Good vs Evil. Binary oppositions in pure form or categories with flowing borders? A deconstructive analysis of the "Harry Potter" movies

Seminar Paper, 2017

21 Pages, Grade: 15 Punkte


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Understanding of “Good” and “Evil”

3. Synopsis of the Harry Potter story

4. Literature and Literary theory
4.1 Structuralism
4.2 Post-structuralism
4.2.1 Deconstruction in literary theory
4.2.2 Deconstruction in film study
4.2.3 Binary oppositions

5. Deconstructive Analysis
5.1 Scene one: Possession in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”
5.1.1 Visual Aspects
5.1.2 Sound Design
5.1.3 Representation of Good and Evil
5.2 Scene two: The Pensieve in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”
5.2.1 Visual Aspects
5.2.2 Sound Design
5.2.3 Representation of Good and Evil

6. Conclusion

7. Bibliography
7.1 Primary Sources
7.2 Secondary Sources

8. Abbreviations

1. Introduction

Nowadays, many European children grow up in a society where the Internet, video games and movies are a usual part of their environment. As a result, these children must face the influence of multimedia technology at a certain point of their transition to adulthood. Consequently, many children and adolescents do not devote time to methods of entertainment such as reading books anymore. Many of them even believe that reading books is a waste of time or much too old fashioned for them. The same thing applied to me during my own childhood. I was not interested in books or reading. I always thought that reading was just a waste of time in which I could spend time doing more interesting activities. However, my naive attitude completely changed at a certain point during my childhood, on the day I received the book “Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone” as a gift on Christmas Eve. This book is the first novel of the Harry Potter series written by British author Joanne Kathleen Rowling . At this point of my boyhood the following quote, from the creator of the Harry Potter fantasy novels, fully applied to myself.

“If you don't like to read, you haven't found the right book .” - J.K. Rowling

Since then, I have been stuck on reading, especially fantasy novels like the Harry Potter series. I fully agree with all the potential benefits of reading, benefits that broaden our horizons, develop our verbal abilities, and improve our imagination. At the end of the day, reading was without a doubt a good, and even fun, activity for me. Thus I say: “Thank you, J.K. Rowling. You entered my life with the Harry Potter books, and you did beautiful things there!”

Since I started reading books and watching films, I was always curious about the eternal conflict between Good and Evil. Even though I was an advocate of the Good, I asked myself a couple of times “What if the characters in stories are not innately Good while others are not innately Evil?” As a result, I came to the conclusion that even characters representing Good can represent Evil in the end. Therefore, I chose this topic and applied it to the Potter movies. This seminar paper aims to display the conflict between Good and Evil, shown on the Harry Potter film series distributed by Warner Bros., which is based on the novel story by J.K. Rowling. In this content is the conflict focused on Harry Potter, as the good guy, and Lord Voldemort, as his evil opponent.

This paper essentially consists of two main parts, the theoretical and analytical section, and a conclusion at the end. The very start, however, gives the beholder a raw notion of the typical interpretation of “Good” and “Evil”. Then, the reader gets a brief synopsis of the Harry Potter story, to figure out what the plot of Harry Potter is about. The theoretical part contains two significant subdivisions. It deals with structuralism and post-structuralism, as well as with three subsections of post-structuralism, which are deconstruction in literature and film studies and finally with binary oppositions. The most important goal is to figure out what the deconstruction and binary oppositions are about and make it clear how they are applied in movies. Afterwards, the seminar paper goes firsthand into the analytical part, which is the second section and considers a deconstructive analysis if the representation of Good and Evil are either in their pure form or categories with flowing borders in the film series “Harry Potter”. The most significant thing in this part is to split up the movie into essential pieces, like the visual aspects and sound design. Another essential point is to figure out their equalities, differences and in certain circumstances the connections to each other.

I believe it is significant that J.K Rowling's books, and the movies by Warner Bros., give different interpretations at certain points. I argue that J.K. Rowling intended to give her readers certain gaps for their own interpretation, and I believe the challenge of decoding the intention of an author or a producer and creating your own feelings and interpretations is what makes books and movies amusing.

