November 18, 2010

Director explores faith in ‘Deathly Hallows’

Posted in Between Us column, Entertainment, Movies at 1:59 am by dinaheng

David Yates is a shy man with a sharp mind, and a keen understanding of the hearts of Muggles and wizards.

After directing two of the six films in the “Harry Potter” franchise, Yates was placed at the helm of the final two installments that will cap an epic adventure in literary and movie history. In “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1,” which opens this Friday in the United States, Yates has delivered a dark, intriguing tale that affirms the power of faith and love.

“I wanted this one to feel real, and less like fantasy,” says Yates, sitting in a room in Claridge’s Mayfair hotel in London. “It’s like the edgy, harsh real world that we’re in. The last one (Part 2) will bring us back to the magical world.”

“Deathly Hallows, Part 1” focuses on the dangerous mission that Harry, Ron and Hermione undertake to destroy the Horcruxes, the keys to Voldemort’s immorality. It is a journey through fear that takes the three into a world without mentors or teachers to guide them, as they are hunted by Death Eaters and the Dark Lord’s followers.

The film, rated PG, is not for young children, but beautifully captures the tender and scary nature of growing up. While each of the central characters experiences loneliness and isolation, they also learn that they are never alone.

“It’s a story about faith, how we can all lose faith in a friendship, a mentor, or a partner,” Yates says. “These kids start to lose faith in each other. Harry loses faith in Dumbledore, the person who gave him the mission, and gets it back. They learn that it’s hard to do things on your own. You need the help of others.”

Yates, who studied politics at the University of Essex and at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., brings a curiosity about the world around us to his storytelling that connects us all to J.K. Rowling’s world of wizards and Muggles.

“I wonder if one of the reasons the books are so popular is that we were going through a period when everything seemed hunky dory (a decade ago), and now you can’t escape that life is more complex,” Yates says. “We’ve been through changes in the economy, and the war in Iraq. Are we reflecting a world that’s darkening? I think the world’s always been dark.

“We take for granted our liberal society that seems so tolerant. You can see the possibility for people to go to extremes, and to stop trying to understand each other. This notion that wizards can’t tolerate Muggles who are non-magical has parallels in the real world. That’s a story that hasn’t ended.”

After a long night at the London premiere, celebrating with friends and colleagues, Yates seems almost too tired to reflect on the two-part film that took 263 days to shoot. But a love of making movies shines through his eyes as he speaks.

“I was a shy teenager who was rubbish with girls,” says the director. “Making movies was a way to communicate. I’d always wanted to be a filmmaker. I like the communal experience of people sharing something, and seeing the way films impact the audience.”

He says life right now is solely about work as he puts the finishing touches on the second installment of “Deathly Hallows.”  The soft-spoken man says he lives in a guilded cage, with assistants and drivers who take care of a schedule that has taken away time for personal pleasure.

“I love the work, but you don’t get much time to see family and friends because you work all the time,” Yates says. “I keep reminding myself that no matter how tough, physically and mentally, it gets, I’m making a film millions will see, and it will be there forever for them and their kids to enjoy.”

He adds that the hard work on the “Potter” franchise will allow him, financially, to be a student of life again. Once the final film is done, he plans to take some time off and travel.

“I’m going to see parts of the world I’ve never been to, like Beirut and Palestine, to meet people who are leading lives far removed from the life I’ve been leading,” Yates says. “I’ve learned a lot creatively and technically over the last few years, and it’s also taught me how important it is between movies to go away and recharge, because that’s what fuels the work.

“As adults, we become beleaguered with expectations and responsibilities. I think we go through a point where we lose innocence and the ability to see how wonderful things can be. I know a lot of people who still keep that spring in their step, and I hope I’m one of them.”




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