Xenomorph’s Paradox: John Hurt
Bit of business to take care of…
Firstly, yes I’m the Friday guy now.
Secondly, I have a Patreon now, so if you like my stuff, and have some cash to spare, then you know what to do. Now. A few discerning people have already done it, or promised to, and you should copy them if you want to look cool and hard and clever. My patrons already have exclusive access to two pieces of my fiction-writing. Form an orderly queue, fans.
Thirdly, Episode 2 of Wrong With Authority is up. It’s a new(ish) podcast about movies that claim to be based on real history, and features myself, the laconic James Murphy, the leonine Kit Power, and Daniel Harper, who possesses no qualities beginning with ‘L’. We take it in turn to pick films and host episodes. This episode is Daniel’s, and it’s about two Oscarbait biopics of mathematicians, A Beautiful Mind and The Imitation Game.
Finally, ‘Xenomorph’s Paradox’ is a series about Alien and its various progenitors, progeny, parasites, predators, paratexts, para-phenomena, and paraphernalia. As some of you will know, I’ve been planning it for a long time. This post doesn’t necessarily mean the series is about to kick-off in full. But recent events prompted at least one installment. Things that have now retroactively become part of the series may be found here and here.
Harry Potter actor John Hurt has died. That’s how some news sources announced it. And that’s fine. I’m not here to sneer at that. For a generation, John Hurt was, first and foremost, Ollivander the wand-maker. And it’s not hard to see why. Hurt’s cameo is one of the most interesting spots in that first Potter film.
There’s a very real sense in which the film treats Hurt like its trump card. His appearance is given great weight. Harry walks into a mysterious, empty shop. There’s nobody about. He calls out. No answer. Then Ollivander slides into shot from nowhere on a rolling library ladder. The ladder is attached to shelves full of boxes of wands, immediately likening wands to books.
Ollivander is, from the start, the guardian of hidden knowledge.
Ollivander is one of the most interesting characters in the first book, because – unlike almost everyone else in it – he is allowed ambiguity. His ambiguity, moreover, is not connected to any plot point. It doesn’t mean anything in Rowling’s whodunnit structure. It has no payoff. It’s just there to be an interesting ambiguity. Ollivander is genial, amiable, helpful, and Harry is not sure he likes him. Harry, who normally strongly likes or dislikes people immediately, and is almost always proved right, isn’t sure about Ollivander. And this is left open, until Rowling retrofits some more content onto it in later books. But even this retrofitting doesn’t resolve Ollivander one way or the other.
Ollivander’s view of things is one that is not known about, shared, believed, or understood by almost anyone else. Without getting bogged-down in details, Ollivander turns out to be a devotee of occult knowledge, of hidden knowledge about wands, and of lore and myth and legend about a secret, counter-history of magic.…