2. Understanding of “Good” and “Evil”

The conflict between Good and Evil is one of the oldest topics of mankind. Both terms are abstract words with very different interpretations. “The Free Dictionary” proposes when speaking of a person that “Good” is defined as someone who is normally innocent, well-behaved, not causing trouble, kind, helpful and gets along with others. (The Free Dictionary) “Evil,” on the other hand, is defined as someone who is morally bad or wrong, wicked, causing ruin and pain, and blameworthy. (The Free Dictionary)

J. K. Rowling, however, has a very different interpretation of the terms Good and Evil. She writes in her first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone ,

“There is no good and evil, there is only power and those too weak to seek it.”

(J. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone)

With this statement, Rowling creates wide interpretations of Good and Evil. Nevertheless, both terms were defined independently through circumstances in the books and films. Harry Potter, as the innocent young boy who is well-behaved, is helpful and kind. Lord Voldemort, who is like the devil in disguise and only intends to do bad. It is arguable, however, whether the borders between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort are clearly defined and how someone would associate them with Good and Evil, as the borders between both terms are not clear and the classic association of Good and Evil is not obvious in the Harry Potter story.

3. Synopsis of the Harry Potter story

Harry Potter is a book series written by J. K. Rowling, encompassing seven fantasy novels. Due to its great popularity and recognition, the books were made into an eight part film series by Warner Bros. Pictures. The seventh part however, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was split in two separate films.

The protagonist in the series is an English boy named Harry Potter, who lives with his uncle, aunt and cousin in an extremely ordinary world full of non-magical people, also known as muggles. At the age of eleven, young Harry discovers that he is actually a wizard and belongs to a different kind of world, the wizarding world. This world exists parallel to the muggle world, and it is hidden and maintained in secret. Thereupon Harry becomes a student at a wizarding academy in Scotland, known by the name Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

On his first trip to Hogwarts, he becomes acquainted with Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley. It is not long after that the three become best friends. When they arrive at Hogwarts, Harry is sorted into the Gryffindor house[1] by the Sorting Hat[2], as well as Hermione and Ron.

In his first year, he finally gets fully acquainted with the circumstances of his life. His parents, James and Lilly Potter, were a wizard and a witch, killed by the evil wizard Voldemort while they were protecting Harry. The young wizard still has a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead from surviving the attack. Because of surviving Voldemort's attack as a baby, and somehow depriving Lord Voldemort from his power, Harry became very famous in the wizarding world from this day on. In the following years at Hogwarts School, Harry experiences many life-threatening situations and overcomes dangerous, deadly quests. In the end, he comes to learn more and more about the one that must not be named, the evil wizard Voldemort. Every experience Harry, Hermione, and Ron find themselves in, brings Harry closer to Voldemort and his followers, which are commonly known as “Death Eaters”. (Rowling, Harry Potter 1-7)

4. Literature and Literary theory

First and foremost, it is necessary to make certain points of the ensuing processing of literature and literary theory clear. To understand the term “structuralism” the reader gets a short introduction, [3] thereby he or she gets a brief glimpse of the term and can figure out what it is actually about. Primarily, in this paper the emphasis will be on the literary aspects of structuralism, which is also known as post-structuralism. The beholder will not find any discussion of structuralism nor of post-structuralism in psychology, in history, in philosophy, in the physical sciences and neither in mathematics. To ensure that points in the paper clear to the reader, it will constitute a brief explanation of some terms that are believed to be vital in this context. Through a representation of the process of a literary analysis it is possible to represent how literature and literary theory can be applied in film studies.

