Symbolism in "Order of the Phoenix" film
#1
I decided to put a couple of Harry Potter DvDs on tonight and as I was watching "Order of the Phoenix" (well, it's still on as I write this) I noticed something curious about one scene.

Professor McGonagall is addressing Professor Umbridge about discipline. They parallel each other going up the main staircase, McGonagall hitting Umbridge point for point, until Umbridge implies McGonagall is being disloyal.

At this point McGonagall goes down one step and Umbridge goes up another step -- thus asserting dominance. McGonagall's act of submission seals the fate of Hogwarts and we start to see Mr. Filch put up Umbridge's decrees.

The only person who is capable of standing up to and outwitting Umbridge is Dumbledore himself (although we know that in the book it is Hermione who finally gets the goods on Umbridge and enlists the aid of the unregistered animagus Rita Skeeter to put pressure on Umbridge and Fudge).

In the scene where Umbridge tries to evict Professor Trelawney, Dumbledore confronts Umbridge in front of the entire school. I think the symbolism is very subtle but still powerful. On the surface (represented by the grounds of the school) Umbridge holds power -- but it is Dumbledore who owns the hearts and minds of the school's students and staff. He is Hogwarts' spirit and Umbridge cannot crush that.

Dumbledore, of course, intervened to prevent Trelawney's expulsion from the school because it would have been a great opportunity for Voldemort and the Death Eaters to seize her. While Dumbledore lived at the school, it was virtually impregnable to Voldemort's forces (a fact circumvented in the next movie only by Dumbledore's combined impairment and absence).

In any event, I often notice subtle things in the movies that I think the directors put in, going back to the first one, when I noticed symmetry in the clothing for Harry, Ron, and Hermione. I just get the sense there is a lot of symbolic staging in these movies.
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#2
Michael Wrote:Dumbledore, of course, intervened to prevent Trelawney's expulsion from the school because it would have been a great opportunity for Voldemort and the Death Eaters to seize her.

You know, I've never actually thought of that as his reason. I just assumed he was being kind as she had no where else to live. Now you say it, of course, it makes perfect sense.

I love the scene on the stairs between Umbridge and McGonagall. Really effective way of showing the shift in the balance of power in the school.
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#3
I think Dumbledore explained his action to Harry in the book, but it's possible that Rowling left that to the reader to infer.

I remember being somewhat disappointed with their depiction of the Room of Requirement when I first saw the movie but I've since grown to accept it. In principle the room acts as expected and they simply did away with a lot of exposition.

Umbridge's act of breaking into the Room of Requirement is an act of desecration and that signifies her moral fall is complete. From this point forward, she abandons all pretense of abiding by Wizard Law (willing to use the Cruciatus Curse on students, and all). Of course, she had already used Veritaserum on students, which was a violation of school policy.
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#4
It's the old thing of power currupting isn't it?

In some respects you feel a little sorry for Umbridge because, I think, she genuinely believes she is doing the right thing. She just becomes so blinded by loyalty to the Minister of Magic and so overcome by her position of absolute power in the school that she completely loses all reason and resorts to more and more desperate actions.

She's self delusional and completely paranoid and just gets worse and worse the more 'control' it appears she has.
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#5
If J.K. Rowling were an American I would assume she was condemning the Bush administration with her portrayals of Fudge and Umbridge. And I think a number of people have actually drawn that conclusion.

The Ministry of Magic almost takes on a Fascist aspect toward the end of Fudge's tenure. I don't see the Bush administration as being Fascist but there are certainly plenty of ultraliberals in the United States who said it was.

One of the interesting questions the Harry Potter raises is just how far can a government go when trying to protect its people -- is protecting the people from the truth a legitimate use of governmental power?
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