Harry Potter & The Philosopher Stone

Harry Potter & the Philosopher Stone (****)

Director: Chris Columbus. Cast: Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Alan Rickman

Your appreciation for this film goes hand in hand with how much you really care about the original source. 

I’m not going to lie or hide it: I adore the first book (yes, the others too, but the philosopher stone is special). I first read it more than 20 years ago and then again aloud (in Italian) to my brothers and sisters during a Xmas holiday (very fond memories of those evenings) and very recently again to my son. If you’re one of those few people who’s still has not read it and are snobby about it because you think “it’s a book for children and certainly doesn’t concern you”, please don’t be an idiot! It’s never too late to fix the damage.

Only then you’ll be able to understand what an incredible achievement this film is. Yes, because beyond the dodgy acting from those children, the dialogue full exposition (putting it down and condensing it onto film did highlight the few weaknesses of the book too), the convoluted plot (maybe a bit too much?), a slightly dry direction and the dated special effects, what actually Chris Columbus and his team were able to do was to visualise the pages of JK Rowling’s incredible book to perfection (the production design is beyond words) and find the magic in them (particularly in the first half).

I still have to meet a person who didn’t think “that is exactly as I had imagined it”. The amount of details, the sheer spectacle, the naive innocence and magic infused in the film is overwhelming. Of course it’s all enhanced by John William’s wonderful (and now iconic) score blasting throughout pretty much its entirety. I still remember the feeling of pure joy as I watched it for the first time with my dear friend Johanna and tonight I had that same smile throughout.

There are of course cuts and shortcuts (the subplot about Norbert the dragon is probably the most notable), but the film (already quite long) packs so much in it that it’s a wonder it can actually hold together. Giovanni was glued to it for more than 2 and a half hours, even though he knew the story, shouting at the screen, cheering and covering his eyes, just like he was shouting and cheering at the book while we were reading it (He was not allowed to watch it until we finished the book, we are now two thirds through the second).

His love for the story, the characters, the details, the magic, the world building feels very much like the same love ‘little boy Andrea’ had for Star Wars more than 40 years ago. 

For that alone I’m thankful to both book and film.

You can disagree with me as much as you want, you‘ll still a muggle to me.

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