BOOK REVIEW: Harry Potter- The Character Vault by Jody Revenson


AUTHOR: Jody Revenson
PUBLISHER: Titan Books

This book arrived in quite a contrast to the first one that I received to review- Harry Potter Magical Places from the Films. The black, stark cover of the Character Vault denoted that this was going to be a different read from the opulent and panoramic experience of the other book. Even by its name- the Vault- made it feel as though I was going to enter the depths of the Harry Potter world where secrets were waiting for me in the Department of Mysteries as indeed they were. Every other sentence offered me a peak behind the big picture of the movie into the individual costumes and props of the characters and it was wonderful to get to know them even more intimately than before.

This is also true working through the pages which are plain visually, little surrounds the image of the costume and character. By having few images, one is forced to focus on the minutiae of each costume, each piece of fabric and each prop that creates the character and it is always a joy to do so.

For those of us that have kids, we often bemoan that they grow so fast and we are always having to replace their wardrobe. I feel for the Harry Potter costume designers, ‘More than 25,000 items of clothing were created… including 600 plus school uniforms- new robes had to be created each year for the growing children’.

Harry’s scar was applied approximately 5000 times between Daniel Radcliffe himself and his two doubles. Not least applied so many times because, as a younger actor, he would pick it off during his own classes.

Colour themes are important for example, Harry wasn’t comfortable in his own skin, particularly when we first meet him and so his colour palette is navies, greys and other muted colours. Colours that allow him to sink into the background and not be noticed. Other characters, particularly the girls change their wardrobe and colour schemes as they grow out of their mother’s careful dressing of their little girls to young women with their own tastes and identities.  Costuming is so important to the actors in understanding more about who they are playing and their input also appreciated as the films developed.

It is a testament to the makeup artists that Matthew Lewis has been noted as one of the top child actors to have made a ‘transformation’ into handsome adulthood. In fact so good is the makeup job that one of his fellow actors believed his pudgy, bucktoothed appearance to be his unfortunate genetics. In reality it was the work of a fat suit, prosthetic teeth and plastic ear enhancers to make him look like the Neville we all know so well from the novels.

Wands reflect their owners Ron’s being more natural like a root, Harry’s made as though plucked straight from the tree. As Ollivander would say the wand chooses its owner and this seems to have happened to the actors themselves. Interestingly it is the only area where Fred and George have a very particular identity since their other clothes either match or compliment each other.

The change of actors from Richard Harris to Michael Gambon necessitated a shift in costuming from the more traditional look for Richard Harris to the ‘aging hippie’ self description of Michael Gambon who wore more tie die and flamboyant clothing.

Hagrid provided a challenge as a giant using a 6 foot ten rugby player in a ‘Robbie’ suit to film scenes where Hagrid’s stature would be most apparent. JK Rowling had based the character on a Hells Angel that she knew and this was a great starting point for what was to come. Hagrid was never known for his sartorial taste so his moleskin suit was made out of fabric which the designers painstakingly cut into the shape of litte moles.

Stunts would create their own obstacles with clothes being created for Daniel Radcliffe and his doubles. Each would then be created five more times in various stages of destruction and wear as Harry took on an enemy or challenge.

Jody Revenson has once again created a door way to Harry Potter in just the right way, her expertise is in seeking out the satisfying hidden information that is so important to fans. By reading this book, one can re-examine the films with a fresh eye, seeking out that props or bit of stitching that emphasises and explains the characters so discreetly but so vitally.

Rating: 5 /5

Reviewer: The Aviator

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