Fan-Made Voldemort, Origins of the Heir, a Dazzling Surprise

Image may contain: 1 person, textIt’s no secret that I generally have little patience with fanfiction in its various forms. Though I know that some fanfiction is not bad, and some is even pretty good, I am generally turned off by the fact that so much of it is bad for so many reasons: poor artistic and grammar skills, juvenile wish-fulfillment that is not appropriate for a public readership, failure to understand or respect the author’s original vision, and an appalling amount of outright pornography and other filth.  Thus, it always a delight when I see “fan-made” work that impresses both with its technical accomplishments and faithfulness to the work from which it springs. This week, an Italian filmmaking team, Tryangle, released their film Voldemort: Origins of the Heir on youtube. It’s really quite an accomplishment, as demonstrated by the fact that it garnered 4 million views in its first 24 hours online. I do have a few quibbles, of course, but also some kudos, and a few questions (Yes, alliteration is fun. No, there just are not enough words in English that begin with “q”).

In case you have not checked it out yet, Tryangle’s Voldemort: Origins of the Heir seeks to explain more about the path followed by He Who Must Not Be Named, as he pursued both his heritage and his Horcruxes. Woven through this story is his relationship with three other students, each an heir of one of the Hogwarts founders.

Quibbles

We’ll get these out of the way first, and move on to more positive points.  While several of the Questions, below, may also be criticisms, these are the issues that can be considered actual problems with the film.

  1. Something lost in translation. As one can tell by the names of the cast and crew, the film is an Italian production. The version on youtube does have some dubbing issues. If an Italian version, with English subtitles, is available, it would be less distracting than the disconnect with the visual and sound. Language issues may also account for some of the odd diction and name choices. One of the Soviet Aurors is named Igor, which is confusing. Is he supposed to be Karkaroff? That doesn’t seem to fit. Are we supposed to be thinking of old Frankenstein movies? The Heir of Hufflepuff is named Lazarus Smith, and while that connects him with batty old Hepzibah, it is also confusing, as the poor fellow is clearly doomed early on, and he apparently stays dead. While Grisha’s name is obviously to echo her ancestor’s Gryffindor, the same effect does not occur with Lazarus or with Wiglaf, heir of Ravenclaw, at least not in English.Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, text
  2. Extreme Close-up. A trend in the film is using extreme close-ups, often of eyes, as if the characters are somehow trying to force feelings out through their pupils. Though it is a little less distracting than people’s mouths moving at a different time than we are hearing their words. It’s still kind of a strange effect that does not always work.
  3. Splitting Heirs? Unfortunately, one of my biggest quibbles with the film is intrinsic to its very nature: Voldemort’s identity as the Heir of Slytherin. While it’s interesting to imagine a club of Founders’ descendants (sort of like a combination of the DAR and the Marauders), it does not fit the story we know, with its cloak of secrecy around the Heir’s identity. Voldemort in the film appears to be quite sure and quite public about his identity as Image result for slyth crestSlytherin’s heir, which makes us wonder if the other Heirs, who seem to be decent sorts, know about the Chamber of Secrets and that their pal Tom killed Moaning Myrtle with the basilisk.  Though Slughorn’s memory shows us that Riddle had his little club of nascent Death Eaters, it seems unlikely that he would have another club, including a member of each house, and that he would have told them his identity as the heir. Even if he was only manipulating them to collect their family heirlooms, and even if he planned to kill them eventually, the notoriously secretive Voldemort seems to have been uncharacteristically open with his fellow Heirs.

Kudos

Even though there are certainly some issues with the film, there are also some aspects that are certainly praise-worthy

  1. Eye Candy. Despite a few odd moments, the film is visually amazing. From wonderful location shots that evoke the best sites used to shoot the Hollywood adaptations of the books, to impressive Apparition effects, Origins of the Heir often looks like a professional film. The technology that is available to so-called “amateurs” these days does allow for the creation of great independent films (check out one of my favorite short films, Others Will Follow, that was made on a shoestring, by an “amateur,” and rivals some big blockbusters in both visuals and emotional heft). Overall, Origins is a stunning visual experience.Image may contain: outdoor, text, nature and water
  2. Surprise! We’ve all come to expect catchy twists at the ends of Rowling’s stories, and the film team follows suit with a wonderfully twisty, snaky little plot that has fangs at the end. It’s a creative story that demonstrates genuine artistry as well as faithful (mostly) interest in the text. It’s good storytelling and, even when I saw where it was going, I really appreciated the clever narrative construction.
  3. Missing pieces. In addition to elements that are completely original, the filmmakers have brought in pieces from the books that never made it to the movie adaptations. Though layered with an intriguing new context, Riddle’s manipulation and murder of Hepzibah Smith is textually faithful and much more detailed than the drive-by shooting version we got in the full-length film.

 Questions

Rather than actual problems with the film, these are just questions that I was not sure the filmmakers had addressed sufficiently, and which sometimes take the viewer out of the experience of watching it.

