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"These are dark times, there is no denying", opens Rufus Scrimgeour, the new Minister for Magic, to a crowd of journalists and photographers. Meanwhile, Harry, Ron and Hermione are preparing themselves in order to continue their hunt for the Horcruxes needed to destroy Voldemort. Hermione wipes any trace of herself from her parent's memory and Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and Dudley leave Harry alone in Privet Drive. Elsewhere, Snape arrives at Malfoy Manor and informs Voldemort of the Order's plan to move Harry to safety. Since Voldemort's wand is made from the same material as Harry's, the dark lord takes Lucius Malfoy's to avoid battling with twin wands. Voldemort then uses Lucius' wand to kill Charity Burbage, a teacher of Muggle Studies at Hogwarts, and feeds her to his pet snake Nagini.
The Order arrive at Privet Drive and inform Harry he is to be transported to The Burrow. To throw the Death Eaters off the scent, Ron, Hermione, Fred and George, Fleur, and Mundungus all take some Polyjuice Potion transform themselves into Harry. Harry sets Hedwig free and they all leave in pairs, Hagrid being paired with the boy wizard. However, the Death Eaters instantly surround them and they are forced to take different routes. Hedwig reappears, but is hit by a killing curse, thus saving Harry but giving away his true identity. Voldemort then attempts to attack Harry, but he manages to defeat Voldemort's borrowed wand. When everyone arrives at the Burrow, it is revealed that Mad-Eye Moody was killed, Mundungus Disapparated when he saw Voldemort and George lost an ear. During the night Harry attempts to leave and go in search of the Horcruxes, but Ron convinces him that he cannot do it alone and should wait until after Bill and Fleur's wedding.
Rufus Scrimgeour arrives at The Burrow to give the items from Dumbledore's Last Will and Testament, handing over a Deluminator to Ron, his personal copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard to Hermione and the snitch he nearly swallowed in his first Quidditch match to Harry. Dumbledore also left the Sword of Gryffindor to Harry, but Scrimgeour explains that, apart from it not being Dumbledore's property to give away, it is missing. Later, when at Bill and Fleur's wedding, Harry notices a strange symbol on Xenophilius Lovegood's necklace. The event is quickly interrupted by a horde of Death Eaters, with the trio having to Apparate to safety. Sheltering in a London cafe, they are again rounded on by two Death Eaters. After defeating them, they escape to Grimmauld Place, where they find that Regulus Arcturus Black was the one who left the fake locket. Kreacher tells them that Mundungus Fletcher took the real one, the latter of whom explains that Umbridge is now in possession of it.
The trio intercept three Ministry workers on their way to work and use Polyjuice Potion to transform into them. They work their way down to where Umbridge is holding a 'Muggle-Born Registration Committee' trial. They charm Umbridge and take the locket from around her neck, but then have to flee the Ministry as Harry's Polyjuice wears out. They are chased by Thicknesse, who follows them to Grimmauld Place, ruling it out as a hiding place. They are forced to Apparate to a forest. The locket proves impossible to destroy and mentally affects the holder, so they all take it in turns to wear it. When wearing the locket, Harry has a vision where he sees Voldemort killing the wandmaker Gregorovitch and then going after something valuable which Gregorovitch said had been stolen from his shop a long time ago. However, it affects Ron the most, causing him to believe that Harry and Hermione are becoming more than friends. He walks out on the pair in anger that their search is going nowhere. Harry and Hermione travel to Godric's Hollow to try and find Bathilda Bagshot, a historian who knew Dumbledore's family well. While looking at Harry's parents grave, Bathilda shows up and leads the pair to her house. She doesn't say anything and leads Harry upstairs. It is here that she transforms into Nagini and tries to kill Harry, but he and Hermione manage to escape with the only damage being Harry's wand snapping in half.
At the forest Harry puts the snitch to his mouth and the message "I open at the close." appears on it. In the evening Harry sees a silver doe Patronus and follows to a frozen pond, where he finds the Sword of Gryffindor at the bottom. He attempts to retrieve it, but the locket begins to strangle him. Ron reappears and rescues Harry and the sword. After some convincing, Ron agrees that he will destroy the locket. However, when it is opened it begins to play on his insecurities, like his fear of spiders, his family preferring Hary over him and Harry and Hermione passionately kissing. He manages to overcome this and destroys the locket. The pair return to the tent to meet Hermione, angered over Ron's nonchalant attitude to his return. The trio then decide to go visit Xenophilius Lovegood, who explains the symbol represents the Deathly Hallows (cloak of invisibility, the Elder Wand and the Resurrection Stone) from 'The Three Brothers' story in The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Xenophilius also reveals that the Death Eaters have taken Luna because of the pro-Harry reports in The Quibbler, and that she will not be returned unless he hands Harry over. A group of Death Eaters arrive, but the trio Disapparate back to the forest.
On arrival at the forest they are faced with a group of Snatchers. They attempt to run away, but they are caught. Hermione uses a Stinging Hex on Harry in order to disfigure his face in hope that he isn't recognised. Harry has another vision in which Grindelwald tells Voldemort that when Dumbledore defeated in a famous duel, it was he who became the master of the Elder Wand. Harry, Ron and Hermione are taken to Malfoy Manor and Bellatrix questions them on where they got the Sword of Gryffindor from, as she still believes it resides in her vault at Gringott's Bank. She puts Harry and Ron in the cellar, where they find Luna, Ollivander and Griphook. Up above, Bellatrix tortures Hermione and asks her about the sword. Dobby appears and, at Harry's request, takes Luna and Ollivander to safety. The group rescue Hermione with Dobby's help, but Bellatrix throws her knife at them as they Disapparate, killing Dobby. Harry buries him without the use of magic at the beach of Shell Cottage. Finally, Voldemort breaks into Dumbledore's tomb, steals the Elder Wand and triumphantly shoots a spell to the sky.