4.1 Structuralism

Structuralism refers to an intellectual movement arguing that some particular domains of culture may be clearly understood through the structure of modeled language, a concept different from the ideas of imagination and organization of reality. “Structuralism derives from structural linguistics, which is first and foremost a method for dealing with phonemes (minimal sound units), morphemes (minimal meaning units) and sentences.” (Cook 510). In other words, structuralism asserts that various elements of human culture should be perceived according to how they relate to the wider social structure. “It is difficult to boil structuralism down to a single ‘bottom-line’ proposition, but if forced to do so (…) its essence is the belief that things cannot be understood in isolation – they have to be seen in the context of the larger structures they are part of (…)” (Barry 39). Structuralism believes that human life is not intelligible unless through interrelations. These relationships constitute the structure. In a literal sense, structuralism is the meaning of things interpreted by the human mind rather than an essence inside. This implies that everything has meaning as a result of our language system in which we perform (Barry 39).

Among the first scholars speaking of structuralism was Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, who lived from 1857 until 1913 (Barry 41) and French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, who lived from 1908 until 2009 (Sturrock 18).

4.2 Post-structuralism

The definition of post-structuralism is based on structuralism and was developed in Europe during the mid-twentieth century. Post-structuralism, a movement following structuralism, refers to the late 1960s work of French critical theorists. The two key figures in post-structuralism most closely associated with its emergence are Roland Barthes, who lived from 1915 until 1980 and Jacques Derrida, who lived from 1930 until 2004 (Barry 65).

Most of the representations of post-structuralism were formed through critical discussion on structuralism. Although much of the representations of post-structuralism have a French origin, they influenced the whole world in the areas of literature and literary theory. It is difficult to identify the major difference between post-structuralism and structuralism because most of the theories in post-structuralism are based on the language presented in structuralism (Barry 61-62). However, post-structuralism applies the theories within a wider range of topics compared to how they were applied in structuralism and also radicalizes some of the items in structuralism. Succinctly, post-structuralism does not follow the view of structuralism through a maze of implications about language.

In the textual approach of post-structuralism, the author is replaced as the fundamental subject of inquiry and the emphasis is put on other sources of meaning. Some of the major assumptions in post-structuralism include the message that an author gives becomes secondary to the one that the reader perceives. It allows multiple interpretations of texts even if the interpretations may not be consistent with one another. Rather, they express the view that the consequences of believing in structuralism are like entering an infinite universe of uncertainty (Barry 61).

4.2.1 Deconstruction in literary theory

To continue, the critical method for a post-structuralist’s consideration of a literary text is called deconstruction, which can be defined as applied post-structuralism (Barry 70).

Deconstruction in literary theory refers to the critical interpretation of texts achieved by analysing the linguistic signs after their isolation from other features, including information about the author, such as his or her cultural background. Deconstruction involves a critical outlook aimed at determining the relationship between the meaning and the text. According to deconstruction, any utterance from a human may have various meanings. This implies that even the simplest statement may be heard in various ways that may sometimes result in misunderstandings because of its apparent meaning. In deconstruction, the meaning of a text is neither within nor without. The figurative language of expressions and writings of human experience results in uncertainty between what is being implied and the original meaning.

One prominent individual who contributed to deconstruction was Jacques Derrida. His contribution was primarily through his grammatology work in 1967 (Culler 47). Derrida's book on grammatology relates how speeches are preferred over writing, and tries to reveal some of the flaws of language. These oppositions are hierarchical, binary terms where one is fundamental, and the other is derivative (West 232). In this case, deconstruction of oppositions is achieved by exploring the contradictions and tensions that occur in the hierarchical ordering in the aspects of the meaning of text (Barry 72).

Derrida’s own description of deconstructive reading has the same purpose. A deconstructive reading, “must always aim at a certain relationship, unperceived by the writer, between what he commands and what he does not command of the patterns of language that he uses … [It] attempts to make the not-seen accessible to sight.” (Derrida 158-163) “So the deconstructionist practises what has been called…oppositional reading,…with the aim of unmasking internal contradictions or inconsistencies in the text, aiming to show the disunity which underlines its unity.” (Barry 72)

4.2.2 Deconstruction in film study

However, the relationship between deconstruction in literary theory and film studies has not been widely explored. Deconstruction in film studies has made it possible to separate film’s historical period. Without deconstruction, the history of film would be approached from the point of view which makes all films appear the same and have only very fewer twists here and there. All the issues about deeper meanings of movies can be approached from a deconstructive perspective. This helps in pointing out the institutional and contextual obstacles that are associated with it in general.

