Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

By J.K. Rowling

Last Sunday, I went to see the second Harry Potter movie. One is a father of three, or one isn’t — I am, and I had to go. So, having come back from the experience with a first-of-a-lifetime experience, I grabbed the book, and decided to do a double notice. I hadn’t been able to read a real book this weekend anyway, being afflicted by a nasty bacterial infection.

  • Author: J.K. Rowling
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury
  • Published: 1998
  • Pages: 251

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (laughably inaccurately translated into Dutch as ‘Harry Potter en de Geheime Kamer’ — literally ‘the Secret Chamber’) is the weakest book of the series. The movie is the first movie I’ve seen in years (which doesn’t say much, since I think I’ve seen maybe twelve movies in the past four years) that was really, atrociously,  inexcusably bad.

The plot, such as it is, is merely a rehash of the first book, with different gadgets, gewgaws and gizmos’s, but very samey all the same. Of course, there are a couple of nice new characters. Dobby is interesting, Ron’s father is delightful and Gilderoy Lockhart is an invention.

These characters come over very well in the movie, too. All the other dads chuckled appreciatively when Mrs Weasley put her husband down over his enthousiasm for the boys’ exploit with the car. Dobby is very well animated, moves with a beatiful fluidity. (Fawkes, on the other hand moves like a Kentucky fried chicken on strings.) And Lockhart has been perfectly cast.

So far, so good. However, where the book presents at least a basic continuity, the movie possesses none. Scene after scene appears to have approximately twenty seconds cut from the beginning, ensuring that you never quite now what the people on the screen are expostulating about.

And expostulate they do. There’s very, very little dialogue that doesn’t sound stilted, with as an absolute pit-deep depth the bit where Mrs Weasley tells everybody that they can only go to Diagon Alley. Yuk. And Yech.

The confusion about the story line starts there, or rather when Harry arrives in Misbegotten Alley, where, in the movie, he doesn’t overhear Lucius Malfoy. Why go there, then? Just to show that they can do a dark-side Dickensian London, too, not just the bright Anton Pieck London? Probably.

The movie consists of a lot of unconnected scenes that do not manage to tell a story; I had the impression I was looking at someone’s holiday snapshot album. You know the experience — “Here’s a picture of me doing the Quidditch match. Why? You know, it’s just something I do, dontcherknow. And here’s the picture of Hermione as a cat. Isn’t she a real hoot? We nearly died laffing. And this is old Albus’s room. And that a pretty bird. Only it died. Look!”

A snapshot album — perhaps a wizardly one, with moving snaps — but certainly not a movie, not a story. And the book is, emphatically, a story. Not a terribly good story, but told with a smoothness unequalled outside pulp trash.