Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Hogwarts, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

My Favorite Scene: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) “Hogwarts/The Mirror of Erised”

With the return of The Wizarding World coming this Friday with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, we begin to look back at the films that formed that world: the Harry Potter series. The epic ended just before Killing Time began, so we haven’t had a chance to break them down, so once a month for the next eight, a My Favorite Scene column will be Potterized.  That brings us to 2001’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  The first two films in the series were directed by Chris Columbus, and-like their source material-are largely children’s films.  The Potter series grows up with its protagonists.  The goal of the first film, as the book is fairly simple, was to establish the world; to take Rowling’s vision and translate it to the screen in ways that would form a comfortable visual foundation on which to rest later, more complicated entries.  This was done masterfully.  The first time you see Diagon Alley, Gringotts, Platform 9 3/4, but I think the most breathtaking reveal was Hogwarts itself.  The scene of the boats gliding across the lake at night toward the beautifully lit castle, The Great Hall, The Sorting Hat, all of it comes to life as a fantastical, but very real world.  Having the great John Williams score the moment for you doesn’t hurt either.

I have a tie in this installment, because while I think the introduction of Hogwarts is the WOW scene in the film, the most poignant is The Mirror of Erised.  The scene where Dumbledore finds Harry as he gazes longingly into the mirror, seeing his heart’s desire: his parents alive and with him, is just so beautiful.  Richard Harris plays it so perfectly and with such nuance, but you can so easily tell that he’s lying to Harry about what he sees when he looks into the mirror.

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
The casting in this film, when you stop and think about it, was nothing short of astounding.  The three main protagonists Harry, Ron, and Hermione (Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson) were 10-11 years old when they began filming this series and would be entering their twenties by the time the last film released in 2011.  To cast children of that age and bank on them being able to grow as the characters did in talent and ability took an amazing eye for potential.  And it paid off!  All three stuck around through all eight films, and by the end of the series had all become seriously talented actors who are still working today (I’m writing this on the day the first full trailer for Beauty and the Beast releases with Emma Watson as the lead).  To that extent, the adults, with the exception of the revolving door of Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher, were also committing a decade of their lives.  It’s tragic that we lost Richard Harris after the second film, but Michael Gambon did a wonderful job making his Dumbledore as seamless a transition as possible.  Dame Maggie Smith defied age (and continues to) and served as the other anchor of the faculty playing Professor Minerva McGonagall.

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However, my favorite casting and member of the staff (as well as I think the most complex character in the series) is Alan Rickman’s Severus Snape.  I still can’t believe we lost him, but he stole every scene he was in the entire series.  So in tribute to Rickman and because you can never deny the brilliance of a great Snape scene, we’ll also be doing a monthly “Great Moments in Snape”.  The first is, of course, the first years first Potions class with Snape and Snape’s first meeting with Harry, beginning a relationship that would evolve over the series in ways no one could have predicted.

Great Snape Moment Installment 1 of 8

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

26 thoughts on “My Favorite Scene: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) “Hogwarts/The Mirror of Erised””

  1. Columbus was the safest choice possible to direct this movie, and the thing that rankles me (slightly) is that I don’t think such a middle of the road filmmaker was necessary. It was Harry Potter, and it was always going to be the biggest film of all time, even if a slightly more edgy director had been hired. That said, I wish I could have seen the film as a kid, because I know my jaw would have been hanging open all through the Hogwarts reveal. Everything was exactly the way I imagined it from the book. I wish the Sorting Hat had delivered his proclamations in song, but I’m sure there was a good reason he did not. And anyway, if that’s my only complaint they REALLY got the sequence right.

    As for the Mirror of Erised… do you remember the anti-Harry Potter movement? I suppose no one could possibly forget. There were people who were trying to sheild their children from what they saw as evil incarnate, and they were hurling every criticism in the world at the books, including the bizarre claim that the books were “anti-family.” I would direct those people to the Weasleys, and the Mirror. That is all.

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    1. Oh my parents were part of the movement. I didn’t get into it until Azkaban because I didn’t want the hassle. The mirror is a great example of how wrongheaded the hysteria was. The films were in no way Satanic or anti-Christian. If people wanted to freak out over a book and film The Golden Compass or at least the book was everything and more people were throwing at Potter and more.

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  2. People did not freak out because, despite the critical acclaim it garnered, Philip Pullman’s trilogy was never hugely popular.

    I remember that when the movie of The Golden Compass came out, the studio panicked and took out a full page ad in the New York Times explaining that the movie was not about “killing God,” but was instead about “an imposter who calls himself God.” The ad conveniently left out the fact that the imposter in question is clearly identified by Pullman as the entity worshipped by the Catholic Church.

    I REALLY don’t like those books, and I’m not wading into the ideology, here. The fact is, the books are heavy-handed and inelegant.

    But JK transmits good values effortlessly, without giving the impression that she’s preaching to her young readers from an ivory tower. There are some Christian ideas in HP, but I would argue that they’re all universal truths that everyone could benefit from pondering. For example the idea that love, not life, is the opposite of death. Notice that our good friend Tom is motivated by a fear of death, that he fears it so much that he mutilated his own soul to stave it off, and that the ability to love is the one ability, the one edge Harry possess that Voldemort doesn’t.