After Jason Isaacs' character Lucius Malfoy was imprisoned at the end of the fifth book, thus meaning he didn't have a role in the sixth film, he considered not returning for Deathly Hallows in fear that he would have little or no screen time. However, upon meeting J.K. Rowling at an awards dinner and begging to be released from prison, she told him that he was out in chapter one. He signed on for Deathly Hallows straight after.
Stuart Craig, production designer on all the Harry Potter films, designed some brand new sets for Deathly Hallows, including Malfoy Manner, Shell Cottage and Godric's Hollow. Some sets that had appeared previously were rebuilt, such as the Ministry of Magic and the Chamber of Secrets.
Nicholas Hooper, composer on the last two Harry Potter films, decided not to return for Deathly Hallows as he found the time commitment took a toll on his family life. Instead, Alexandre Desplat scored Part 1 and, because the producers were impressed with his work, Part 2. Desplat said that he had read all the books and seen all the films, rewatching them again before he started his work on the score.
Composition Alexandre Desplat composed the score throughout the summer of 2010, with the London Symphony Orchestra's recording sessions beginning on 14 August. Orchestrator Conrad Pope (who also worked on the first three films) said that the music is "exciting and vigorous", commending Desplat's unique score and saying that those who like "melodies, harmonies and emotions" in their film scores should be pleased.
Desplat recognised that this film was different from the others as the main characters are now adults and away from Hogwarts, which is why he decided to use less of Hedwig's theme (originally composed by John Williams). The theme comes in at very precise moments, such as when Harry is drifting away from his childhood and when a major character dies. Since Harry and his friends are often in grave perils, Desplat compensated for the darkness "with propelling rhythmic motifs and by keeping in the music a gentle melancholy with a twist of innocence".
Limited edition soundtrack
The soundtrack was released in three standard versions that were released on 16 November 2010: a digital album with 26 tracks from the film; a deluxe digital album that included three extra tracks of unreleased music from the film, a digital booklet and a documentary video interview; a physical CD with a downloadable 5.1 audio version. Also available was a collector's box, limited to 10,000 copies and released on 21 December 2010. This set included the 26 track soundtrack, a bonus CD with 6 extra tracks of unreleased film music, a 7" vinyl disc, a poster, original 35mm film cells and frame with easel, autographed sheet music, DVD with 5.1 audio and documentary video interview, a numbered certificate of authenticity and the full album in digital download.
The film, with unfinished visual effects (green screens and ropes could be seen) and a temporary score, was test screened in Chicago on 21 August 2010. Director David Yates, producers David Heyman and David Barron along with Warner Bros. president Alan F. Horn were in attendance. Response was rave, with reactions describing the film as "the most perfect Harry Potter film ever" and "amazing and dark". However, one person noted that, because it was a faithful adaptation of the seventh book, the film inherits some of novel's own problems such as repetitive camping scenes.
Warner Bros. had originally intended for the film to come out in 3D and 2D, even advertising the fact on the posters and in trailers. However, on 8 October 2010 it was announced via a press release that they wouldn't be able to have the 3D conversion completed to a high quality in time for the film's release date. Producer David Heyman said that their priority has "always been to preserve the integrity of Jo Rowling's book" and that this decision reflected that.
Radcliffe, Watson, J.K. Rowling and Grint at the world premiere
The world premiere was held on 11 November, 2010 in London's Leicester Square. The symbol of the Hallows were displayed around the square and Death Eaters lurked throughout. Some fans came from all over the world and camped out for days to see the star-studded red carpet event, with most of the cast and key crew appearing, including author J.K. Rowling. Two cinema screens had to opened due to the large number of attendees. The U.S. premiere followed on 15 November in New York City.
The film received generally favourable reviews from critics. Based on 228 reviews on aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the site marks the film as "certified fresh" and with an approval rating of 79% and an average score of 7.1/10. Among the review outlets specifically selected for their established respectability and quality the score is 67%. The general consensus for the film is described as that "It can't help but feel like the prelude it is, but Deathly Hallows: Part I is a beautifully filmed, emotionally satisfying penultimate installment for the Harry Potter series". By comparison, Metacritic, which turns mainstream reviews into a a normalized rating, calculated an average of 68% based on 42 reviews.
Justin Chang writing for Variety spoke highly of Deathly Hallows: Part 1, saying that director David Yates achieves the most resonating moments through "lingering silences and moments of privileged intimacy" and allowing Radcliffe, Grint and Watson "some of their finest moments" in an emotional centrepiece. Chang also gave praise to Alexandre Desplat's "subtle, full-flavored" score to complement the "breathtaking contrast" of being away from Hogwarts. Roger Ebert for the Chicago Sun-Times commends the main trio on being "practiced professionals", helping to support the increased mood and character that Deathly Hallows: Part 1 boasts over the past films.
Richard Corliss in TIME didn't think of the film so highly, saying that the film generally lacks any emotional kick, meanders along and that only "Watson has the blessing of screen radiance".