It’s the 26th of the month, which means that it’s time for another installment of my Harry Potter read-a-thon! This time, I’m delving into Book 2 – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Unlike the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which featured a few angles that I didn’t really remember, there wasn’t anything “new” that caught my attention during this re-read. In fact, I didn’t take a single note!
Instead, it was only when I started watching the movie that things struck me a little differently – though this was mainly because it had been a while since I had read those parts of the book. By the time I sat down to view the cinematic version of Chamber of Secrets, for example, I had completely forgotten about the Polyjuice Potion!
Of course, there were things from the book that were left out of the movie, but these mostly concerned all of the romances/crushes that start to occur – particularly the ones between Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley, and Percy Weasley and Penelope Clearwater. There were definitely nods to them, with Ginny freezing up once she notices Harry at the Burrow, and Sir Nicholas saying hello to Percy and Penelope as they walk together through the halls of Hogwarts, but that’s about it. Which, honestly, was fine by me. Full disclosure: there are times in the books and the movies where I become a little like the grandson from The Princess Bride: “They’re kissing again. Do we have to read the kissing parts?”
More than anything, the book, but especially the movie, reminded me of how well casted this franchise was. Sure, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint are iconic as Harry, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley, as are Tom Felton and Alan Rickman (RIP) as Draco Malfoy and Severus Snape. Yet when it comes to Chamber of Secrets, I always think most of Shirley Henderson as Moaning Myrtle and Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy.
First of all, Henderson is simply terrific as Myrtle. And her ability to rapidly shift from a sort of innocent whisper to a forceful defense of her feelings (“I was distraught!”) is, in my experience at least, accurately representative of teenage girls.
Likewise, for Isaacs’ Malfoy, the costumers definitely got it right, but it’s his polished, yet barely concealed menace that really hooks you. He isn’t in as many scenes in the movie as he is in chapters of the book, yet at the end, when he pulls out his wand and threatens Harry, you truly believe that this is a man who could kill a child in broad daylight, in the halls of a school (ostensibly over a sock), and likely not lose any sleep over it. The anger, disgust, and resentment he feels toward Harry rolls off of him in waves.
In a way, both the book and movie versions of Chamber of Secrets set up Malfoy as a bigger villain than Lord Voldemort himself. True, Voldemort is extremely powerful, or at least he grows to be, but instead of attacking Harry and his ilk head on, Malfoy pretends (often poorly) to have given up his Death Eater ways while trying to undermine the existing, more liberal wizarding system from within. And as the great Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero noted,
An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor [who] moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys . . . he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation.