Deathly Hallows Movie Notes: The Dance Scene

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 has opened to great box office success, as we knew it would, and it’s about time I wrote something about it, though I’m not a big movie goer. I want to note first that ‘Twilight: New Moon’ still holds the record for a November opening. I confess that startled me, as much as I admire the Twilight books (having written a book on the Forks Saga, right?), I didn’t think the fandom’s devotion to the cause or just sheer size were comparable. Wrong, again, it seems. Check out Box Office Mojo.

As predicted, the latest addition to the Potter series worked its magic on the box office, raking in a $125 million in ticket sales — a figure that includes it’s midnight/early Friday showings. But while the series topped itself, outpacing its last pre-Thanksgiving opening — 2005’s “Goblet of Fire” — “Twilight: New Moon” still holds the November opening title with $142.8 million…

What I want to write about, though, before sharing some book points is the Dance Scene in which Harry and Hermione ‘cut the rug’ in the tent playfully for a moment just after Ron’s departure. Some folks like it, others don’t, all, I think, miss the Big Movie allusion or hat tip to the Martin Scorsese classic, Taxi Driver.

Fandom seems to like the Dance Scene. We have this from a film goer who loved it:

Harry and Hermione dance together in the tent. It’s a scene that never could have worked in the books, and even feels a little jarring at first– Hermione usually isn’t into things like dancing and needing comforting, unless Viktor Krum is involved– but when Harry and Hermione are depressed about Ron running away, they tune into a song on the radio and share a silly, friendly dance together. It says so much about the level of their relationship, which is especially important given Ron’s Horcrux nightmare later that puts Harry and Hermione together kissing– we know completely from the dance that theirs is a deep, platonic friendship, something the books have much more time to explain but is done nicely and quickly in the movie.

Linda McCabe, author, serious Potter scholar, and friend of this blog, had a very different view of the scene, namely, in the context of the Shipping Wars that rocked fandom years ago. Noting that Ms. Rowling was listed as a producer in the credits, Ms. McCabe speculates this was a gesture to the H/Hr partisans Emerson Sparks infamously called “delusional” in 2005.

Another thing that surprised me about the movie was seeing Jo Rowling’s name in the credits as a producer. She could easily have had that scene removed from the movie if she wanted. She had given a note to the screenwriter in HBP when there was a bit of dialogue of Dumbledore reminiscing of a long-lost girlfriend that said, “Dumbledore is gay.” That nixed those proposed lines.

Rowling allowed the dance scene showing the possibility of Harry and Hermione becoming a romantic couple to remain in the movie. Why?

Was it a bone for Harry/Hermione shippers? Or was it included because it was good drama?

I believe it was the latter, because I believe in the power of drama.

I am also certain that some stalwart Ron/Hermione shippers will find that scene offensive because of their years of arguing against H/Hr. That would make them not want to see even subtle hints of that romantic pairing.

Jo Rowling admitted in an interview published in Melissa Anelli’s book Harry: A History that it could have gone Harry/Hermione. “Now, the fact is that Hermione shares moments with Harry that Ron will never be able to participate in. He walked out. She shared something very intense with Harry. So, I think it could have gone that way” (Page 266).

Precisely. We were not delusional at all. We saw the romantic potential that could have been.

And now, there is even a poll (totally non-scientific) by MTV to see whether or not people wished it had gone H/Hr over R/Hr. As I am writing this, H/Hr is winning.

Read Ms. McCabe’s whole post, please, because the parts about the Dance Scene she includes to explain how and why it worked are excellent.

I agree with both these writers that the Dance Scene ‘worked’ and that we had to have something like it for Ron’s actions at his return, especially the moment when you cannot tell if he is going to kill Harry or destroy the Locket Horcrux, to make sense. The film doesn’t have the time and continuous feel you get from the books to ‘get’ that Harry and Hermione are like brother and sister; the Dance Scene I felt, especially as it didn’t end with them locking lips and falling on to a cot, made that point very well.

But, as I wrote at the McCabe L.O.O.N. site post, what struck me was the copy-cat quality of this inserted scene. It’s right out of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver.

