Monday, September 28, 2009

Chamber of Secrets

(Cover art by Mary GrandPre)

We were ready to travel to Tennessee, and I updated the music and the audio books on my two mp3 players - two because one isn't enough when I want to take more than one Harry Potter book with me. So I had the end of Half-Blood Prince and all of Chamber of Secrets, which I haven't listened to for quite some time.

For one thing, I love listening to Stephen Fry reading it. One of the most interesting things about the first four Harry Potter books is that he recorded them before the first movie came out, and before any of the characters were cast. Fry's Hagrid sounds just like Robbie Coltrane; Dumbledore sounds different than Richard Harris but somehow has the same lightness to his voice that came through in Harris's performances. Book Dobby and movie Dobby are very similar. Fry's McGonagall, of course, doesn't sound like Maggie Smith's voice, except in tone and the crispness of diction, if that makes sense.

Stephen Fry doesn't try to sound like a woman, except his voice is a little higher, but not too exagerated. It's very hard for a man to sound like a twelve year old girl, but he portrays Hermione in a very believable voice, getting the impatience and prissiness. Well, Hermione's not prissy, but it's that know-it-all tone of voice. (It was actually hearing Jim Dale read Hermione and Molly in Goblet of Fire that decided me against wanting to hear any more from him - too high pitched to the point that it was grating and so over-done.)

Stephen Fry nails the haughtiness of Lucius Malfoy and of Draco. And the oiliness of Borgin. But the one that amazes me is his reading of Gilderoy Lockhart. It sounds just like Kenneth Brannagh. I sometimes have to remind myself that it isn't. The accent, the inflection, the pacing. It's perfect. So I was thinking that all of that is due to the writing. Rowling apparently wrote all of those characters (including all the Weasleys, parents as well as the children) in such a way that whoever is reading will have such a vivid image of the characters that the voice will just be natural. Oh, and I didn't mention Tom Riddle, but that's perfect as well. Especially the high pitched laugh that Rowling describes - which I've always had trouble hearing, until I heard Stephen Fry do it.

The only one that isn't the same is Severus Snape. Fry does read him with a thin, waspish sounding voice, which is what is described. But it sounds nothing like Alan Rickman. By the time he read Order of the Phoenix, Fry had changed the voice of Snape so it is very like Rickman's. And so much the better. Snape is much more sinister and threatening and terrifying when he sounds like Rickman. (I'll add that is one of the few changes from book to movie that I really thought worked well. While Rickman doesn't look the way I saw or heard Snape when I read the first four books, his version works better on screen. Rather than Snape screaming at Harry, Snape speaking in a lower more deliberate manner better conveys that he is barely controlling his anger and hatred for Harry.)

And so now that I'm almost to the end, I think I'll continue on through and listen to Prisoner of Azkaban next. Thankfully now, I have all of my music and four audio books on one mp3 player. Terry gave me a new one with 6 times as much memory. Nice.



Travis Prinzi said...

Great thoughts on Fry's reading!

His reading of Tom Riddle, whether young or old, is spectacular. I had the same experience as you with the "high, cold" voice. Dale's attempt at that is just far to cartoonish. I get chills nigh on terror when I hear Fry read Voldemort's speech after his rebirth in Goblet.

He does something funny with Dumbledore in Book 4. I like Dale's Dumbledore, but Fry's is more accurate to the text - it's a deep voice. But in Book 4, he almost mimics Dale's Dumbledore, and then returns to the deeper-voiced Dumbledore in 5.

Anyway, random reflections. And excellent thoughts about the vividness Rowling's characters.

Eeyore said...

Thanks, Travis. I always feel like I'm being a bit unfair to Jim Dale since I haven't listened to much of his readings, so it's helpful to hear from someone who has heard them both.

I hadn't thought about Fry's Dumbledore in GOF being different. But I haven't listened to that for quite a while. Goblet of Fire has just never been one of my favorites, but I'll revisit it as I work my way through the books again.

Travis Prinzi said...

Goblet's easily my least favorite. The plot hole is just too big for me to seriously enjoy the book.

I wanted to also say you're spot on about the way Dale does women's voices as opposed to Fry. Hermione, Molly, and Minerva are all so over-done by Dale that I can hardly listen.