A contentious point is in which way deconstruction can be applied to movies or TV-series, as deconstruction originally belongs to literature, language, literary theory and others. Nevertheless, the basic principle can be applied to movies without any major problems. “The options currently available to the film critic provide a wide and varied spectrum ( ). However, ( ), most modes of analysis share many common concerns, and the ultimate benefit is that formal patterns, thematic systems and cultural insights enliven the interpretation and enjoyment of film” (Cook 532).

Deconstructing movies into separate pieces provides a great variety of possibilities. The most significant aspect is to define the further course of action at the outset. One opportunity is to divide the movie into their visual aspects and the sound design to get a convincing solution.

4.2.3 Binary oppositions

“(One essential point) that deconstruction makes comes from Levi-Strauss’s insight that units within a structure tend to group in binary pairs or oppositions, consisting of two terms placed in some sort of relation to each other” (Klages 54). For example, the weather is either cold or hot. It cannot be cold and hot at the same time. Another example is a soccer team, such as FC Bayern Munich can either win or lose a match. They cannot do both at the same time. Two things in relation to each other are up or down, on the left or on the right, in or out. It is important to note that all these concepts are opposites from each other and they cannot exist together (Klages 59). Binary opposition is vital in literature as it enables the authors to explore various groups in terms of culture, gender, personal differences or even in good or evil. Authors may use the perceived differences between groups to determine what may happen to the individuals in those groups. “Deconstruction is a way of reading that looks for places where the structure gets shaken up, where more play – more ambiguity of meaning – occurs, where the binary opposites don’t stay neatly on their proper side of the slash.” (Klages 59)

Thus, one can conclude that binary oppositions like “Good” and “Evil”, in a firm relation to each other, possess a predetermined structure at the start, as in structuralism. Due to the practical application of the critical post-structuralism, also known as deconstruction, one can consider if these binary oppositions are either in their pure form, like the structure implies, or if the prescribed borders start to flow into a new form.

5. Deconstructive Analysis

Inasmuch as the important basics of literature and literary theory are said, we can outright start with focusing on the main part of this paper, a deconstructive analysis of the Potter movies. To this extent, it is worth noting that ordinarily there are different terms used for analysing and editing movies. The terms used in the following analysis belongs either to literature or film language. One must be aware that in some cases there can be deviations in interpretations of expression and stylistic means. Incidentally there is no perfect solution and neither is there just one way to analyse a movie. Deconstruction gives us a wide range of possibilities. Nevertheless, it is hardly feasible to get a comprehensive analysis of this topic in just a couple of pages. If considering all eight Harry Potter movies it is not a big deal to fill a bachelor thesis or even a dissertation. For this reason, this paper focuses on two sufficient scenes from the Potter movies. Continuing this way makes it possible to work efficiently and leads to the same outcome. These selected scenes were chosen because they display all relations between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort. That implies connections, equalities and differences between both.

At the beginning of this analysis we assume that the borders between Good and Evil are clear and in their pure form given in the Potter movies. In other words, Harry Potter is the “Good” one and Lord Voldemort is the “Evil” one. The main goal of deconstruction is to ask why we, as the viewers, are supposed to interpret the Harry Potter films in this particular way. Deconstruction can be applied to these two scenes and answers to the unanswered assumptions, impacts and effects.

Two various areas of film studies will be considered, visual aspects and sound design. Consequently, it is possible to scrutinise the representation of Good and Evil in the scenes and can make a comprehensive solution in the end.

