It wasn't exactly Nazi Germany, but it was, nonetheless, an appalling act of biblioclasm. Someone from the local community had donated a set of young people's fantasy novels to the thrift shop attached to the church that I had attended since childhood. The then-managers of the store, whom I had thought to be kindly and moderate Christian folk, literally put flame to the unfortunate tomes.
This was no isolated incident, of course, but the destruction of Harry Potter novels, on the pretext that they promoted occult practices to children, had seemed mainly to be the domain of conservative American Christian wowsers. I was shocked, frankly, to find that similar attitudes existed so close to home, among people who I had known and looked up to.
Such fanaticism was ironic, too, given the fact that the series' author, J. K. Rowling, is a Christian, who saw her fantastical saga as a parable in a similar mould to C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. Rowling went so far as to tell The Vancouver Sun back in 2000 that any 'intelligent reader', if they knew the details of her religious beliefs, would 'be able to guess what's coming in the books'.
Harry Potter is, after all, explicitly a Christ figure. This may be true of all fictional 'chosen ones' who learn the necessity of faith and self-sacrifice on the path to overcoming evil. But the seventh and final Harry Potter book, The Deathly Hallows, and now this, the eighth film, which completes the adaptation begun in last year's The Deathly HallowsPart One, take the analogy to its literal conclusion.
There's not much plot to be revealed about this action-driven finale. It picks up where the dark and character-driven quest story of DH1 left off. Harry (Radcliffe) and his friends Ron (Grint) and Hermione (Watson) have taken the first steps in their mission to locate those mystical talismans, known as horcruxes, that are tied up with the mortality of their evil nemesis, Voldemort (Fiennes).
They arrive back at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and to a world that has become utterly oppressed by Voldemort and his army of Death Eaters. Here they prepare for battle.
Cinematically, the results are mixed. Where Rowling's novels, particularly in the second half of the series, suffered from a serious case of narrative bloat, the latter films have displayed their own related problems of poor plotting and pacing. This is true also of DH2, into which the filmmakers have attempted to jam as much action as possible in order to ensure the series goes out with a bang.
Perennial nasties get their comeuppance. A few beloved 'good guys' are dispatched unceremoniously, ensuring the film packs an emotional punch. Several other favourites are given 'hero moments' that, in the screening I attended, prompted dutiful applause from some faithful audience members. In this, director Yates ticks a lot of boxes. But he also robs many of these moments of dramatic impact.
Importantly though, while the messianic dimensions of Harry's final victory are oddly understated, the redemptive revelations about the series' most enigmatic villain powerfully reinforce the themes of love, faith and self-sacrifice, and ensure that the import of these events is not lost. Thematically and narratively, this is the most satisfying element of book and film alike.
The conclusion of the Harry Potter film franchise marks the end of an era. The boy wizard has been with us for nearly a decade and a half, since the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in 1997. Contrary to the predictions of wowsers, the series has not led generations into paganism.
Instead they have enjoyed and been inspired by an unforgettable story containing a simple but profound message lifted straight from the gospels. Amen.