To love is to return to a home we never left, to remember who we are.
We live in a story-shaped world. As children we were introduced to realms of enchantment in fairy tales. Each of us can recall at least one favorite that spoke to the deepest part of ourselves. As we grew older, we looked to a variety of other story forms to entertain, instruct, and sometimes even transform us.
This screen adaptation of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is directed by Chris Columbus (Bicentennial Man, Mrs. Doubtfire, Home Alone) from a screenplay by Steve Kloves (Wonder Boys). It is an ideal film for a family or a cross-generational group to view and discuss together. The movie is first and foremost a rousing adventure story set in an imaginary realm. We are invited to step into the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and learn some things about ourselves and what is most important to us.
Think of this Values & Visions Film Guide as a magic wand that will help you unlock seven different doors inside yourself. Each of us is a mansion with many rooms filled with ideas, values, feelings, fears, hopes, and yearnings. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is an occasion for us all to consider the spiritual vibrancies of imagination, birthdays, friends, flights of fantasy, desire, the mark of love, and heroism.
The film runs 152 minutes and is rated PG for some scary moments and mild language. For our review of the film and a plot synopsis, click here.
"Our spiritual famine has concluded," Episcopal priest Lauren Artress wrote in her 1995 book Walking a Sacred Path. "We are just beginning to restore the honor of the imagination."
- Have each person in your family or viewing party name the one character he or she most identified with in the film. Describe that person in a few words. Then tell of an incident in your life similar to one experienced by your character.
- As an expression of our creativity, imagination enables us to boldly explore the world. What is the first clue in the movie that Harry is a creative and exceptional young boy? How have you exercised your imagination this week in your exploration of the world?
"Celebrating a birthday is exalting life and being glad for it. On a birthday, we do not say: 'Thanks for what you did, or said, or accomplished.' No, we say: 'Thank you for being born and being among us.' Celebrating a birthday reminds us of the goodness of life," Henri J. M. Nouwen observed in Here and Now.
- Describe Harry Potter's life before his eleventh birthday. Why is that day so special for him? What does Hagrid tell him that lifts his spirits so much?
- One of the central human needs is to be acknowledged and loved for who we are. Recall your favorite birthday and share a story of why it was so special for you on an emotional level.
"Most friendships worth their salt are those nourished in human struggle," Robert Veninga has written.
- What do you think draws Harry, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger together as friends? What character qualities are brought out in each of them in their struggle against Voldemort? What is Professor Dumbledore referring to when he says: "It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends"?
- What have you learned about yourself and your friends during some crisis you went through together?
4. FLIGHTS OF FANTASY
Two of the most magical sequences in the movie are when Harry first flies on a broomstick and when he puts on his cloak of invisibility and goes exploring.
- Have you ever fantasized that you could fly? How did you imagine it felt? Or, better yet, share a dream you had of yourself flying. What did you experience?
- Have each member of your viewing party complete the following sentence: If I had a cloak of invisibility, I would . . .
Harry is entranced when he looks into the Mirror of Erised (Desire spelled backwards) and for the first time sees his mother and father. But Dumbledore, the headmaster of the school, warns him not to get too attached to the mirror. "It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live."
- What thoughts and feelings did you have during the scene when Harry looks at his parents in the mirror? What is their legacy to him?
- The mirror shows those who peer into it their heart's desire. What do you think you would see in the mirror?
6. THE MARK OF LOVE
"To love," Elisabeth Kubler-Ross has stated, "means never to be afraid of the windstorms of life."
- Professor Dumbledore tells Harry that his mother's love has served as a protection for him. What does the headmaster mean by this? What is your reaction to Ron Weasley's effort at sacrificial love?
- Who has left their "mark of love" upon you? How has it shaped you, guided you, or inspired you?
"Heroism should not be confused with strength. Our concept of the hero must be humanized to include ideas of sacrifice, even of failure," novelist, essayist, and cultural commentator John Updike has noted.
- In what ways does Harry Potter the hero differ from Superman, Batman, James Bond, and other screen adventurers?
- It took George Sheehan, the running doctor, half his life to realize: "I have found my hero and that person is me." Have you ever thought of yourself as a hero? What was the situation and what did you do?
This guide is one in a series of more than 200 Values & Visions Guides written by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat. Text copyright 2001 by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat. Photos courtesy of Warner Bros. This guide is posted as a service to visitors to www.SpiritualityandPractice.com. It may not be photocopied, reprinted, or distributed electronically without permission from Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat except it may be duplicated for use by groups participating in the e-course "Going to the Movies as a Spiritual Practice." For other uses and for a list of guides in the Values & Visions series and ordering information, email your name and mailing address to: firstname.lastname@example.org.