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"He's back"

We went to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix last night. The children watched in spellbound silence except for one little voice that occasionally offered a sotto voce “No!” The American audience applauded at the end, and everyone seemed to think it was a terrific film.

Having dinner afterwards by the lake and noticing an owl fly over the movie theatre, I reflected that author JK Rowling had a rather uncanny grasp of the political and cultural straits we’re in.

The film describes increasing government controls; a proliferation of odious regulations that repress individual initiative while keeping no one safe; and dumbed-down education that emphasizes banal theories over experience. There’s also mind control and the witless connivance of the government with the enemies of all that is good.

The school villainess, Dolores Umbridge, is wonderfully played by Imelda Staunton as a bureaucratic tyrant who is self-righteous, vindictive, and delusional in the interest of the “higher good”.

In positive contrast, the children of Hogwarts keep the flame of liberty and learning alive by exercising freedom of choice and private enterprise. And in the film at least the Ministry of Magic finally realizes the error of its ways.

A host of fine British actors appear, though sometimes only briefly, including Michael Gambon, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Isaacs, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, and Maggie Smith. Daniel Radcliffe is a fierce Harry. London, which appears as itself, is glorious at night.