While viewing Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, I chose to mute the volume and focused only on the visuals of the film. I wanted to see what could be gathered from viewing some scenes with and without sound.  Lighting is a major part of the film, used to distinguish good from evil, and light from shadow. Light and darkness is shown magically in the film with the use of the dementors and the patronus charm. Dementors are humanoid in appearance, and are shrouded in a dark, hooded cloak. They feed off people’s happiness and can only be warded off using the patronus charm. The patronus charm is a bright white light that works like a force field to protect the person producing the charm. This scene shown below is of a scene in the climax of the film. The white light is Harry’s patronus and the dark figures are the dementors. I think it’s interesting that the only light in the scene is over the “good guys” of the film, while the dementors, which are seen as “bad” or “evil”, are shrouded in the darkness of the night. And are dark themselves. Another part of this scene is shot as a high angle shot. This shot, usually used to make the character seem vulnerable or insignificant. In this scene, Harry is seen as powerful, but at the same time, is faced with these supernatural creatures that he has very little experience with. So while the shot starts by making Harry look powerful, it actually shows him to be insignificant. And childish, which he is. The composition of this scene is also interesting when you look at how the dementors are looming over the characters. A dark, menacing, united force against these characters, the “good guys”. If you look at Harry in this scene, the patronus is an interesting thing. The colour white is symbolic of safety and innocence, among many other things. These values are interesting when you look at this scene. This spell is used to protect the user, it is used as a shield against these dark, supernatural creatures. It is used as a shield, a form of safety for the user. It is also interesting that the colour is symbolic for innocence, considering that Harry in this film is still a child, and children are known to be innocent.




There are a couple of scenes where Harry is seen through a window or the reflection of him is shown. These scenes are points in the film where Harry is isolated. One of these scenes is when Harry is on the train; his face is shown in the window through his reflection. He is still with people in this scene, however, his reflection is the only thing shown, giving the viewer the sense that Harry wants to be away from everyone or that he is uneasy about what is going on in his life. This scene was one that I watched with and without sound. The soundtrack in this scene is a song that is from the next scene. The music that plays helps to set the mood of the plot of the film. These two scenes bleed into one another, which creates an asynchronous moment between the visual and the audio. The audio is of the school choir, a group of people cooperating. However, the visual is of one character, who looks very isolated. Even though this scene has people other than Harry in it, the other characters’ reflections aren’t shown in the window. This adds to the feeling of isolation that I think Harry is feeling in this moment.



Another scene that I watched with and without sound, was a scene about an hour and fifteen minutes into the film. Harry is walking in the hallway at night, with a light on his wand, looking for a guy named Peter Pettigrew. I watched this scene first without the soundtrack, and I found it humorous when Harry jumps at seeing his reflection illuminated beside him. There does not seem to be anything about this scene visually, that seems foreboding. As a viewer, I found myself more nervous that he was walking around in the dark, and could be caught, than I was about Peter Pettigrew walking towards him. I watched this scene a second time, with sound, and had a very different experience. The soundtrack that plays during this scene is intense and gives the viewer a feeling of uneasiness. There are many cuts between shots of Harry and shots of the map that shows where Peter Pettigrew is. These shots give the viewer an uneasy, or nerve-wracking feeling when paired with the soundtrack. In the image below, it shows where Harry is standing still in the hallway, and Peter Pettigrew who is walking very fast towards Harry. The cuts between this image and the one of Harry standing in the hallway gives the viewer a sense of uneasiness, made intense with the soundtrack played with it.


Viewing this film without sound, a film I have viewed over a hundred times, produced a very different experience for me. Without sound, I was forced to focus on the visuals and looked primarily at the use of light and shadows, and how that helped to tell the story. The darkness that is a primary feature in many of the scenes helps to illuminate the seriousness of the plot.This series is a favourite of a mine, and I would need a whole other blog post to list those reasons. I hope you enjoyed reading my post and I would love to hear any feedback you may have.


Berlin Sinclair-Sommerfeld