How Much Does Cutting Book Events Take Away From a Movie?

This week, we discussed podcasts and Pottermore as adaptations, but we also spent a good amount of time talking about the Order of the Phoenix film as an adaptation. Unlike earlier films, later films tend to deviate more and more from the story line, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Even in the chapters that we talked about on Thursday (Chapters 21-30), so many events happen in those 10 chapters that it would be extremely difficult to try and condense it all within one film. However, with condensation comes elimination of certain events that perhaps cost too much or didn’t seem as relevant or might have hurt the story line of the movie without including other scenes that follow up to that event. I will talk about two such events that I thought were very vital to the story line and characterization in Order of the Phoenix, but were not included in the film.

The first event is when the trio and Ginny encounter Neville and his grandmother in the closed ward at St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. Not only would it have been fascinating to see St. Mungo’s presented visually in the film, but we also lost the interaction between between the four when they meet the Longbottoms. Neville’s parents are first introduced in the Goblet of Fire novel when Harry looks into the Pensieve in Dumbledore’s office. However, in the movies, Neville’s parents are casually mentioned by Voldemort in Deathly Hallows. Having this knowledge is so vital to Neville’s characterization, and helps explain his motivation and improvement in skills in Order of the Phoenix novel after the Death Eaters escape from Azkaban as well as later on in the series.

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The interaction with Neville’s grandmother may also help us understand why Neville is so timid sometimes and not confident in his ability as a wizard. His grandmother blatantly says in the ward “[Neville’s] a good boy, but he hasn’t got his father’s talent, I’m afraid to say.” His gran probably offhandedly puts him down in these ways every day. This event is also one of those defining moments in a childhood when a character finds out a deep secret that a fellow classmate has and it completely changes the way that they view that person. It is such a surprise to Ron, Hermione, and Ginny to find this out and I think it completely changes the way they interact with him.

I think leaving this scene out of the movie hurts Neville’s characterization and it is especially important because it also depicts one of the many after effects of the war as well as its cruelty. You always feel bad for Harry because his parents are dead; however, Neville’s parents are alive, but can’t comprehend or recognize him. And in some ways that’s worse.

The other book scene that I thought was important was when Harry witnesses his father bullying Snape for Sirius’s entertainment when they were younger in the Pensieve. The scene is honestly quite cruel and is hard to read, especially since up to that point so many people have said only good things about Harry’s father. As a result, Harry has this idealized image of the kind of person he believes his father was. Someone in our class mentioned that watching his father bully Snape in the Pensieve must have been very difficult to stomach because Harry knows what it is like to be bullied- he, Ron, Hermione, and Neville have all felt it. They have often been on the receiving end of taunts and threats, from both students and teachers. James started taunting and bullying Snape because Sirius said he was bored. In this moment, Harry probably connects more with Snape, and James parallels Draco, except he is both talk and action. Even though Harry hated to hear it from Snape in the Prisoner of Azkaban novel, there is some truth behind James arrogantly “strutting” around.

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In the book, the conversation Harry has with Lupin and Sirius helps placate him and understand that they were just kids then and that as adults now, they look back on their behavior with shame. It would have been difficult to show the bullying scene in the movie, because if you didn’t show that it was nagging on Harry’s mind and proceed to resolve it immediately, then it would have been difficult to view Harry’s father as anything but his bullying 15 year old self.

Just trying to imagine these scenes included in a movie is a lot to think about- in terms of having a set, figuring out filming, and taking the time to make sure you convey the emotions of the scene well. In addition, these scenes might need follow up scenes to resolve any conflict that arises or to indicate a change in the way the characters act afterwards. It’s difficult to try and include every scene that seems important into a movie for practical reasons, but it would be interesting to imagine how the movie would differ if these scenes had been included. This also makes me wonder how different the series is viewed by a person if they have just watched the movies versus read all the books.

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