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    1. Honestly would they make such a big deal of celebrating Christmas in the books if they were anti Christian? I agree completely about Pullman and don’t get the acclaim the books received. I disagree with JK on some things but the values in the books are solidly positive. It’s the violence and horror in the later books that would make me hesitant to give it to a child. The first two are right up say a smart seven year olds alley, but you can’t stop once you start and the end of book four alone would give a kid nightmares.

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      1. Prisoner of Azkaban was the point where JK stopped writing for children, and started writing for everyone. It happens to a lot of children’s writers. It was her Through the Looking Glass moment, her Lord of the Rings moment. But the climax of Goblet of Fire, with a child being murdered, then a character cutting off his own hand as a prelude to the rise of Voldemort… THAT is the kind of thing a parent ought to be made aware of, not some nonsense about the books promoting disobedience.

        Personally I would not give the books to anyone under nine. After that, parents just have to know their kids’ threshold for scary stuff. But I will say this: JK’s message, about behaving morally, is more than a canard precisely because she acknowledges that it’s usually difficult to behave that way, especially when anger and fear are getting in the way. And when you’re Harry’s age, that’s almost always. The world is dark for grownups too, I’m not letting them off the hook. The wizarding world is just as convincingly dangerous as the real one, and if the books were less terrifying as they went on, Harry’s choices would mean much less.

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    1. Dumbledore will appear in the second and Depp has already been cast as Grindelwald and the films will span 19 years. That would make 5 in 1945 when according to Dumbledore’s chocoloate frog card in Sorcerer’s Stone, Dumbledore and Grindelwald had their climactic battle. So it seems Fantastic Beasts will be the Potter Prequels. …

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      1. Yes, I had heard about Depp. Smart move at this point in his career, latching onto a sure thing franchise that would be huge with or without him. Maybe he can find some others. Bardem was creepy and cool in the trailer for Pirates 5, but the reaction in the theater where I saw it was… let’s just say I don’t think it’s what Disney was aiming for.

        Also, in the name of God don’t use the “P” word, you’re going to jinx this entire thing before it starts. If Lucas had only called the prequel trilogy the Clone Wars Trilogy to differentiate it, the haters could have still called themselves SW fans, and the hate woudn’t have run so deep.

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      2. Lol I knew prequels would get a rise out of you. Yeah, the Pirates teaser got the same reaction in my audience. I truly hope they can bring back the magic that was the first film, because that’s one of the most fun films start to finish I’ve ever seen.

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    1. Thanks so much! We’re going to look at each of the films, one a month like this for the next eight, and of course Fantastic Beasts and its four confirmed sequels as they develop. Appreciate the kind words.

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      1. No problem, and you seem highly informed on anything related to that franchise. Looking forward to the upcoming blogs. I just started out, so it was nice to have a little exposure to a site full of context and design (like yours). Mine’s pretty basic right now, but I am hoping it rises in complexity over time. lol

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      2. Oh mine started as a discipline to make myself write every day about the cool little things that I always meant to tell my friends and family when I found out. You have to write for yourself and if others like it that’s a bonus, but done any other way, it stops being fun and then what’s the point? I love your start and especially the cinematography list. What an underappreciated aspect of film, which is odd when you realize it’s film itself. But everyone knows actors, a lot know directors, but even with the thousands of movies I have seen could name only a handful.

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      3. Ain’t that the truth? That’s basically my same calling for writing with my own conscience. Being myself. It is pretty sad how I am exposed to mostly people who seem to only care about the names of actors in a movie, or even big-name directors. They are too focused on “the system.” For my case, it becomes pure bliss when I meet just one person on this Earth who appreciates the underappreciated.

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      4. Then I think you’re going to have a lot of fun with your blog and hopefully mine. By the way, if there is anyone more underappreciated than cinematographers, it’s casting directors. How is that not an Oscar? Fitting people to roles is as integral to a film succeeding as putting the right words on paper or image to film!

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      5. I actually never thought of it that way. Wow. This would be a nice inclusion to the Oscar Nominations. Seriously, all those actors getting those perfect roles? From DiCaprio for Inception to the cast in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Harry Potter. Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood. It’s endless.

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      6. In the age of franchises, it’s become even more important. Harry Potter is one of the best examples because they cast little kids betting that they could become powerful actors by the time they needed them to be. Another great example is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Disney is six years ahead planning these films and signing their actors to 6-10 film deals, so if you screw up casting one person, you’ve potentially ruined multiple films. Yet I honestly don’t think they’ve made a misstep in casting yet, and after 14 films, that’s kind of a miracle. The people who vet thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of applicants to fill a role and emerge with, say, Tom Holland managing to fix nearly 15 years worth of Spider-Man baggage in the middle of a film he was barely a part of, people with that kind of eye deserve some recognition. The SAG Awards give an ensemble cast award, which I like very much, but it’s still not the person/people who assembled them.

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