Scene of the Week: The Death of Albus Dumbledore
The title is a spoiler, and I do not apologise. If, somehow, you haven’t read the books or seen the films by now, then it’s fair game! This week, I’ve picked a scene from the Harry Potter films, The Half-Blood Prince specifically, and this series of films is extremely close to my heart. As mentioned in my Actor of the Week article on the late, great Alan Rickman, my brother and I have a huge fondness for them, cementing them as a family favourite of ours.
The scene begins with Harry and Dumbledore arriving back at the school, and Dumbledore is wounded from the mission they had just undertaken. Dumbledore, usually a man of great presence and confidence, is clearly in a grave place, and asks Harry to fetch Rickman’s Severus Snape. Before Harry can leave to do so, it’s clear they are no longer alone, with noise coming from the bottom of the tower. Dumbledore then implores with a reluctant Harry to hide himself out of view and to trust him, and Harry complies. We then see a haggard looking Draco Malfoy appear, putting across a mixture of anger and fear, clearly having a bee in his bonnet. There is then further exchange between Malfoy and Dumbledore, who’s soft, calm, loving personality shines through wonderfully via Michael Gambon’s superb skill, when he pleads with Draco to let him help him. It’s clear that Malfoy is beyond help, and is hell bent on completing the mission that we find out Lord Voldemort has sent him on - to kill Dumbledore. Tom Felton is also excellent in this scene, when he explains that he has to kill Dumbledore or Voldemort will kill him. He brings a vulnerability to his part, clearly illustrating he is well out of his depth. Draco’s back-up then shows up, highlighting that Hogwarts has finally been breached and is in real danger.
The real weight in the scene comes when Severus Snape does turn up. Initially, he pops up alongside Harry, where he is hidden below the platform on which Dumbledore and Malfoy are confronting one another. He holds his finger to his lips, seemingly both keeping Harry quiet, but also reassuring him. Then, following a cry of “Go on, Draco… NOW!” from Bellatrix Lestrange, Snape ascends to the top level, and Rickman delivers a calm but authoritative ‘No.’ in that supremely signature voice of his. There is a simple ‘Severus… please’ from Dumbledore, and then Snape does the unthinkable and unleashes an ‘Avada Kedavra’, or a killing curse, and send Dumbledore tumbling of the edge of the tower, dead before he hits the ground. The disbelief in Harry’s eyes, coupled with the slow-motion fall of Dumbledore’s is enough to tip anyone over the edge, it’s the emotional end of a legendary character at the hand, or wand, of his closest friend and ally.
The score for Half-Blood Prince was provided by Nicholas Hooper, and the track that plays in the background of this particular scene is called The Killing of Dumbledore. It’s naturally a rather sombre piece, gradually putting together the pieces of what is to come, before reaching a crescendo right at the point of Snape’s curse inflicting his end. It’s a difficult listen in isloation, but coupled with the scene, it helps deliver the hammer blow.
I’m a huge fan of these films, as previously stated, and this scene is right up there with my favourites from the entire series. Michael Gambon deserves all the praise in the world for his portrayal of Dumbledore, and all his best traits are on show in this phenomenal four-and-a-half minutes. Enjoy!