5.1 Scene one: Possession in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”

The first chosen scene is from the fifth movie “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”, where Harry Potter struggles with his inner Evil as well as with Lord Voldemort, who is trying to invade and take over his mind and body. (Yates, HP 5 1:53:40 - 2:00:17)

5.1.1 Visual Aspects

The scene starts with a slow-motion frame, where Professor Lupin grabs Harry tightly to hold him back, followed by a screen change between Harry Potter and Bellatrix Lestrange, who recently killed Harry’s godfather Sirius Black. Harry’s grief turns to rage when he sees Bellatrix chuckling. In the very next moment when Harry breaks free from Lupin’s hands and tries to hunt her, it is striking that the scene turned from a slow-motion into a fast-motion scene. The camera work is now not calm and neither focused anymore, it has turned into a rapid change between different perspectives of Harry, while he tries to catch Lestrange. On one hand the camera guide makes it dynamic and on the other, aggressive. It’s obvious that Harry will attack her with his full strength.

“Hatred rose in Harry such as he had never known before; he flung himself out from behind the fountain and bellowed, ‘ Crucio! ’” (J. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order Of the Phoenix 301)

The moment when Harry stopped Lestrange with the “Cruciatus curse,” the camera work calms down and focuses on Harry again. He stands over her and aims his wand straight on Lestrange. The “Cruciatus curse” of which Harry has spoken, or also known as the “Torture curse,” is one of the three unforgivable curses and belongs to darkest art of wizardry. It is one of the most powerful and sinister spells known to wizardkind. When cast successfully, the curse inflicts intense and agonising pain on the victim. (J. Rowling, Pottermore) In this very moment, Harry was not able to control his anger and was guided by his inner evil. Henceforth the borders between Good and Evil are not any longer unambiguous, rather, they are beginning to develop flowing borders. (Yates, HP 5 1:53:40 - 1:54:14)

However, upon a second glance, the viewer experiences confusion in the following frames. Harry hesitates with himself and is still undecided how to proceed. In the meantime, the screen changes between Bellatrix Lestrange and Harry once more. The camera speed raises instantly which underlines Harry’s inner nervousness. Beyond is Bellatrix still anxious and wondering if Harry will say the other powerful unforgivable curse, “Avada Kedavra” – which can instantly kill the victim (J. Rowling, Pottermore). Then suddenly Voldemort appears from behind and Bellatrix’s anxiousness vanishes.

A particularly conspicuous aspect in this scene is that Voldemort stops and stands behind Harry not like an enemy, but like an ally. He yells at him,

“Do it!” (Yates, HP 5 1:54:47).

It seems as though the Dark Lord wants to prove how far Harry Potter would go, but Harry still hesitates. Then Voldemort knocks Harry’s wand from his hands. The frames slow down a bit and both, Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort face each other. At this point, the viewer determines that Harry Potter won’t say the killing curse to Bellatrix Lestrange, even if she recently killed his godfather. The following deep focus on Harry’s face clarifies that he is still struggling with his own feelings and is probably doubtful about what is the perfect decision. He seems weaker than Voldemort and potentially he is no match for him. The scene conveys the difficulty of Harry, who cannot even win his inner wars, how then fighting against the Dark Lord (Yates, HP 5 1:54:14 - 1:54:58).

Suddenly, Professor Dumbledore[4], headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, appears in a flash of green smoke out of a fire place. It seems as though he comes out of nowhere as the support Harry would need in this very weak moment. The frames slow down and focuses in a slow screen change on both Dumbledore and the Dark Lord. All at once, it becomes brisk again and Dumbledore pushes Harry aside to counter the attack of Voldemort. Red light streams from Dumbledore’s wand and green light from Voldemort’s. Evidently, this short cut scene filmed on eye level represents a fight between two persons who are at eye level. In this moment, even though Dumbledore is fighting Voldemort in a very hectic screen change, when the frame is focused on Harry for just a short term, he and the frame are nearly motionless. Harry cowers in the corner as though the fight straight in front of him is not on his mind at all.

