Last Harry Potter post for a few months, I promise! The new film was brilliant, I loved it. There are spoilers for both the film and the other half of the book below, so if you haven't read the book, stop reading now!
Like most of the later stories, direct Classical references are restricted mostly to the Latin spells, and to Xenophilius Lovegood not quite living up to his name (roughly, 'brotherly lover of foreigners/strangers'. Betraying your guests to Lord Voldemort definitely constitutes a breach of xenia, guest-friendship, the often unwritten rules surrounding visits and relationships with other families/rulers/warriors etc).
What is really interesting about Deathly Hallows for me, though, is its use of folktale. 'Folktale' is a really difficult thing to pin down and define. There are whole academic journals devoted to 'folklore', but it is also possible to argue that, at least in the ancient world, 'folklore' as a separate category did not exist. Where does 'myth' stop and 'folklore' begin? Often, the answers suggested have a slight air of snobbishness about them, with 'folklore' being stories told by 'ordinary people'. More satisfactory is the idea that myth is inextricably connected to religion, while folklore is not, but in the ancient world, even this doesn't entirely hold up. Various sections from the Odyssey are often identified as folklore (most convincingly, the instruction to Odysseus to carry his oar inland until he finds a place where no one knows what it is, and settle there - there's an excellent article on this by William Hansen in Lowell Edmunds' Approaches to Greek Myth). But most of us would happily place the Odyssey under 'myth'. And although some ancient myths are closely tied to religious practice, not all of them are, so where do we draw the line? This perhaps becomes easier once we move out of the ancient world and into the Christian era in the West, since the division between official religion and other supernatural stories suddenly becomes much stronger.
The invented folktales in Deathly Hallows, I think, bear the closest resemblence to the Franco-Germanic folktales collected by the Brothers Grimm (many of their stories came from middle to upper class French ladies, so how close they are to the oral tradition among German peasants is hard to say). The three brothers, in particular, is a common theme among European fairy tales. Classical mythology also lacks such a strong Death figure - Hades is the god of the underworld, and would come closest, but Persephone is also frequently referenced in her role as Queen of the underworld while Hercules or Mercury sometimes lead people down to the underworld, so there isn't so much of a single figure to focus on. (By the way, I realise I've been using 'fairy tale' and 'folktale' interchangeably, which is also a bit naughty - see JRR Tolkien's 'On Fairy Stories', which is a brilliant deconstruction of the term 'fairy tale').
I'm never quite sure how I feel about the fact that the folktales here are actually inventions by Rowling. Of course, I realise, they have to be, because there are no real stories about an Elder Wand, Resurrection Stone or Invisibility Cloak of Death. And the existence in the Potterverse of a whole community of wizards the rest of us know nothing about means that the appearance of invented fairy tales does not stand out as much as Joss Whedon's similar use of invented fairy tales in the Buffy episode 'Hush', which is an absolutely fantastic episode but did, on first viewing, leave me thinking 'Is this a fairy tale I don't know about?!' I find it a shame, in a way, that after seeing so many 'real' mythological beasts and tales from all over Europe, we end on 'fake' ones, but they have a very real feel to them which works rather nicely. The shadow puppet representation of the story in the film is really beautiful - it has an incredibly spooky feel to it, the look is perfect for a folkloric tale and the sequence also lifts the film at a point where, judging from the noise the kids behind us in the cinema were making, children might be starting to get restless.
Hermione selects a number of really uncomfortable looking campsites in this film, and this one has to be the worst - the muddy estuary underneath the second Severn Bridge!
There is one important difference between these and genuine, orally transmitted folk tales though. 'Real' folk tales, which are traditional and have no one identified creator, do not tend to carry a moral message. This is not to say we can't draw moral messages from them, often extremely dubious ones ('Beauty and the Beast' has some particularly dodgey implications about male/female relationships). But that's not usually their primary objective, probably because the telling and re-telling of them tends to dilute any such object. There are, on the other hand, related tales which are like folk tales and are sometimes called fairy tales, but which have a specific message to impart to the reader or listener and which tend to be the inventions of specific authors - Aesop's fables, Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales or Oscar Wilde's short tales, for example. The Tales of Beedle the Bard are of this type. Ron's reference to his mother saying 'midnight' instead of 'twilight' suggests that these stories have a strong oral tradition, but Hermione's copy has a clear author, Beedle (plus a real life author, Rowling), and the story has a clear message - you cannot cheat Death. (Of course, these are actually about 'real' Potterverse things and are presumably 'true' in the story, which makes them a bit different, but I think going into that would just confuse the issue!).
As for other stuff... well, I loved it. I think the decision to split it into two films was genuinely the right artistic decision, as this film was so much better paced, since it could take its time over everything. I think the split point was well chosen, though I would have added a final scene with Lupin, Tonks and the baby to lighten it up a bit and give the film a slightly stronger sense of closure - as some critics have pointed out, it does stop rather abruptly, but all it needed was an extra conversation with a more rounded-up feeling to it. And who would have thought, when he turned up as an unbelievingly irritating character on a par with Jar-Jar Binks in Chamber of Secrets, that Dobby would end up having a death on roughly the same trauma level as Simba's dad in The Lion King or Bambi's mother?! (What that an animatronic Harry was holding by the way? Whatever it was, it was very good). I bawled like a baby at that bit.
I was rather surprised to see Bill and Fleur's wedding, as I had assumed that this would be altered to Lupin and Tonks' wedding, since we've seen basically nothing of their romance on screen and we're supposed to care about their family in Part Two, whereas Bill and Fleur don't do much of significance in the rest of the story. Still, it was nice to see Fleur and Madame Maxime again (shame there wasn't time for Krum). I loved seeing poor Hermione leave her parents and Harry and Hermione's little dance was very sweet (though my friend pointed out that Harry dances a bit like a Dad at a wedding). It was wonderful to see John Hurt back as well - Chris Columbus should be saluted for casting fabulous actors in tiny cameos in the first film, when we had no idea where they were going to end up (I think we're all particularly looking forward to Mrs Weasley's finest hour in Part Two).
The film has a muted, depressed tone - obviously - and the numerous references to Nazi Germany were blindingly obvious, though no less effective for that (though I did think that the woman under interrogation being dressed as if she was from the 1940s was going a bit far. And why did our heroes' tent look like a bunker - couldn't Hermione have brought some cushions? And a better radio?). The locket, thankfully, did not resemble the One Ring too much, though the one good thing about that particular blatent steal is that at least, unlike certain hobbits, our heroes go for the very sensible option of sharing the wearing of it. I really never, never wanted to see that much of Harry and Hermione in the evil vision though.
It's partly because of the very well presented depressed tone that it might have been nice to see the baby at the end - ending on a tragic death makes dramatic sense, but does result in everyone leaving the cinema feeling kind of downcast, which isn't really what I look for in Harry Potter! These are minor niggles though - this is a brilliant adaptation, one of the best yet, and to be fair there is plenty of (genuinely funny) humour scattered throughout. Not quite as good as Goblet of Fire, but highly recommended.
I love Hermione's dress for the wedding, it's such a beautiful colour. And I want her lovely beaded bag, gigantic magic expansion room or not!