The second instalment to the franchise is infamous for being one of the least liked films in the series. It was also the last one to be directed by Chris Columbus. Like every other Harry Potter story, JK Rowling did an amazing job preparing kids about the harsh realities of life whilst still emphasising on the triumph of good over evil, love over hatred and acceptance over hostility.
If the first film was about finding a home, the second one is about feeling isolated at the very same place. Right from the beginning, we are shown Harry looking at his photo album, seeing a picture of him with his parents and then one with his new family – Hermione and Ron. Harry is hurt that none of his friends tried reaching out to him at all during the entire break. After finally having a place to belong to and people to call home, Harry is left feeling isolated and alone at the Dursley’s on his birthday eve. Even Dobby, the house elf who had never previously met Harry, knew that to manipulate Harry into staying home and not go back to Hogwarts for his second year, he would need Harry to feel like no one missed him or wanted him back. That it is clear as day to everyone that the one thing Harry craves for most in his life, is for a place where he is safe and loved.
I have called the theme for this movie as Deceptive Differences. But what exactly do I mean by that? When you look at individual characters in the plot, and not get distracted with the whole suspense and high stakes of the plot itself, you will find Dobby, the house elf who is slave to the wizarding family; Hermione, a muggle born who is treated like a Jew during Nazi times by few elitist wizards; Arthur, the pureblood muggle lover who is treated as a traitor since he feels empathy and even respect for the non-magic folks; Salazar Slytherin, who wanted to only admit pure-bloods to the school; Gilderoy Lockhart who has basically been a charlatan the entire time as he took credit of other people’s work and gained fame out of it; Tom Riddle who initially comes off as a charming and helpful boy, only to be eventually revealed as Lord Voldemort himself; and lastly Harry, who is shunned by other students when it is revealed that Harry is a parseltongue.
All these people are either shown hate and discrimination for being different, or are entirely different people than they appear on the surface. In simple terms, this movie tries to teach us that we can never make conclusions about anyone or anything on an apparent level since the initial perception and actual reality can be on completely opposite ends of the spectrum. One simple example of this is the quote “Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself” which teaches us the same lesson of going beyond what is on the surface and is apparent before making decisions about something. Everyone is scared of calling Voldemort by his name, save for a select few people. But the name does not do anything except make people even more scared of Voldemort. Similarly, when Harry shows loyalty to Dumbledore, which causes Fawkes to come down and help him, Harry shows respect and support to his professor behind his back; it comes from a deeper side of Harry and that is what calls Fawkes down in the chamber.
To conclude, there is a statement which Dumbledore gives to Harry at the end of the film, which concludes this blog as well – “It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices.” Our abilities are just something we may have learnt and may use for a short period of time. Our choices, however, are a culmination of all our collective experiences. They go way beyond just the momentary situations. They come from within and get informed from every past circumstance. Our choices are beyond the apparent. Therefore, they are not deceptive differences for us, but instead they are our inner truth.