It appears that he is still struggling with his feelings about what happened earlier. Incidentally, the scene presents the viewer a big gap for own interpretations. Harry Potter may ask himself where he belongs to. He absolutely doubts whether he belongs to the Good side or even to the Evil. This makes it clear that Harry cannot figure out if Good and Evil are clearly defined for him and where he belongs, and so neither can the spectator. (Yates, HP 5 1:54:58 - 1:55:49)

The battle between Dumbledore and Voldemort progresses. Voldemort breathed out a gigantic serpent consisting of red hot flames to attack the headmaster. Dumbledore, responds with a great wave of water from the pools surrounding the fountain. The water forms a huge rolling ball, where Voldemort is trapped inside. The different categories of cuts and changes between different perspectives displays a clash between two people who are decidedly coequal. This rapid-fire scene makes one thing clear, which is that Dumbledore and Lord Voldemort are two binary opposites. Good and Evil. Dumbledore and the Dark Lord.

When Harry tries out of the blue to get up and stands besides Dumbledore, the headmaster pushes him to the floor again, like the whole situation is over Harry’s head.

The battle goes on like this, Voldemort tries to hurt Harry and Dumbledore with all his power, but Dumbledore however, protects himself and the boy with everything he can encourage. Voldemort’s grim attempts to kill both are all failed. (Yates, HP 5 1:55:49 - :57:15)

Finally, the frames slow down into a focused camera work on eye level with Dumbledore and Voldemort. Then Voldemort suddenly disappears in a swirl wind of sand. A shiver runs through the floor and points towards Harry and Dumbledore. The camera guide in this scene is like the gust of wind on the ground. It first just focuses on the floor and then slowly addresses Harry and Dumbledore. The viewer is completely focused on the two, therefore it creates massive tension. All at once Harry’s body trembles and the camera is fully concentrated on the young wizard. Harry falls to the ground and Dumbledore reverses shattered into Harry’s direction. It seems like Dumbledore can already anticipate what would next happen to him. Henceforward Harry’s eyes are getting dark grimed, red framed and starring. Harry glances at the headmaster and speaks in a different voice:

“You’ve lost, old man.” (Yates, HP 5 1:57:48)

At this very moment, the young wizard Harry Potter concurs like the devil in disguise. At this point the borders between Good and Evil are not just flowing any longer. It seems like Harry Potter approves the Evil to get inside his body and he no longer belongs to Good.

Lord Voldemort used a very dark kind of magic to possess Harry Potter’s body and speak with a different voice to Dumbledore. Through the words “you’ve lost, old man” one can figure out that the reason for the whole battle was just Harry’s consciousness to the Dark Lord. It is not clear if Harry Potter as an Evil twin of Lord Voldemort would end this fight as well. Neither is clear if the “Good” Harry potter is still in his own body or if he has already vanished. But either way, Harry is in this very moment no longer the one he was before Voldemort possessed him. (Yates, HP 5 1:57:15 - 1:57:53)

Harry is still crawling on the ground and then suddenly his body winces and flashback scenes start to interface. Painful images run through his mind, like the death of his mother, his school friend Cedric and his godfather Sirius Black fading away from him. The boy is still grunting and panting on the floor. The scenes Harry just experienced were the darkest moments of his life. One must assume that Voldemort wants to kill Harry’s faith in Good to clear outwards for the Evil get inside him. (Yates, HP 5 1:57:53 - 1:58:10)

Dumbledore kneels beside Harry and tries for a moment to speak to him but Harry has already experiences more dark moments. Voldemort appears in his mind and says to him:

“So weak. So vulnerable.” (Yates, HP 5 1:58:16 - 1:58:20)

This dark moments in Harry’s mind admits to believe he will lose this inner war against Voldemort. In one of the frames Harry is just sitting on his bed, deliberating. He seems like he is actually weak and vulnerable. The very next scene underlines this thesis, where Harry sees himself in a mirror and his head changed into Voldemort’s. There Harry stands, with his own body but with the head of the Dark Lord.

