Harry Potter and the Ragpicker’s Wagon

(If this piece sounds the same as a similar piece I wrote five years ago regarding PRISONER OF AZKHABAN, that is because my complaint is the same, and there is little need to add to nor subtract from it.)

The most recent Harry Potter movie, HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE might be a good movie or might be a poor one. I could not tell, because I could not take my eyes off the horror that was the costuming.

More hideous than the Dementors, some Hollywood hophead made the decision to dress the English schoolchildren, not in their handsome uniforms, but in scuffed-looking slovenly rags, perhaps suitable for drudges and slatterns. There were one or two scenes where the uniforms were worn, but in both cases, shirt tails were left out, neckties hanging loose, and a general atmosphere of ugliness settled over the scene.

The beautiful Hermione Grangier was forced to most of the film in some hideous get-up that looked like she just fell off a rag-picker’s wagon. When the undead hordes of drowned corpses appear in the final scene naked, they are better dressed.

You may be wondering how a viewer could notice or care about so small a thing as the dress of the characters, when so much attention had been lavished by the director on the plot, the drama, the lighting, the sets, the special effects. The sets were simply breathtakingly moody, atmospheric, and Gothic. Hogwarts castle never looked better. Perhaps no one else in the audience will notice or care. But for me, the decision to have the children look like scruffy castaways was as distracting as if the director had told them to pick their nose in every scene. I do not care if you are Lawrence Olivier reciting Hamlet: if you have your finger up your nostril, no one will notice your diction and comportment. So it was in this film.

Poor, poor Hermione. She has grown from a pretty child into an attractive young lady. She would have looked so good if she had been allowed to wear something presentable. There was one short scene where she was at a party, and was allowed to look pretty, and when in uniform, she looked neatly turned out. Otherwise, ugh.

No words of mine can convey how bad it looked. Maybe next film the costume department will have the children wear swim fins, shave their heads in patches, get a few tattoos and lip studs, give Harry a nipple ring, and and grow their armpit hairs to a length of two feet. No doubt that will make the American audiences swoon with admiration. Too bad this should have been a film about the characters invented by J.K. Rowling, the English school kids we loyal readers fell in love with.

You see, some of us actually like fantasy stories. We want and expect wizards and witches and fantastical beings to look out of the ordinary. This book takes place in the Halloween World where the things in our fairy stories come true: but who dresses up for Halloween in the same thing he wears every day to work or school, or, in this case, while panhandling?

If you want to dress Harry in rags to show that he is a penniless boy who sleeps in a closet, go ahead (even though, in the book, he has a pile of gold coins). If you want dress the Weasley children the way poor children from two hundred years ago dressed to show their poverty, fine by me–provided its looks like something from the Wizarding world, which is clearly Dickensian in its garb. But Hermione is the daughter of a dentist, and she is from our world. Why should she dress like a slum dog? The film makers showed Draco Malfoy in his civilian clothes from time to time: he wore a white shirt and dark pants. He looked like a normal person. One could watch this film twenty years from now, or forty, and his costume will not be outdated.

I suppose the rest of the film was OK. I cannot really remember. I was too busy fighting the urge to dig my eyes out of their sockets with my thumbnails.