I first want to make out a shout out to my friend Tom, who told me off, and quite rightly so, for not seeing this play in a theater as it was written to be seen in all it’s splendor. I do agree with him, that i would absolutely enjoy this play more as a play, other than a movie; but may i direct you to our WEBSITES motto “no media is safe”. As a movie, it falls neatly into our cross hairs as a media, whereas on stage, it is an art form, out of our range.
So now, i can review it, and i believe TG will review it as well next week as he is planning on watching it, so feel free to compare notes…
Well, they certainly got the title bang on the money, this is not a movie about happy people.
This is the story of slave set free John Valjean, who finds religion and leaves his old life behind. I say this is his story because it begins and ends with him, but the plot itself centers around Cosette, who we meet as a young girl living a harsh life under the care of the towns local landlords and ends with her marriage and, dare i say ‘happily ever after’; and the whole story is set to the backdrop of the French revolution.
Now obviously, i can go no further without mentioning the talent in this movie. Almost the entire length, 2 hrs 39 mins, is sung and masterfully so. The sheer passion and feeling they put across in words sung and not spoken, it involves you in the story and invests your emotions in the characters in a way that I’ve never come across before and i was breath taken by just how much i felt for each and every characters story: John Valjean, Cosette, Marius Pontmercy (who falls in love with Cosette) and even the ruthless authority figure Inspector Javert.
The plot was incredible. Missure Hugo really new what he was writing all them years ago. The struggle for freedom by the student revolution is captured very truthfully and the grim reality of slavery and hardship in France is so easy to understand through this movie. I at no point felt lost, as i was taken on this 4 decade long journey with many unexpected plot twists. John Valjean letting inspector Javert go was a given, but the fact that Javert still kept hunting him after that – and i really didn’t see his suicide coming!
This movie is about a very dark time in Frances history. It would not be too much of a stretch, to say the worst part of it’s history. As such, this movie has been made, as per how the play was written to represent that time in all it’s horror and turmoil…. but would i call this movie sad… no.
Quite honestly, i did cry while watching this, twice, and the movie is completely the opposite of happy for almost the whole way through…. but i still wouldn’t call it sad. Powerful yes, very very powerful, but not sad. Cosette grows up with John Valjean and lives a good life, falls in love and gets married. John Valjean finds religion, adopts a daughter and learns to lead a good and happy life, despite being on the run all the time, simply for his names sake. He dies happy and the ending is rather a happy one, showing the many sacrifices made in the name of freedom or revolution were not in vain and that France did, spurred on by these peoples stories, revolt.
The whole movie was epic. The singing, the acting, the age old songs and story and now added to that for the cinema was the setting of the scenes and the camera angles, close ups, wide shots etc… You have to remember this was a play written for a stage, where everyone present in a scene is doing something all the time, so deciding where to aim your cameras at what time and what type of shot to use can make or brake a play turned movie. Only with Les Miserables, i’m happy to report they did it right with the less is more mentality, simply aiming the camera at the people you would be watching in a theater and preferring close up’s to wide shots to do something you can’t do in a theater and really up the suspense and tension in a scene with a lot of talented facial acting.
For me, the transition of this play into a film is a complete triumph and this movie is not one to be missed!
That Other Guy