The borders between the Good side of Harry Potter flow more and more into borders where he belongs to the Evil side. Then the frame was interrupted and leaps back to Dumbledore, trying to speak to him:

“Harry, it isn’t how you are alike. It’s how you are not.” (Yates, HP 5 1:58:28 - 1:58:35)

Harry is still struggling with himself accompanied by fast short cut scenes acting on his mind. The picture of a chuckling Voldemort is still there. His friends Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley and many others suddenly appear. The camera work changes into a long cut, focused on the faces of Harry and his friends looking at each other. It is a very deep change of viewpoints between Harry and his friends. Conspicuously at this juncture is that Harry’s eyes getting into their usual appearance again, they do not look like the devil’s eyes any longer. Harry recalls happy memories once he sees his friends. The young wizard starts to experience good things in his mind like the times with his parents, with his godfather Sirius and the good times with his friends at Hogwarts. The most important thing in these short cuts, is that in his memories the pictures are all full of colours again. Furthermore, in all of the memories Harry, his friends and family are smiling and laughing like if they are together they can fight against everything.

Due to this memories, Harry finds his power again and says to Voldemort:

“You’re the weak one… and you’ll never know love or friendship.” (Yates, HP 5 1:59:18 - 1:59:22)

Voldemort’s grim laughing in Harry’s mind has changed into a dismayed expression. Harry makes a last desperate effort and fights against him. All the dark memories from earlier running backwards and at the point when Harry stands in front of the mirror, he smashes it down into shards with fury. He beats Voldemort metaphorically by smashing into the mirror. Voldemort leaves Harry’s body as a faith black swirl. In the very last moment when Voldemort stands beside Harry, he says:

“You’re a fool, Harry Potter. And you will lose everything.” (Yates, HP 5 1:59:54 - 2:00:02)

Voldemort seems like he knew that he lost now against the young boy, however, he looks like he feels certain that sooner or later Harry Potter will lose against him and lose everything wherefore he fights today. Despite everything appeals this last scene, where Harry and the Dark Lord face each other, like two equals are aware what will happen in the future, like two binary oppositions who will be facing each other frequently, binary opposites like Good and Evil. The Dark Lord in the left side of the screen change, and Harry Potter in the right.

Then Voldemort disappears in swirl of black smoke. (Yates, HP 5 1:58:10 - 2:00:17)

5.1.2 Sound Design

Music, speech and noises connected with pictures lead us to believe that movies and TV-series can be almost real, like a view out of the window. Thus, a well-conceived sound design must not be missing, especially in the Harry Potter movies.

At the very start of the scene, when Harry is struggling to free himself from Lupin’s hands to hunt Bellatrix Lestrange, his screaming is muted and the focus goes on the dramatic background sound from the Off[5]. This has the effect that picture and sound appears slower and more dramatically. Moreover, the viewer gets the possibility to process the death of Sirius Black and empathize with Harry. It was clever of the director to insert in the next scene, when Harry runs through the great hall of the Minstry of Magic trying to catch Bellatrix Lestrange, using Harry’s strong breathing and the noise from his footsteps to increase the tension once more. By the time when Harry says the unforgivable curse “Crucio” to Lestrange, his voice sounds so vengeful and gloomy like never before in the whole film series. These scenes commerce the borders between Good and Evil to flow in the sound design as well. This contention underlines Lestrange’s whimpering in the very next moment, appealing even innocent, at least in a way, to the audience. Conversely seems Harry’s gasping still coldhearted and malicious. The whole scene seems like roles have changed for a moment. The boy is now the evil wizard who intends to kill Bellatrix Lestrange. (Yates, HP 5 1:53:40 - 1:54:18)

Then suddenly, the background sound changed into a very dark tune. It makes the whole atmosphere even worse. Subsequently resonates Voldemort’s murky voice from the Off, also known as a “voice over”. The Dark Lord appeals to the young wizard:

You’ve got to mean it, Harry. She killed him. She deserves it. (Yates, HP 5 1:54:19 - 1:54:27)

It seems like the Evil Lord supports Harry Potter from now on and wants to prove how far he would go. His cheering voice and the background tune strengthen the gloomy visual frames from the point earlier. The borders between Good and Evil get fuzzier once more.

