On this episode of Finding Christ In Cinema, we take the tunnel from under the Whomping Willow to the Shrieking Shack as we look for Christian themes in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. We’re talking Hippogriffs, Dementors, and Patronus Charms, oh my! All that and more in 3…2…1!

Interested in the Reel News mentioned at the beginning of the show?  Now, you can find links to these articles under the movie review/discussion section. But don’t worry: the link to the show notes is still available in the penultimate paragraph.

Also, be sure to check out our previous ventures into the Wizarding World by listening to our other Harry Potter episodes.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Michael and I both love this film, and our love for it is deeply rooted in its directorial style. Alfonso Cuarón changed the game of adapting the Potter series from novel to film. Through his style, we no longer see Harry’s life as a golden, glowing spectacle that the first two films portray; instead, Cuarón draws on the themes of light vs. dark (Patronus vs. Dementors, animal vs. human, etc.) and uses that dichotomy to help tell the story of the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Of course, we are also introduced to two crowd-favorite characters: Professor Lupin and Sirius Black played by David Thewlis and Gary Oldman respectively. These guys bring their best to an already outstanding cast

God As Our Patronus

In Prisoner of Azkaban, we are introduced to the Patronus Charm. Lupin equips Harry with this spell because Harry, through facing a Boggart in a Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom exercise, learns that he is more afraid of the Dementors than even Voldemort himself. Because the Dementors feed on the life and soul of their targets, the Patronus Charm acts as a shield between the soul and the Dementor.

Of course, what traditionally fuels the Patronus is the incantator’s happiest memory, and the strength of that memory determines the strength of the Patronus. When Harry first tries this charm, he fails because his “happy memory” was of him riding a broom for the first time. After a strong rebuke from Lupin, Harry remembers something else: that his parents love him. This is enough to overpower the practice Dementor and later proves to be powerful enough for not just one real Dementor but a whole brigade of them.

This is the scene from HARRY POTTER AND PRISONER OF AZKABAN where Harry protects himself and a barely-alive Sirius Black from incoming Dementors by using his Patronus charm.It’s interesting to note that the Latin word “patronus” translates to “defender.” It just makes all the more sense that this charm is what defends people from evil beings like Dementors. This automatically reminds me of David’s exclamation in Psalm 59:9-10:

God, my strength, I am looking to you, because God is my defender. My God loves me, and he goes in front of me. He will help me defeat my enemies.

So whevener we’re up against the Dementors of life, we have to remember that our God loves us, that He is our Defender – our Patronus – and that He goes before us, and defeats our Dementors (chocolate wouldn’t hurt, either).

Dementors of Death and the Condemnation of Buckbeak

Michael brings us the double whammy this week by honing in on two creatures of the Wizarding World: hippogriffs and Dementors.

First, we talk about the Dementors (since they provide a better segue from the Patronus discussion). Dementors symbolize death in many ways: they make no distinction between those for whom they’re looking and those who stand in the way, they show no mercy, and they do not forgive; if that doesn’t sound like the Grim Reaper, I don’t know what does.

FCC - HP3 DementorThen, we talk about Buckbeak and hippogriffs in general, those beautiful half-eagle/half-horse creatures. As we learn in Hagrid’s class, they are very proud creatures, are easily offended, and will act on impulse whenever they feel threatened. We see this in action when Buckbeak strikes Draco because of the latter’s mockery. Because of this, Buckbeak was sentenced to death for this act by the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures, most of whom had been threatened by Lucius Malfoy, Draco’s father, into voting for that verdict. Isn’t that just like (the) Satan (accuser/adversary)?

FCC - HP3 BuckbeakOf course, Dumbledore, in all his vast and wide Dumbledority, saves the day by reminding Hermione to use the Time Turner so that “more than one life can be spared.” Everything is put back to rights, and the executioner’s services are no longer required.

It’s almost as if Dumbledore knew how everything was going to resolve, and it reminds us of Paul’s greeting in his second letter to Timothy:

For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.

Reel News

Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes, including links to articles discussed, by clicking here.

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About Brenden Taylor

Brenden is an educational assistant and tutor by day and a theatre practitioner by night. He has his M.A. in Theatre Arts and is always looking for a way to use good stories to soften people's hearts.
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  • Ron of the Red Oaks

    There was so much more in this episode than I ever realized… I think that should be my comment for every episode of FCiC. Great work once again delving deeply into the plots and mechanics of Harry Potter. Have you ever wonmdered where we would be without JKR’s books today? Perish the thought! There would most likely be fewer readers and writers who began their literary journeys with Harry Potter in the cupboard under the stairs. My comments kind of piggy back what Michael was saying, only I once again look to the Law of the Old Testament for a parallel. In my mind I see the dementors, or as Uncle Vernon calls them “dementoids”, as being the Law. There, as Michael said, is no mercy in them at all.
    ***James 2:10 (KJV) “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”
    or in the RSV “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.”
    This is not a complete parallel, but bear with me. The dementors sensed something in Harry, perhaps it was the remains of Voldemort’s magic in his scar or
    ************SPOILER ALERT********
    a piece of Voldemort stuck in Harry himself that they were after…..
    Either way, the dementors sensed there was something odd about Harry, like the stink of guilt.
    Likewise, the Law serves as a mirror and shows us our sin, but it is powerless to save us from our sins.
    ***Romans 7:7 (KJV)What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
    ***Romans 7:9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
    ***Romans 7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
    So, we have Harry being confronted as it were by his “sin” or “sin nature” and the Law in the guise of the dementor “coming for its pound of flesh”…but alas, dear friends all is not lost!
    *** Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
    ***Galatians 2:19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.
    ***Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
    Prof. Lupin is to Harry a mentor, much as Paul is to the churches in Rome and Galatia, pointing out the Law, its purpose and our role in relation to it. If we could lift the veil and look at the spirit world we would surely see some dementor-esque beings hounding our footsteps, but we have the best reason to have hope joy and happiness, our Saviour
    ***1John 4:17,18 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
    and finally Harry comes to terms with his abilities (using his Patronus..his source of happiness was thoughts of his parents….our source of joy is our loving savior, Christ) and although he lives in a world full of dementors he has a source of happiness that cannot be overcome. Dementors still exist the rest of Harry’s life, but now he knows he has a way of being delivered from their clutches.
    ***1Corinthians 15:55-57 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
    Gotta run…thanks for helping us find Christ in Cinema.
    ***Passages courtesy of http://www.blueletterbible.com
    PS. Brenden, I have “Farther Along” by Josh Garrels on my iPod and I love it. It was my late father’s favorite hymn and it means even more with Josh’s arrangement…thanks for the tips about “Drop Box” too.

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