To understand this, you need to understand several things. First, the John Ford film The Searchers (1956) is to American film making of the last twenty years what Hemingway said Huckleberry Finn is to American literature, namely, the touchstone and source of everything good. Directors like Manlius, Spielberg, Lucas, and Scorsese rave about it — and all of their films reflect it to greater or lesser degree. Read about the cult status of The Searchers in this 1979 New York magazine article by Stuart Byron called ‘The Searchers: Cult Movie of the New Hollywood.’

So what? Well, as Roger Ebert noted in his look back at Scorsese’s Taxi Driver:

It is a widely known item of cinematic lore that Paul Schrader‘s screenplay for “Taxi Driver” was inspired by “The Searchers,” John Ford‘s 1956 film. In both films, the heroes grow obsessed with “rescuing” women who may not, in fact, want to be rescued. They are like the proverbial Boy Scout who helps the little old lady across the street whether or not she wants to go…. The buried message of both films is that an alienated man, unable to establish normal relationships, becomes a loner and wanderer, and assigns himself to rescue an innocent young girl from a life that offends his prejudices.

The biggest difference between Taxi Driver and The Searchers? You guessed it. A Dance Scene.

As screenwriter Schrader explained it:

“I wrote two scenes for the film… which I protested… [including] one for Harvey Keitel, when he dances with Jodie Foster. That one I protested because every other scene in the film is from the taxi driver’s point of view. But Harvey was chafing and wanted more room to work, and Martin Scorsese wanted to give him another scene. So we made the rationalization that it would be the ‘Scar scene.’ That’s a reference to John Ford’s The Searchers. I feel, and other people feel, that the only scene that The Searchers lacks — and it is a great film — is a scene between Scar, the Comanche chief, and Natalie Wood, who’s lived with him since she was kidnapped as a child. If Ford had had the guts to show that their life together had some meaning, it would have made the ending — when John Wayne rescues her — bitterly sweet. So, too, in Taxi Driver.

Maybe you’ve never seen The Searchers or Taxi Driver. As the former is listed near the very top of every ‘Best Films Ever’ listing in which film makers and critics are polled and the latter film is just twenty to thirty spots below, we know that the Potter film franchise makers know both movies very well and the relationship between the two. And that Scorsese thought he was improving the original by inserting a Dance Scene.

My guess is that the director of Part 1 decided to toss it in, both, as Linda McCabe noted, to illustrate the drama of life in the tent without Ron (as well as the depth of Hermione’s feelings for him) and to tip the hat to Scorsese by improving on Rowling’s book, the origin of the film, as Mad Martin Scorsese had tried to improve on Ford’s The Searchers, his template.

Your comments and corrections, as always, are coveted.


  1. From a movie-set-up POV for the “all I know is what I see on the screen” crowd of Harry fans, I think it was necessary for the reasons you outlined. However, as a dyed-in-the-wool HP fan, I found it tolerable only after it was over…….. I feared the Hollywoodization would procede too far. From the film POV it ended up demonstrating the phileo and agape components of the Harry-Hermione relationships and indicating to viewers that all eros is not sexual passion. (No doubt a new idea if they took “snogging” seriously, but then, they may not have read the text.)

  2. John Kuhnell says

    In my opinion the scene may have been added to counter the most serious failure in the whole book. Ron leaves, Hermione is devestated by his desertion, and Harry just throws a blanket over her and goes to bed?
    They are supposed to be friends. Even in Half Blood Prince Harry spends time with her because he figures between his friends Hermione needs him most while Ron galavants about with Lavander Brown. I wonder what Rowling was thinking when she wrote that. The most unbelievable scene in the whole series, not just in the one book I regard as an epic failure.

  3. Until the dance scene in HP7, the world of Harry Potter had always been a Rowling creation. But at that moment, the world of Harry Potter was created by, and belonged to, two wonderful actors.

    Someday, as in the world of James Bond, there may be remakes and sequels and who knows how many Harrys and Hermiones. But this scene will be the one that will make people say “Daniel Radcliffe IS Harry Potter. Emma Watson IS Hermione Granger.”

Speak Your Mind