Crimes of Grindelwald: The Story Ring

I spent International Chiasmus Day looking over my Crimes of Grindelwald charts and lecture notes about Tolkien’s The Hobbit as ring composition when I learned yesterday was also JRRT’s birthday. I flipped a hermetic coin this morning about which notes to write up as a short post here and the alchemical token came up ‘Phoenix’ rather than ‘Dragon’ — I read a brilliant paper draft on those two beasts last night by Lana Whited, too, that will change your thinking about Fantastic Beasts if you’re anything like me — so it’s the ring of Crimes today!

This will be the briefest of exposition, though, because the full version, charts and all, will be included in my online course the updated and expanded version of which is in queue for registration early in the New Year. Having said that, let’s have a look at the second film in the Fantastic Beasts five movie franchise and see if we can spot the story latch, which is to say, where and how the beginning and end hook up, the story turn, the scenes in which we end the beginning and start the end with echo and pointers to both respectively, and the story parallels, the ‘turtleback lines’ moving to and from the center in which the screenwriter creates corresponding in reverse order after the story pivot in chiastic fashion, A-B-C-D-C’-B’-A’, where the A’s are the latch, D is the turn, and B and C are the parallels.

The story latch is two-fold. First there is the Grindelwald’s escape epilogue, scenes 1 to 16 in the Original Screenplay that is not ‘Original’ but pretty much a transcript of the director’s cut (hereafter just ‘the screenplay’), and the Hogwarts/Nurmengard epilogue, scenes 116-120. 

The opening and closing scenes have three latch elements: they feature the vial of the Blood Pact (see scenes 5 and 15, then 119), Grindelwald and an alchemical ‘pet’ (the Humunculus and Aurelius), and the presence of Spielman in the MACUSA carriage and on the Hogwarts Bridge. Spielman (‘player’ auf Deutsch) is also in the first part, scenes 17-21, the meeting in the Ministry of Magic which part latches as well with part 14, scenes 110-115, the battle in the Ampitheater and Parisian graveyard. These parts latch because at the end of the first Newt is asked by Theseus to choose sides, having taken him aside from Leta, which Newt refuses to do. At the end of the latter and the near miss with conflagration via Grindelwald’s draconic Fiend Fyre, Newt hugs his brother and tells him he has chosen his side.

I make this a latch rather than a parallel because it has a special resonance with the story turn, scenes 63 to 73, the Hogwarts visit. Travers in his drop in to Dumbledore’s Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom takes Albus’ refusal to confront and battle with Grindelwald as his having “chosen [his] side.” We also get in the Pensieve of Erised, scene 73, an image of the vial as token of the Blood Pact. We also get plenty of Leta background here, though we’re missing the important discussion between Leta and Theseus there about their suspicion that Dumbledore is using Newt to advance Grindelwald’s cause. even without it, though, it marks the turn because of it echoing the threesome’s appearance at the Ministry at the beginning and Newt and Theseus’ decision post battle after Leta’s death. Not to mention her “I love you” to both brothers before entering the flame.

The story parallels or ‘Turtleback Lines’ are involved, as always, but create a clear football lace stitch pattern.

Parts 2, 3, and 4 — scenes 22-25 Gellert’s murderous arrival and set-up in Paris, scenes 26-30 Newt’s meeting with Dumbledore in London, and scenes 31-39 in Newt’s basement and apartment with Bunty, Jacob, and Queenie — all find their pay-offs and parallels in the Parisian ampitheater, Part 14, scenes 110 to 115. Gellert reveals that what he says is not what he means vis a vis Muggle subjugation, Dumbledore sets up Newt’s ability to understand the amphitheater congress as a Grindelwald trap, and Jacob thinks and later says, “You’re crazy!” to Queenie on a London street and as she heads into the flames.

Part 5, the Circus Arcanus scenes (40-48 with 46 and 47 being Gellert and Newt asides), are paralleled in parts 10 and 11, the chase at the French Ministry, scenes 87 to 90, and part 11 and 13, the Lestrange Mausoleum, scenes 91 to 94 and 98 to 107, with the Gellert interlude (scenes 46 and 85), the Kama introduction and big reveal in the tomb, and the Zouwu break-out during the Circus fire and then acting as ex porteau/machina escape-vehicle from the Ministry. 

Parts 6, 7, and 8 — Queenie at the Ministry, scenes 49-52, Credence and Nagini meet Irma… and Grimmson, scenes 53 to 57, and Newt and Jacob with Kama and Tina (and Zouwu!), scenes 58-62 — straddle the story pivot at Hogwarts, scenes 63 to 73, to find their echoes in Part 9, the Flamel House bracketed sequence, scenes 74 to 86. We have our two entrances to the French Ministry, first by Queenie alone then by Newt/Theseus and Tina. The congenital Legillimens observes Abernathy in disguise with Rozier and Newt and Tina have to run from Theseus after he spots them. Credence has a run in with Grindelwald’s agent Grimmson while following the bread crumb trail to Irma that Gelleet provided which sets up his rooftop meeting in scene 55, and we meet Flamel and Newt extracts the eye parasite that we saw Kama struggling with at the Cafe bathroom.

That’s a rushed survey, I know, and one we will have to revisit with the deleted scenes list with best guesses about where they go. For now, however, we can say with confidence that Rowling has not abandoned her preferred story architecture, the chiastic ring.

Questions, comments, corrections are welcome as always! Just click on ‘Leave a comment’ up by this post’s headline above and let me know what you’re thinking. As noted, I’ll do a breakdown of how this kind of reading and charting is done in ‘Wizard Reading Formula,’ 2.0.

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