Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – Intriguing Dream Images
The first three installments of the Harry Potter series have shown us flashbacks, hallucinations, magic mirrors, time travel, and other altered states of consciousness as Harry drifts in and out of reality. Haunted by ghosts of his past, a demonic wizard hell-bent on destroying him, and soul-sucking dementors who want to tap into his misery, Harry’s state of mind is a constant concern for his friends and adopted family at Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. In “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” however, for the first time we are invited into Harry’s tortured dreams as he enters his fourth year at the school.
Director Mike Newell includes three dream sequences taken from the book by J.K. Rowling. Although all the dreams take place in the same location with the same characters and have the same theme (i.e., let’s kill Harry Potter), their presentations differ greatly and therefore produce different emotions in the viewer.
The first dream sequence begins the movie. We see an old caretaker notice a light in an abandoned house that he’s watching. He angrily marches over to the house expecting to find some unruly teenagers. Instead he finds Lord Voldemort, Wormtail, and another mysterious man talking about the ultimate demise of Harry. A huge snake slithers by the caretaker as he listens outside the door. Suddenly his presence becomes known and as the caretaker is attacked, Harry awakens in a terrified state from the dream.
Unlike dream sequences that use black and white or distorted color, garbled sound, and illogical images to indicate an altered state of consciousness or specifically a dream, this first dream sequence has no visual or aural cues. The dream occurs in real-time; we feel what Harry feels and we assume that it’s really happening. Until we see Harry awaken, we believe (and are supposed to believe) that the scene is actually taking place. This director’s trick (and in this case also the author’s trick) hooks us immediately into the action, and then shocks us by revealing that it was all just a dream.
The second dream sequence happens in real-time also. We know it’s a dream, however, because we see Harry sleeping fitfully in bed before it starts. Throughout the sequence, we see scenes of Harry sleeping. The dream is similar to before, but we learn a little more this time. Because it’s not a surprise, this dream looks like a typical movie dream with slow motion, blurring, and an unreal quality. Harry awakens in a frightened sweat again. We don’t feel quite as threatened this time because we’re led to believe that Harry suffers from recurring nightmares (and with his troubled past who could blame him?)
The third time we see Harry’s dream is through a flashback as he recalls the dream out loud in Albus Dumbledore’s office. We’re still confused about the relevance of these dreams. Because the dream is not happening in real-time, but is a brief flashback – a mere memory of what Harry thought he dreamed, the dream’s importance may be lessened. After recounting the dream, he asks Dumbledore if the dreams could possibly be something other than random and meaningless. Could they be telepathic scenes currently taking place or possibly prophetic dreams that predict Harry’s future? The final thirty minutes of the film answer this question.
The reason why filmmakers (and authors) use dream sequences is to increase audience involvement and connectedness to the character. Getting inside of Harry’s head allows us to feel his horror and share his sense of dread.
By keeping us off-guard as to whether or not these dreams are true events, real-time dreams, or memories of dreams, the director confuses us as to what is real and what is an illusion. It’s cinematic sorcery that bewitches us into reading the book, going to the multiplex, and buying the DVD.
Copyright 2006 Leslie Halpern
Central Florida-based entertainment writer Leslie Halpern is the author of “Dreams on Film. The Cinematic Struggle Between Art and Science” (McFarland & Company), a book that analyzes representations of sleeping and dreaming in the movies. She also wrote “Reel Romance. The Lovers’ Guide to the 100 Best Date Movies” (Taylor Trade Publishing), a book that reviews date movies for couples, and suggests romantic ideas inspired by these films. Visit Leslie’s website at: http://home.roadrunner.com/~lesliehalpern