Year Released: 2007
Directed by: David Yates
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Gary Oldman, Imelda Staunton
(PG-13, 138 min.)
"That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain." William Shakespeare
Darker and deeper than the young wizard’s earlier film excursions, this Potter outing is less concerned with whimsical magic than the ominous reality of evil. So, instead of a respite from the chilling events of our times, it is a reminder of them.
Yes, the magic is still there, but this time it’s for real – a desperate defense against malevolent forces intent on destruction. So why does the new teacher of Defense Against the Dark Arts serve up a curriculum as watered down as weak tea and insist her class learn only enough theoretical knowledge to pass their end of year examinations, but not enough to fend off a foe in the real world?
Well, according Mistress Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), there will be no need for that, since the Ministry of Magic has turned a bureaucratic blind eye to any forces of darkness raising up their ugly heads. In fact, their chief Nemesis, the evil Lord Voldemort, cannot even be mentioned by name, a dangerous state of denial not unlike some recent pronouncements by Britain’s new Prime Minister.
With her plastic smile, her endless closet of prim and perky pink suits, the new mistress wreaks more havoc in the lives of her students than the faceless Dark Prince who only chews at the edges of their consciousness through Harry’s nightmare visions of him. In fact, for even having the audacity to recount Voldemort’s part in the death of Cedric Diggory; (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) that is, he murdered him, Harry is branded a liar, becomes almost a pariah at his fifth term at Hogwart’s. and has a particularly painful teatime detention in Mistress Umbridge’s private quarters. The fact that her fine display of wall hung porcelain sports mewing cats that frolic within the perimeters of their plates throughout Harry’s ordeal only heightens her smiling malice.
As perfect as this smiling villain is, sadly her triumph cuts short the film presence of some of our favorite Hogwart legacies, herein reduced almost to cameo roles. Minerva McGonagall (the peerless Maggie Smith) exudes seething defiance in the mere arch of her brow; daft Sybil Trelawney (Emma Thompson) provides a few poignant smiles, and the loveable Hagrid ( Robbie Coltrane) charms with his rough magic, but their moments on screen are just that – moments.
Severus Snape (Alan Rickman, displaying Rowling's Dickensesque talent for choosing such telling names) is that confounding blend of good and evil that keeps us guessing which side he is really on. That he can be so personally loathsome, so much a malcontent in his heart, but to our eye as yet, not bowing to Voldemolt, makes his severe tutorial sessions with Harry all the more intriguing. My guess is that he is such a misanthrope that he would hold equal disdain for the Prince of Darkness as he does for our noble Harry.
Gary Oldman brings to maligned Sirius Black a humanity resistant to the kitsch of the stylized magic world, while best buds Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) are once again caring friends rather than the awkward and moody adolescents as the script cast them in Goblet of Fire. Sadly, they aren’t given too much to do this time out and are reduced to being Harry’s supporters rather than his cohorts.
Finally, perhaps Rowling should have followed Shakespeare’s model and put in a little more comic relief to prepare us for the next fiendish encounter, or maybe instilled a sense of adventure along with that of dread, but she does hit the nail on the head in one area:
Evil exists; we have yet to fathom its depths, plumb its darkness, or determine its resolve. And those who persist in denial may be as blameworthy as our sworn adversaries.
Another newcomer to the Potter franchise is the slightly wacky Luna (Loony) Lovegood, an ethereal young blond whose tragic past allows her to see certain things only the blighted Harry can, such as thestrals, dinosaur like versions of Pegasus.
She also blathers on about “nargles” some pesky creatures no one else acknowledges, and wears a special charm to keep them away. Needless to say, even among the rather peculiar residents of Hogwart’s School, Luna is considered strange and is often the subject of cruel pranks.
She doesn’t let the attitude of others bother her in the least, however, and contents herself with life’s little compensations, such as her favorite, pudding.
Indeed, I would think Luna would have a hard time choosing a favorite among the gorgeous cakes, custards, and pies that literally glow in the candlelight on the long tables laden with them. But Luna is not smitten by the charms of haute cuisine and rejects the more lofty pastries and tarts in favor of this simple dessert.
The English Summer Pudding that I have chosen is so delicious that it will single-handedly dispel any notions that “English cooking” is an oxymoron.
English Summer Pudding
Some advice from the cook:
“The red-stained Summer Pudding not only looks stunning, it involves no baking and it simply tastes wonderful. It might even be the best pudding in the world. Traditionally, this dessert uses red currants, which are difficult, although not impossible to find . When I can't easily find red currants, I use a mixture of all the best, ripest and most juicy, red fruits that the farmers markets have to offer instead. Juice is the key to this pudding,so keep that in mind when you make your berry selection. I experimented this time round, adding the zest of a lemon to the fruit.
Remember! You have to start this pudding the day before you want to serve it, so although it is easy to make you do have to plan in advance. And also remember! If you use Wonderbread and pre-packed fruit from the chill cabinet in Safeway, the result will be incomparable to the superior version that will come of using pesticide-free fruits from the market and good-quality organic bread instead.”
- 1 dense, large, white organic loaf, thickly sliced
- 3lbs of mixed red summer berries, the juicier the better
- [ie: I used a mix of raspberries, cherries, blueberries strawberries, boysenberries and blackberries this time. If you can get hold of red currants, be sure to include some.]
- 1 cup of sugar
- Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
- Wash and pick over the fruit removing any stalks, leaves bad berries and cherry stones (if you are using cherries).
- Butter the inside of a 3 pint pudding basin.
- Remove crusts from the sliced bread.
- Line the pudding basin with the bread slices, slightly overlapping each slice so there are no gaps in between them. Press the edges together so the bread forms a complete mold inside the bowl.
- In a non-reactive pan, bring the mixed berries, lemon zest and sugar to a gentle simmer, until the sugar is dissolved and the fruits are releasing their juice. This should only take about 5 minutes. You want the fruit to keep its shape. Take care not to overcook them.
- Reserve about 3/4 cup of juice and put it to one side to cool. Refrigerate.
- Pour the rest of the fruit and juice into the bread-lined pudding basin.
- Seal the top completely with further, overlapping, slices of bread.
- Cover the bread with a small flat plate or saucer that fits snugly inside the basin.
- Weigh down the plate with at least 3lbs of weights or a very heavy can or jar.
- Leave in the fridge overnight. The weight will cause the juice to bleed through the bread staining it red.
- Before serving, gently slide a flexible spatula between the bread and the basin to loosen.
- Invert the bowl onto a serving plate, the pudding should slide easily into place.
- Use the reserved juice to color any areas that still have a white tinge. Pour any remaining juice over the top of the pudding.
- Cut into wedges to serve and pair with fresh whipped cream or creme fraiche.
Recipe Source: Becks and Posh