Secrets of a Stolen Kiss: Themes of Adolescence in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

by Andy Humphreys, Movies

David Yates’ Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a movie rich in themes of coming-of-age, maturity and adolescent love, and in no scene are these themes more obvious than in that of Harry and Ginny’s secret kiss in the Room of Requirement. This scene stands as a particular example of the maturation of these characters. It is a coming-of-age in microcosm; a scene where direction, performance, cinematography and score come together in one story beat that illustrates perfectly the tumultuous nature of adolescence.

As the scene begins, and Ginny and Harry stand before the entrance to the Room of Requirement, the score is completely absent, as though waiting for the characters to make their move. This silence draws attention to the moment where Ginny takes Harry’s hand, under the apparently innocuous guise of leading him into the Room. The director leaves us under no illusions as to the significance of this moment, as, in addition to the silence, the camera lingers on the two interlinked hands for a few moments.

Yates’ focus on the act of hand-holding, rather than the characters’ progress into the Room shows us that this gesture is much more meaningful than a simple act of guidance or show of support. Ginny’s growing maturity and growth into womanhood is also apparent here, as she appears to knowingly use the ruse of leading Harry in order to instigate this gentle romantic contact.

The absence of music also functions like a held breath, mirroring the anticipation that is palpable from the two characters. It echoes the fact that, although Ginny and Harry seem focused on the task at hand at this point — that of hiding the Half-Blood Prince’s book amongst the objects in the Room — there is still a sense that even despite this focus on duty, they are both inescapably aware that, whether for a greater purpose or not, they will soon be momentarily — tantalizingly — alone together.

And in fact, the characters’ dedication to this task has dwindled further by the time they have entered the Room, and Harry has unveiled the vanishing cabinet, freeing the tiny bird inside. The fact that the director barely lingers on this undeniably significant plot point serves to highlight the preoccupation Harry and Ginny have with each other; quickly after the bird’s emergence, the scene’s focus shifts back to Harry, who, far from trying to understand this moment, is frozen as Ginny advances, and appears surprised when she reaches down and takes the book from him; the most important item in the movie seems to have been utterly forgotten about by the main protagonist, at least for this moment of pure adolescent lust.

This is notable as one of the rare moments in the series where we see Harry placing his personal desires above the greater events that he invariably finds himself caught up in, albeit unconsciously. This in itself gives the brief time the two characters share in the Room added significance.

Bruno Delbonnel, handling the cinematography in his first and only movie in the series, gives us incredible wide shots of the Room’s vast, cavernous interior. This approach to framing the characters amplifies the significance of their moment together; the huge scale of the Room emphasises the intimacy of the scene perhaps even more than a confined space would. These two figures, tiny amongst piles of forgotten treasures as infinite in number as stars in the universe, could be the last two humans alive..or the first. The way Debonnel lights the scene, too, serves to augment the feeling of intimacy and romance. Soft, silvery light, evoking moonlight, bathes this version of the Room of Requirement, giving Harry and Ginny the appearance of lovers meeting for an illicit midnight rendezvous.

If we can observe those hints of Harry’s adolescent urges seizing priority withing the scene, then these are similarly mirrored in Ginny’s behaviour. Although her character has been presented, especially in this film, as confident, brave, and often outspoken, she has never before displayed this confidence in addressing her feelings for Harry. Here, she becomes much more forward, her playful nature overriding her previously alluded-to nervousness in a Harry’s presence. She’s first to instigate the hand-hold at the start of the scene, takes the lead in venturing into the Room, and is the one who initiates hiding the book, the intention to kiss Harry very much already resolved in her mind.

We learn yet more from Ginny’s dialogue. She commands Harry, “Close your eyes so you won’t be tempted,” then whispers in a way that is unambiguously seductive: “Close your eyes.” This second expression clearly has nothing to do with their duty to hide the book and everything to do with enacting her plan to kiss Harry. And of course, on hearing her whisper, Harry dutifully obeys, demonstrating, in a very literal sense, a power over men that Ginny has discovered through maturing into womanhood.

Ginny appears to be emboldened by their shared secret, and with that she embodies the theme of ‘seizing the moment’ that is present in the scene. Evidenced by the many choices which influence the tone of the movie as a whole, a (sometimes literal) dark cloud is ever present over Hogwarts this year. This sense of building dread foreshadows the escalation of Voldemort’s plan, the immediate culmination of which will come into fruition by the end of the film. With this knowledge of the coming events in mind, it is impossible not to identify an element of ‘now or never’ in Ginny’s advances. Both characters seem to have an unspoken understanding that the status quo is irrevocably changing; that with the events currently in motion, opportunities such as their present situation will not come along often, if at all, in the future.

It is in this way that the scene is tinged with tangible sense of sadness, and this atmosphere is captured with Tom Hooper’s delicate yet mournful score, which brings to mind the fragility of childhood and innocence. Present for the first time in the lead up to the kiss itself, the music is at its heart an understated guitar refrain, austere and intimate. Its simplicity and repetition is a nod to the uncomplicated nature of childhood and specifically childhood romance, free as it is from the burdens and complications of an adulthood relationship.

The score is, in this scene, also pointedly melancholic, emphasising the bittersweetness of a period of early youth which seems suddenly to be drawing to an end. The kiss itself can be viewed as a symbolic representation of maturity and transition to a more adult stage of romance; a metaphorical full-stop at the end of childhood. The accompanying score can thus be seen as a lament for the death of innocence.

The melancholia of the score highlights another thing of which both characters seem aware: that this is very much a stolen moment, seldom to be repeated; that their quiet, delicate love will soon be engulfed by the much larger, much more momentous world-affecting conflict of which they are both inescapably a part. This gloominess foreshadows not only the long period of separation Harry and Ginny will soon be forced to endure, but also Harry’s ultimate fate, as outlined by the prophecy concerning him, revealed in the previous film. We already suspect that Harry may have to give his life in order to stop Voldemort, and perhaps this may be in both characters minds. Will their burgeoning love survive the world changing events surrounding it, or is it doomed to fail from the start? To perhaps even end in the death of one or even both of these young nascent lovers?

This spectre of death is allowed to retreat somewhat as the moment of the kiss arrives; the guitar disappears from the score, and the strings swell and gather intensity, emphasising the sheer electricity of the moment, like a skipped heartbeat followed by a rush of adrenaline. As Ginny converges on Harry, the camera tight now, their profiles partially silhouetted by the ethereal light, the kiss itself is, like the scene as a whole, gentle, sweet, but all too brief. With Ginny’s line: “That can stay hidden up here too if you like,” she seems to express a desire to further this giddy thrill of a shared secret, while simultaneously challenging Harry to reveal his true feelings to her. Is he ashamed of the moment they have spent together, or would he be prepared for this situation to extend into the potentially unpredictable world beyond the safety and intimacy of these four walls?

And with that, all too quickly for the characters, the deed is done, and their reason for spending this solitary time together is no more. Harry ends the scene grinning at what has just transpired, a scant moment of untainted joy to remember during the time of prolonged anguish and uncertainty that his immediate future holds. And the director reminds us of the reality of Harry’s situation by the fact that, at the end of the scene, he appears to be alone, his fleeting glimpse of the happiness that may be, gone, as if it could have been a dream. Yates intentionally leaves us with this vision of Harry alone. Alone as he has often been in bearing the immeasurable weight of responsibility of the Chosen One. Alone as he will eventually stand to face Voldemort and his destiny.

 

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