Each Harry Potter adventure offers a great lesson.
In the latest cinematic installment of the popular Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, winds of change blow new and exciting adventures for Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermoine (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint). They’re teenagers now and attitudes have altered; particularly about the opposite sex.
But bigger things are happening.
Hogwart’s School of Wizardry has been granted the distinction of holding the TriWizard Tournament where students over the age of 17 compete in daring (and death-defying) challenges. They must conquer fire-breathing dragons, swim murky waters and fight off prickly mermaids. Finally, they must enter a maze that challenges even one’s very own perception of truth and sanity.
Students who wish to participate enter their name into a goblet of fire and three will be chosen to represent each school of wizardry. Ah, but the Goblet of Fire spits out a fourth name, which is inevitably Harry Potter’s. It is one name too many and it baffles everyone at Hogwart’s. Harry is too young to compete at 14. The faculty’s hands are tied because the Goblet of Fire makes the rules and Harry is forced to compete in the tournament. Yet Harry swears he never entered his name. The mystery begins . . .
This twist causes a major riff between best friends Harry and Ron, and being forced between the two is Hermoine who grows tired of the bickering. Friendships are tested and this is just the beginning of dark and difficult times. Voldemort (fabulously portrayed by Ralph Fiennes), we come to discover, comes back in the flesh, and Harry is forced to face him alone . . . or so it seems.
The Harry Potter films get better and better as the kids grow older. I didn’t think Alfonso Cuaron’s Prisoner of Azkaban, the third installment in the franchise, could be topped.
I was wrong.
Goblet of Fire improves the franchise, beefs it up, and energizes what’s already strong about the Harry Potter films—it’s a fantasy world that seems all too real. All the characters, from faculty to students, all seem like someone we know (ourselves, perhaps) and the situations—grand and imaginative they may be—resonate with honesty. Harry, Ron and Hermoine now have to endure what we muggles had to endure–the awkwardness of growing up, our increasing attraction towards one another and all that being youthful encompasses. We learn that our beloved three wizards are just like us and they’re just like the friends we have.
The cinematic strength that the Harry Potter films all share is that it has melded such real and intense emotions and characterizations into a world completely magical and surreal. It collides these opposing forces together so beautifully and boy do we gaze in wonder at our screens as it all unfolds cinematically. Or better yet, magically. The only thing missing from the film is the majestic presence of composer John William’s memorable themes.
Perhaps the strength of these stories lie in the lesson in each adventure Harry takes. In the Sorcerer’s Stone, we learn through Harry’s initial journey into wizardry that we are to accept who we are.
In the Chamber of Secrets, Dumbledore reminds Harry (and the rest of us moviegoers) that it is not in our ability that shows us who we are but in our choices.
In the Prisoner of Azkaban, we learn that love, especially the love of your family, never fades.
Yet the lesson learned in Goblet of Fire is a propitious one, at least in our wondrous world—timely due to the season, of course, but more so appropriate as we look back at the end of the year at the ups-and-downs we encountered through our own personal journey.
Real strength doesn’t necessarily come from within. Strength, or as Dumbledore would call moral fiber, may come from those we hold dearly; our true friends.
We may feel like Harry as we take upon our lonely paths as we encounter our own personal dragons, swim murky waters and travel through our own dark mazes—but true friends don’t abandon, disappear or turn away.
Not by disagreement.
Not by convenience.
Not by misunderstanding.
Not by choice.