  1. Need to Know. Would Voldemort have told anyone he was making Horcruxes? In the film, the Horcruxes are discussed at length, and even though Voldemort plans to kill those he tells of his plans, considering his efforts to conceal and protect the Horcruxes, it seems unlikely, even under the circumstances.
  2. Truth or Dare. Does the Veritaserum work or not? This question ties into my first one, and I also wonder about the intravenous administration, though it is visually interesting, and the flask used in some of those scenes appropriately evokes thoughts of Mad-Eye Moody.
  3. Kiss and Makeup? Why does Wiglaf look like his night job is on Game of Thrones? Is that eyeliner some sort of tribute to Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow (Grindelwald does get a mention)?  He doesn’t look like a Ravenclaw so much as like a wannabe rock-star or circus performer. I don’t get it.Image may contain: 1 person, text

I am, overall, quite impressed with the work of these filmmakers, and I hope they a) don’t get sued  and b) continue to grow as artists and successfully develop their craft.

I hope that if you have watched the film (and it’s shorter than a full-length film, only about an hour, so not even a huge investment of your time, like a few movies that frustrated me because I could never regain the two hours I spent on them) that you will offer your thoughts and comments as well.

Comments

  1. Great post, Professor! I share your quibbles, qudos, and questions and would add a re-duplicated interbang about the Veritaserum testimony and its validity or truthfulness.

    I’d only throw in my great discomfort with the historical naivete in the depiction of a Soviet interrogator, even a wizard communist, that lives in and acts as a support to the longest lived and most murderous totalitarian regime in history (with the possible exception of the Chinese communist state).

    I had to stop myself from crying out at the close, “Really?!” The guy comes off in the end as a softie and a victim. I’m confident their version of this man if they had elected to make him a Nazi ‘heavy,’ a Mussolini fascist, or even a CIA interrogator would not have come off with a play for our sympathy.

    Soviets and their NKVD/KGB agents were not good guys, ever, period, full stop. They didn’t let people go because they believed their stories or liked them or felt they’d gotten a bad deal. Depicting these murderous atheists as anything but the heartless madmen they were (and Putin’s FSB kleptocrats remain) is a crime against the millions they arrested, enslaved in the GULAG, and murdered.

    End rant! Fun flick, Tryangle, and great review, Elizabeth!

  2. Brian Basore says:

    This Voldemort is more powerful, patient, and cunning than we see in the books. There would be no wizarding war with this one, just life in his image.

  3. Mr. Granger,

    This may be of no importance, however, considering what you say about the nature of Soviet Operations, there are some articles that are worth a look. The first is from the New York Times Book Review, on the life of Lenin, and the how he might be shaping modern discourse (and not in a good way) to this very day:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/19/books/review/victor-sebestyen-lenin-biography.html

    An article from Wired.com looks at these trends in themselves:

    https://www.wired.com/story/free-speech-issue-tech-turmoil-new-censorship/

    Another reason I bring these up is because of a growing concern over how such trends effect the way people pay attention to stories, and whether the lens or POV they use to interact with works of fiction is either good or bad.

    I think it helps to dust off the old dichotomy of Enchantment vs. Disenchantment. The reason for using this old vocabulary has to do with something found in “The Myth of Disenchantment” by Joseph A. Josephson-Storm. At one point, Storm gives a very adequate summary of the Disenchantment theme that neatly ties into thoughts expressed in Lewis’s “Abolition of Man”:

    “The primal form of critical theory’s master narrative is that autonomous reason (or freedom or science or enlightenment), once yoked to the domination of nature, turns into its opposite – namely, the domination of humanity. In other words, the intellectual energies that were supposed to liberate us are now used to keep us in chains. To my taste, the version of this formulation that is most perspicacious is the…phrase in the “Dialectic of Enlightenment”: Enlightenment reverts to mythology (9)”.

    It’s fairly old story, yet what’s interesting is that if you take the idea of Disenchantment and apply it to aesthetic theory in general, what you get is a series of paradoxes that define the reception of the Arts in general.

    On the one hand, people can only react to Art in terms of the life philosophy that they understanding and are able to grasp within the scope of their individual, intellectual outlook. On the other hand, if that outlook is Disenchanted, it will have no literal choice except to skew toward a very narrow and prejudiced intake of Art. This prejudice would be bound to reveal itself if the composition of the artwork doesn’t adhere to any kind of Naturalism. The subject would then find himself unable to appreciate certain forms of art, especially those of primitive folklore.

    On the other hand, everyone is entitled to their opinion. This would be no problem is a Disenchanted view led to no serious social backlash. The problem is that it can be argued that the very nature of Disenchantment contains the very seeds not just of literary, but also social prejudice. Indeed, it can even be argued that Lenin and the KGB wouldn’t exist without a Dialectic of Disenchantment, or else, at least that their message would find no real traction in an Enchanted social sphere.

    This sets up the problem of how to educate for Enchantment, while at the same time honoring the demands of Democracy. It’s a complex problem, and I don’t think it helps to pretend there are any easy answers.

    Food for thought, anyway.

  4. waynestauffer says:

    Tryangle also made a shorter film, “Severus Snape and the Marauders.” Also high quality and consistent with the Potterverse.

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