Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart,
and bring me out of my distress.
Consider my affliction and my trouble,
and forgive all my sins.
Consider how many are my foes,
and with what violent hatred they hate me.
O guard my life, and deliver me;
do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge
May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
for I wait for you.
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up
the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. Again, if two lie
together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone? And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Too bad Harry Potter is neither Jewish nor Christian. Psalm 25 could be of great comfort to him in his fifth adventure, this being the darkest episode thus far in the series. Harry’s summer with the miserable Dursley’s ends with the vicious Dementors attacking him and Dudley at night. To save both of their lives Harry is forced to break the rule that student wizards must never use magic outside of Hogwarts in the presence of Muggles. Without seeking an explanation from the boy, the Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge (Robert Hardy) brings Harry up for trial, with the possible result being his expulsion from Hogwarts. Thus the film sets forth on an already dark note, with Harry’s fun and games (no Quidditch match this time) left far behind. Fortunately Harry’s mentor Prof. Dumbledore is present at the trial to lead Harry’s defense.
Barely winning acquittal, Harry is reunited with his friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley. There is brief respite of a holiday meal with the Weasleys and Harry’s godfather Sirius Black. Back at school again, many students refuse to believe that Harry actually fought Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), preferring the more reassuring delusion of Fudge that “He Who Must Not Be Named” has not been able to return in corporeal form. The Minister of Magic believes that Hogwarts headmaster Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) wants to displace him by forming an army of students to stage a coup. He forces upon Hogwarts his personal representative to teach defense against the dark arts, Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) With her sugary smile she looks like someone’s sweet aunt, but she is anything but that.
We soon see that her power exceeds that of Dumbledore’s, as she issues a series of decrees restricting the freedom of the students. Perhaps for the first time sullen caretaker Argus Filch is happy, as he tacks up on the wall of the corridor a new decree in its elaborate frame. This act becomes a running joke, the nasty Umbridge issuing decree after decree, until Filch has to use a tall ladder to find a place high up on the crowded wall to hang the latest rulings. Harry soon learns that Umbridge has been sent to make his life miserable, she countering his assertion that he did indeed fight Voldemort with detentions and excruciating punishments in which he has to use her special pen to write that he will not lie, but the writing appears like a tattoo on his arm rather than on paper.
Harry feels very much alone, with Prof. Dumbledore strangely avoiding him whenever he tries to talk with his mentor. Plagued by terrible dreams and visions, he struggles to control his anger, sometimes lashing out even at his friends. His anguish is relieved slightly by the class that is formed when Umbridge insists on teaching only the theory of the defense against the dark arts because she believes that they will never need to use such knowledge. Spurred on by Hermione and Ron, a group of students meet in the secret room where once the Order of the Phoenix had gathered and prevail upon a reluctant Harry to teach them what he knows about the necessary spells. The heart-felt admiration and appreciation of the students must be a balm for the junior wizard’s tortured soul. The students dub themselves “Dumbledore’s Army,” thus bringing to reality what the Ministry of Magic had feared.
The film’s title refers to the old Order of the Phoenix, formed by Harry’s parents and his godfather Sirius Black in their fight against Voldemort. Sirius shows Harry a photograph of the group, which becomes a prize possession of the boy. There is a lot crammed into the film, including Harry’s first kiss, with Cho Chang (Katie Leung). When he is asked. “How was it?” he replies “Wet.” Unfortunately Cho Chang has little to do in the film, other than arouse our hero’s romantic feelings. We also see little of the other professors and headmaster, except for Prof. Snape, of whom we learn a little more about his background and the unjust way in which Harry’s father had dealt with him.
New director David Yates adopts a style in keeping with the mood of the story. The photography and lighting emphasize the film’s dark theme, Hogwarts, seen mainly at night-time, now looking more sinister—and there is little of the earlier merriment in the cavernous dining hall. Probably the one joyous scene is that of the flight of the three friends on their brooms along the Thames River and over the night-lit city of London. The final scene of the battle between Harry and the Dark Lord, following the death of someone very close to him, takes place in a huge hall of records. Although we know that our hero will emerge victorious, he is not unscathed, and that he will have to undergo even greater ordeals before his journey is ended. Like the earlier films, this one is a wonderful example of Joseph Campbell’s construct of the Hero’s Journey, a journey filled with menace and struggle of both the physical and the spiritual.
Much of the following is based on some of the dialogue from the film.
1) In what ways are we made to feel the loneliness experienced by Harry? What did you make of Prof. Dumbledore’s avoidance of him throughout the story?
2) And yet how is Harry himself a part of this loneliness? Consider the following scenes: a. Just before Umbridge catches them Hermione says to Harry, “When are you going to get it into your head? We’re in this together!” b. Ron Weasley also says to Harry, “Maybe you don’t have to do this all by yourself, mate.” c. Even the new girl Luna Lovegood, who seems obsessed with pudding, says to Harry, “Well, if I were You-Know-Who, I’d want you to feel cut off from everyone else. ‘Cause if it’s just you alone, you’re not as much of a threat.” How is Luna’s observation right on target? Check out Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 on this.
3) Harry has the following conversation with Sirius Black: HP: “This connection between me and Voldemort, what if the reason for it is that I’m becoming more like him. I just feel so angry, all the time. And what if after everything I’ve been through, something’s gone wrong inside me. What if I’m becoming bad?
SB: “I want you to listen to me very carefully Harry. You’re not a bad person. You’re a very good person, who bad things have happened to. You understand?” [Harry nods his head] Besides, the world isn’t split into good people and death eaters. We have all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the power we chose to act on. That’s who we really are.” What do you think of what Sirius says? How is this better than dividing people into “the good guys” and “the bad guys” ?
4) And yet…Theologically is this not similar to Manichaeism? Does not Sirius presume that our wills are free in order to be able to choose between the light and the dark? See Paul’s famous exposition of sin and death in Romans 5 – 7: is not the Christian understanding of human nature as being “fallen,” or “totally depraved” to use the old Puritan phrase, based on this section of Paul’s letter?
5) Dolores Umbridge points her wand at Harry, Ron and Hermione in the Forbidden Forest and says, “For the greater good. I want to do what must be done.” What evils have been done “for the greater good” ? Think of the religious wars; of the wrongs committed in the name of “national security.” 6) In their confrontation Harry says to Voldemort, “You’re the weak one. And you’ll never feel love… or friendship… and I feel sorry for you.” How is Harry right, that the evil person who resorts to violence is “weak” ? How is Harry’s last statement important, that those who oppose evil persons feel sorry for those in the wrong? What could happen if they did not feel this? Note how sorrow, or better, “pity,” is important in the Scriptures, especially in Psalms 72, 102, and in Isaiah 49 and 63.