In an experimental animated video, Matt Gilpin presents his ideas for making Prisoner of Azkaban even better.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is, in the view of Matt Gilpin, one of the best Harry Potter films and, arguably, the first Harry Potter film that feels like an objectively good piece of art. “A lot of work is put into character and visual storytelling, and it gives the whole series a kind of Gothic edge which the other films build on.” However, despite his love for the film, Matt proposes a few small changes pulled from his experience as a director.
In an early scene with the Dementors on the Hogwarts Express, there is a beautiful shot of ice spreading across the train window. Matt points out that the reason this works is that Ron’s hand is on the glass as this happens, helping exaggerate the effect. However, Matt argues that the lead up of Ron’s hand against the window is far too long, explaining, “you can feel that he wants to move his hand and it’s not natural for his hand to be there through the entirety of the scene.”
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Matt points out, is a massive step up from the previous film for the child actors; however, this makes their first venture into creative acting choices all the more obvious. Matt suggests that a directorial decision was made to see Harry become angry and, as a result, chose to just have Daniel Radcliff shout the iconic line, “he was their friend!” Drawing on his own acting experience, he says, “it’s difficult to do that convincingly if it doesn’t feel right. So, Daniel Radcliffe didn’t feel in the right place to give this bit of performance.” Instead of giving Radcliffe heavier direction or changing the feel of the scene, we get, “a less-than-authentic performance.”
“It’s worth considering how films like this have a lot of pressure on them… and it may not have been feasible to make any major changes. They just needed to go in, get the shots, and go out again… But I just think it could have been [better].”
Finally, Matt highlights a theme that could have been elaborated upon. Using an allegory from Steven Universe, Matt suggests that when Harry and Sirius are being attacked by dementors a line should be added in. “I want to have Harry say ‘please… he’s all I have left,” he explains. “Harry has lost his family… and, whilst he’s made a sort of surrogate family at Hogwarts, they’ve been growing apart this year. In film three, he has to rescue himself [from the Dursleys]. Similarly, Ron and Hermione just go off to Hogwarts without him.” Harry is left alone in this film and, in Matt’s view, Sirius is the one person who could step into a family role. He furthers that this would make the moment more powerful and help explain why Harry thinks he’s seen his father. “When Sirius nearly dies,” Matt explains, “Harry is thinking about his family.”
It’s always a joy to unravel the creative choices that make up our favorite films. If Alfonso Cuarón can have both room for growth and an Oscar on his mantle, that gives us all a little hope for our own creative endeavors, right?