With Voldemort’s appearance, the background tune is getting more and more dramatic. The tension has almost reached its climax. (Yates, HP 5 1:54:18 - 1:54:49)

Then Voldemort knocks Harry’s wand from his hands, and the sound completely slows down and it is clear that Harry won’t say the killing curse to Bellatrix Lestrange at all. The sound design behaves in this scene coherent with the pictures. Both film stylistic devices, visual aspects and sound design, reinforce complementary.

After Professor Dumbledore appears everything gets faster. The speed of pictures per second increases and the sound speeded up as well. The director accomplishes a brilliant surrounding for a clash of Good and Evil. In this case Dumbledore versus Voldemort. The sound design in the whole battle is shaped with many kinds of sound effects. Thereby the viewer of the scene feels a virtually real fight. Two equal opponents face each other. Here, Harry’s inner war and his self-doubts of whether he belongs to Good or Evil are not displayed in the sound design at all. (Yates, HP 5 1:54:49 - 1:57:19)

It was only when the Dark Lord initiates to possess Harry’s body. Henceforth the borders between Good and Evil flowing in the sound design unmitigated as well. The young boy speaking in a voice like someone would imagine the voice from the devil himself. It is a distorted and gloomy voice, which ensures that the viewer gets goose bumps. The director, David Yates, represents the young wizard as the devil in disguise and allows to believe he joined the Evil side anyways. The whole scenario encourages a very gloomy background sound once more, which increases this dramatical change in the story. (Yates, HP 5 1:57:19 - 1:57:53)

When the flashback scenes in Harry’s mind start to interface one can hear the screaming from his mother, Lily Potter, when she died. The painful images in his mind proceed with awful noises and a horrific background sound once more. When Harry’s friends appear and he starts remembering happy memories, the focus is more and more on the dramatic background sound. The sound units increasing like from second to second. At this point, the sound design is very significant, because it’s the reason why the whole scene appeals so real to the viewer. Sound design plus visual aspects straighten at this very moment the whole situation of Good and Evil back to the beginning. The sound design creates to provoke different feelings in the viewer. The borders between Good and Evil move more and more concrete again. (Yates, HP 5 1:57:14 - 1:59:40)

In the very last moment the sound design completely calmed down and even Voldemort’s ordinarily dark voice gets into a quiet and calming one. The background tune slows down and reinforces that everything has settled down. (Yates, HP 5 1:59:40 - 2:00:17)


[1] The Gryffindor house emphasises the traits of courage as well as "daring, nerve, and chivalry," and thus its members are generally regarded as brave, though sometimes to the point of recklessness. (Harry Potter Wiki)

[2] “The … Sorting Hat … ensure that students would be sorted into their eponymous houses, which would be selected according to each founder’s preferences in students.” (J. Rowling, Pottermore)

[3] Literary theory (also known as “critical theory”), refers to the practice of analysing the literature using the theories that show how it means. (Brewton)

[4] Albus Dumbledore is one of the most powerful wizards and the only wizard Voldemort ever feared. He always fights for good and justice. Besides Harry and the headmaster have a classic mentor relationship.

[5] Off = Off the screen; every sound not shown in the screen. (Opposite: On = On the screen)

Excerpt out of 21 pages


Good vs Evil. Binary oppositions in pure form or categories with flowing borders? A deconstructive analysis of the "Harry Potter" movies
Gustav-von-Schlör-Schule Specialized Secondary Schooland Upper Vocational School
15 Punkte
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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1218 KB
Seminararbeit, Seminar paper, Harry Potter, Good, Evil, Structuralism, Post-Structuralism, Deconstruction, Visual Aspects, Sound Design, Literature, Literary theory, Englisch, Voldemort, Hogwarts
Quote paper
Marco Ring (Author), 2017, Good vs Evil. Binary oppositions in pure form or categories with flowing borders? A deconstructive analysis of the "Harry Potter" movies, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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