday, June 11, 2008
When I finished reading The Deathly Hallows I was immediately struck by two thoughts: damn, that was bloody, and; they can never film this as written. Simply put, while the other books were replete with sub-plots, side stories and exposition, DH was classic linear story telling with hardly any fat. Like many, I was relieved to hear the of the decision to split the book into two films. But the question is where to split? If you haven't read the book but intend to or don't intend to but still want to be surprised by the film you can stop reading now.
When the news of the split was fist announced I remember reading someone suggesting the split be done after Ron leaves Harry and Hermione. I reread the book a while back specifically looking for a split point and have to say that I think the proposed point would be a very poor choice indeed. To split there means leaving the first film with a cliff hanger of sorts (will Ron come back?) but what sort of start does it mean for the second film? We return to the story, only to have to watch who knows how much depressing sitting in the woods missing Ron. Not much to recommend.
Wherever the split happens the story needs some very specific things to make it work. First, the split must somewhat balance the large action scenes of the book. Second, the split must follow some sort of mini-climax action piece that allows the first film to have something of a complete arc. Third, the split must allow the second film to have a dynamic opening that immediately recaptures the audience's attention. And fourth, if possible the split should produce two thematically consistent parts. With this in mind, I think I've found the best place: at Bill and Fleur's after Dobby's funeral.
First, the greater amount of action happens later in the book, especially after the return to Hogwarts. As everyone has noted, the films can only survive a limited amount of hiding and moping in the woods, events that comprise a great part of the physical first half of the book. Placing the split at Bill and Fleur's puts the flight from Privet Drive, the wedding, Ministry, Lovegoods', Godrick's Hollow and the Malfoy escape in the first film and Gringott's, Hogsmead, Hogsworts (battle 1), Forbidden Forest and Hogsworts (battle 2) in the second. Second, the first film will end with the climax of the escape from the Malfoys' and the denouement of Dobby's funeral. This lets the final film open with the daring break in at Gringott's (third point). Finally, this divides the two films between basically Harry et. al. blindly stumbling about and getting chased and Harry taking action and doing the chasing. Dobby's death was very formative in Harry realizing the real impact his actions (or inaction) could have on those he knew and loved. This spit point provides a complete story of Harry's change into a man of decision in the first part and the effect of his decisions in the second.