Four FAVORITE LIBRARIES FROM FILM on Friday
Last night at dinner, I was talking with my family about different topic ideas for my FOUR ON FRIDAY blog feature. After tossing around a number of different options, we focused in on favorite libraries in movies. A lively discussion ensued as we shared ideas and favorites. Of course, then we had to go online and comment (and criticize!) ones that were listed there.
There are a lot of good library scenes in movies, but I decided to base my criteria for personal favorites on two things: the importance of the library to the plot and the sheer awesomeness of the library itself. The Beast’s personal library is Beauty and the Beast, the Library of Congress in National Treasure: Book of Secrets, and the New York Public Library in Ghostbusters are all great library scenes and worth mentioning, but the following are my personal favorites.
The Venice Library in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
X never marks the spot, but in this movie, it did! The Venice Library serves as a beautiful setting in the first part of this classic movie as Indy, Dr. Elsa Schneider, and Marcus Brody search for the Knight’s Tomb. The plot point is essential as it leads Indy to find more clues to discover the secret location of the Holy Grail. The library setting is breath-taking as the setting sun shines through the stained glass window. The stone columns and dusty light create an almost ancient feel, which I am sure is what the director was going for. Who could forget the metal spiral staircase that Indy races up as he discovers the spot marked X.
The scene was shot at the Biblioteca di San Barnaba, a library on the Piazza San Marco in Venice, and had originally been a medieval church. It also was built over the site of a monastery that housed monks who helped to build the catacombs under the city, and the ones that Indy and Elsa explore. I have always loved the idea of a mysterious tunnel buried under a library. I think it appeals to my romantic sense of how libraries truly are entrances to new worlds.
River City Library in The Music Man.
What a fun scene in a great musical! Professor Harold Hill dances around and is “shushed” by all the patrons in the River City Library as he attempts to woe Marian the Librarian. The contrast between Hill’s larger-than-life salesman persona and Marian’s quieter, studious temperament is a major conflict throughout the musical, and it is the breaking down of the defenses between the characters that moves the plot along to its most climactic moment. The Library scene highlights these two opposite personalities.
The River City Library is a classic old, small town library that reminds me a lot of the original library (before the modern new one was built) in my hometown. The spiral staircases, the dumbwaiter, long library tables, the giant dictionary on a pedestal, and card catalog all hearken back to a simpler time. I miss the old library cards and stamping of the date on the books, and of course, Marian, with her glasses and hair bun, is the stereotype of a librarian. Best line is when Marian asks if Harold Hill is ready to check out and he responds that he wants to “take out the librarian!”
In the Library in Clue
As you know, I am a huge mystery buff, so of course, I love the game and movie Clue. It is in the library that the primary cast of characters decides to split up and search the house, which leads to some of the funnies chase sequences in film. I love the whiskey poured from the decanter into the cut glass highballs and the leaded glass doors on some of the shelves.
Once again, it evokes a different time in history and culture. A less grandiose library than in some other films, the Clue library is iconic to all: Colonel Mustard in the Library with the Candlestick!
Hogwarts Library in Harry Potter
I had to save my favorite for last, and I couldn’t pick just one film, so I included all of them. So many classic and climactic scenes occur in the Hogwarts Library: the adventure in The Restricted Section, the discovery of Nicholas Flamel, the proclamation of “I am the Chosen One,” the recipe for the Polyjuice Potion, and Hagrid’s dragon research.
The Hogwarts Library is exactly what I envisioned when reading the books, with huge expansive columns, floor to ceiling shelves filled with books, tall windows with leaded glass, and hidden nooks and alcoves. Truly it is a place to get lost and be lost. I think my personal favorite library scene, though simple, is in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, when Harry and Hermione are talking about who they are taking to Slughorn’s Party, as Hermione is shelving the books. She holds the books up and magically they shelve themselves! I love the mystical and magic feel of the books returning to their homes after sharing their own reading adventures.
So, I know that I have missed a lot and my movie viewing is fairly focused; what other favorite Library scenes from film are out there?