Energy, imagination and knowledge

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, diractor David Yates, composer Alexandre Desplat

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, director David Yates

    After long ten years (and, as reviewer on nicely put, after billions of dollars) Harry Potter franchise finally came to its end. As the longest of all film series in history of film, consisting of eight films, Harry Potter didn’t succeed to keep one composer on the road – instead, there were four composers working on different films (we can say, even five, if we count extraordinary music for PC games written by James Hannigan). These composers are: John Williams, Patrick Doyle, Nicholas Hooper and Alexandre Desplat. Every one of them gave his contribution to Harry Potter music, but most people agree that Williams in his scores for first three films (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) was the foundation which made directions for creation and development of themes and, for overall music atmosphere of the film franchise. Williams’ successors were more or less successful in trying to keep foundations which Williams, as father of Harry Potter scores, established as their starting point.
    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, director David Yates
    So, it is a bit unusual that Alexandre Desplat, the composer of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, didn’t begin the film with (Williams’) main theme, which became the trade mark of the series. But, since Patrick Doyle and Nicholas Hooper made this theme less important and since they kept it merely as the sign of recognition, Desplat’s decision isn’t that unusual. On the other hand, concerning development of story’s events during these ten years which followed his characters (and their actors) growing up and which finally outgrew the boundaries of children story becoming serious story about universal fight between good and evil, it can be said that composer’s decision was wise. It isn’t disturbing that new theme which Desplat brings out at the very beginning of the movie (this is the theme of Harry’s mother, Lily), doesn’t have the playfulness of Hedwig’s theme which Williams and his successors always put at the very beginning of the film. Lily’s theme reflects dark atmosphere from the previous movie, but also puts accent on loneliness, seriousness and even despair. All these emotions can be felt in the singing voice of Mai Fujisawa, the daughter of appreciated film music composer Joe Hisaishi.
    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, director David Yates
    When establishing the mood, Desplat occasionally used bits of Williams’ main theme, but he used it only as a reminder on something which existed in the past and which will never return. Since Harry’s awl Hedwig died in the previous movie, and film mood completely turned upside down, old main theme could only exist in the score as breath or sigh. But in the scene where Harry goes through secret passage to Hogwarts in order to meet members of Dumbledore’s army, Williams’ main theme is heard in almost full version – but this time not as Hedwig’s theme, but as the main hero’s theme. Desplat’s move was especially wise in this case: main theme changed its owner which is completely in accordance with Wagner’s philosophy about changing nature of leitmotivs. On the other hand, main theme became the reminder on past times when Harry was only a boy, not the wizard ready to confront his alter ego, Voldemort. This completes circle of different new themes which new composers added to William’s themes, and among which there wasn’t a theme for Harry Potter (the only exception is score for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire where Patrick Doyle introduced a theme for the main character, but which was never used again during the franchise).
    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, director David Yates
    Attitude towards main theme which is and simultaneously isn’t derived from the William’s main theme, talks a lot about the way the score for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was created. Composer introduced a great amount of new musical material but he was careful to make a good balance with old material. Additionally, Desplat finally put away some typical moments of his own musical language (as associations on minimalism from The Girl with a Pearl Earring and The Birth) which allowed him to enter the musical world of Hollywood, but which weren’t functional in some recent film scores any more. On the other hand, Desplat goes more deeply into action scenes, so in the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 he doesn’t withdraw his music in the background in order to let the sound effects in forefront, but he really composes music for action. Battle for Hogwarts brings its themes and motives, among which is the easiest to recognize firm and determined rhythm of drums, which announces the beginning of the battle and course of the battle.

    All this goes far beyond Desplat’s earlier epic scores, even the score for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 one can hear that composer put in his score all his energy, imagination, knowledge, admiration to music of John Williams and the creative impetus which carried him from the beginning to the end of the film and its music.

    © Irena Paulus,, 15 August 2011