I read Victor Hugo's novel Les Miserables at some point, many years ago. I can't recall how old I was, but I remember sitting in my tiny bedroom on my Grandmother-made quilt paging through a library paperback, so thick that I had to peer into the centre of the book for the ends of the lines on the left page and the beginnings of them on the right page. The plot rambled and twisted, filling pages with stories and the words of so many characters and people that I began to lose count. I soldiered on through the mire of this five-volume saga, relieved when I finished, and no doubt celebrated by picking up Jane Eyre and re-reading that in a few days.
For a bibliophile like me, one of our concerns in life centres around seeing great written works brought to life on screen. I've never even seen the musical of the same name [clearly one of the most famous stage productions in the world] though I have heard its music over the years. So I was slightly on edge as we sat in the cinema last night, wondering if the stage show, translated to the screen, could evoke anything of the spirit of Victor Hugo's novel.
From the beginning, it delivered.
The cruelty, injustice, pain, and human suffering were all there. But so was the redemption, the salvation, and the grace. Told through the medium of music, the story was rendered even more powerful. I was particularly struck by the clear comparisons drawn between Jean Valjean, the forgiven man, who lives to offer the same forgiveness to others; and Javert, the unforgiving, who continually seeks for justice to be served.
I suppose it could have been downright emotional manipulation, with the sadness of the stories told through evocative song woven into the rawness of its themes, but this movie was a tearjerker. Predictably, Dan was crying before me, but I found myself very grateful for a gifted tissue by the time the credits rolled onto the screen! We went with a large group of friends [hurrah for discounted group bookings!] and near the end of the film I could hear actual loud sobs coming from our row.
It was opening night here in the UK for this movie, and the cinema we were in was completely packed. I think it would be best to end this mini-review by stating that, for the first time in my life, I heard applause sweep across the room as the movie finished.
That's the best review you could receive, in my opinion.
And though I'm sure most of you have by now either seen the movie or at least the trailer, here it is again just in case you've been hibernating.