To the movies

We indulged in an absolute orgy of movie-going last week. Achieving more than the yearly average of cinema visits in a single week. Saturday, we went to Zwolle to see the last performance of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. And Wednesday, we went to the Uitkijk in Amsterdam to see one of the last performances of Girl with a Pearl Earring. I’m sure I’ve seen enough talkies for a long time now.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was the first Harry Potter movie that was actually a movie, and not a photographic diary (look, here’s me in the garden, and here’s me with my bud Ron, and look! this is a nice one, here is Dumbly’s study. Cool guy, isn’t he? And this is me and my old enemy, Draco, of course, I was only eleven at the time). That said, and granted that the grand final banquet was mercifully not shown in all its gut-wrenching gluttony, there were still the obligato moments, like Harry facing Draco.

Some visual conceits, like the seasons shown happening by the Whomping Willow, were a bit too artificial to my taste; in particular the Wh. W. was really too Monty Python.

As an irrelevant quibble aside: we went to the Dutch-spoken version, and most of the voices were quite right, in particular the boys had exactly the right voices, with Harry sounding like my cousin when he was fourteen years old, but professor Remus Lupin had the most tedious voice imaginable. Like a primary school child reciting his lesson. His part wasn’t helped, of course, by the exceedingly cheap little bits of fortune-cookie wisdom he had to propound.

But many of the pictures were really beautiful, there was an actual glimmer of a connected story, and the way the children are growing up was shown convincingly. And the special effects were very nice, especially the Map. I think it’s the most one could make of the the book. Rebecca’ll probably want to buy the dvd, as she did with the previous HP flick. Shockingly, arresting good use of music, by the way, in this movie.

Girl with a Pearl Earring is a very different movie. Beautiful, yes. A nice party game with this picture is counting the paintings referenced by actual scenes in the movie. Griet has gorgeous, gorgeous hair. No wonder she hides it,
keeps it to herself. Some roles are very convincing. Van Ruijven is completely believable as the kind of man who revels in the power his money gives him to embarrass, denigrate and humiliate everyone around him, from his wife to his painter. Vermeer’s wife is a really great role, as is his mother-in-law. Vermeer himself is acted by an Aragorn-clone — the type is quite fashionable nowadays.

But all the meaningful sighing! The little frightened looks that dart about. The brooding. The layers and layers of tired symbolism… Within half an hour, I was mentally shouting at Griet to keep that dashed trap of her shut. Not that it isn’t remarkable how close Griet comes to looking like the painting. Pieter, her boyfriend is much nicer in the movie than in the book (funny: I have read it, must’ve forgotten to review it); a really handsome boy who really cares for Griet.

This is also one of those rare occasions where the bits excised by the script writer from the book show that the book, short as it is, was padded horribly. The story as shown in the movie is quite complete and sufficient: the embellishments in the book are merely that — ornament without substance.

I’m ambivalent about the movie: the sighing and the brooding makes me want to hate it. The gorgeous pictures, Griet’s hair, Pieter’s pleasure and Tanneke’s reality makes me want to see it again. I’ll probably get the dvd. Horrible, kitschy, inappropriate music, by the way.