In the summer of 2017, an impressive fan-made trailer for a film called Voldemort: Origins of the Heir was released on YouTube. The video went viral, amassing over thirty million hits in just two days, with people all over the world wondering if a feature was truly going to follow. It quickly became clear that the trailer was for an unofficial fan-made film by Italian production house Tryangle Films, and on January 13, 2018, the 52-minute film was released on YouTube.
Based on J. K. Rowling’s famous Harry Potter book series and a script from Gianmaria Pezzato, and starring a host of Italian actors and actresses including Stefano Rossi, Maddalena Orcali, and Alessio Dalla Costa, the film explores the last few months of Tom Riddle’s life (who would later become Lord Voldemort), from his final year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to his job at Borgin and Burkes before he goes off the grid (as per Rowling’s books).
The time frame in which the film is set is without a doubt one of the most interesting in the entire Harry Potter universe. What is it that led Tom Riddle to become such a dark force? How did he do it? Were there no signs? What is the story of the Horcruxes, the objects that rendered him immortal? How did he get them? How did he amass such power? Could he have been stopped?
These are all questions the film tries to answer. And despite the ambitious effort, it doesn’t quite delve into any of them enough to leave a lasting impression on the viewer. This goes back to the lackluster script. The storyline at the core of Origins of the Heir is interesting enough, and could have been adapted in a much simpler, more effective way. The inclusion of multiple, rather useless subplots (the Soviet Aurors, the romantic interest, and so on) and a twist ending (that essentially puts everything prior into question) is distracting and takes away vital screen time that could have been used in favour of a more cohesive product that took a more psychological look at the boy who became the Dark Lord.
What is the objective a film is trying to achieve? That is always a question filmmakers (and critics) must ask. And in the case of Origins of the Heir, the answer to that question seems to be lost somewhere between the provision of insights into Voldemort’s youth, the humanising efforts of the film, and the beginnings of his becoming. To transform into a force of such evil is undoubtedly a solitary affair, and a look into the isolation of Tom Riddle and the experiences of the few people that crossed paths with him at the time seem indispensable to his narrative, and the film ultimately fails to bring that to light, presenting a cliché, two-dimensional character seeking power.
It may not be perfect, but the film does have astounding production merits going for it. It was made on a budget of about $18,500, but Pezzato and producer Stefano Prestia’s final product, save for a few missteps here and there, could pass as a true studio production. From the the shots to the editing to the fantastic cinematography and colour grading, the film creates an eerie, dark atmosphere fitting of its subject matter, combining tropes of history-influenced European cinema with the rawness of British cinema. It comes as no surprise that Warner Brothers greenlit the project.
Despite the misguided storyline, the film is technically well-made and well-acted (though none of the actors and actresses particularly stands out, in part due to the poor dub). And while the latter doesn’t make up for the former, this is still something to be commended. In a world where money rules, what these filmmakers have achieved will serve as testament to their talent and hope for aspiring filmmakers. It is a flawed but wonderful effort, and given the right material and resources, the next feature to come out of Tryangle Films might just be something to be reckoned with.
Voldemort: Origins of the Heir is available to watch here.