‘Oh my friends, my friends, don’t ask me what your sacrifice was for!’
Having been rescued from the barricade by Valjean, Marius sings to his student mates who died fighting in the revolution.
It’s a pity that the film critics of the DomPost and a local paper were both unfamiliar with the musical stage show.
So, people unfamiliar with the musical, will find that Les Miserables is ninety per cent singing and consequently a little strange and rather melodramatic. But Les Mis aficionados will find the movie very rewarding.
Just as the stage show stars superb singers who can also act, the film features top actors who can also sing. So don’t expect the quality of singing you have experienced when watching the stage show.
However there are some smaller parts such as the bishop, Gavroche and Eponine, which are acted and sung superbly by seasoned Les Mis stage performers Colm Wilkinson, Daniel Huttlestone and Samantha Barks.
Nevertheless well-known actors Anne Hathaway and Russell Crowe do a creditable job in the Fantine and Javert roles.
The film has some advantages over the stage show, such as
- the sets bringing the story alive, as no expense has been spared in recreating the settings in early 19th century France
- the plot being a lot clearer, as connections are made through both speech and singing
- song settings shown with a lot more variety, such as in the comical Master of the House scene
- varied camera work brings the audience closer to the action.
For the uninitiated, the story is about the odyssey of Jean Valjean, played
convincingly by Hugh Jackman, on his journey from the chain gang where he is just a number, 24601, to respectability and redemption.
All the way he is hunted by his nemesis: the policeman Javert. When the later realises that Valjean has become the mayor of a town he is visiting, he sings one of the show’s great lines: Monsieur le mayor you wear a different chain.
The climax and key turning point in the tale is an uprising in Paris in 1832, where virtually all the main characters are either for or against, or just exploiting the situation.
The day before the revolution begins there is an extraordinary song, unmatched in the history of musical theatre, where most of the cast sing One more day and give their individual and group perspectives of what tomorrow will bring. This is a memorable scene.
Along the way in Valjean’s story, a myriad of characters appear
- whores and sailors
- clerics and workers
- soldiers and students
- sweethearts and innkeepers
- rogues and convicts.
The wonderful sets are a highlight of the movie, including the opening scene of convicts hauling a storm-wrecked sailing ship into a slipway, the amazing and rapid construction of the Paris barricade and the finale, which I won’t reveal!
The film Les Miserables is well worth a look, even if you are not familiar with the music. In my view it is the greatest of all musicals and Director Tom Hooper brings it to life on the screen with an excellent cast.
All the elements of the stage show are there: drama, action, tragedy, love, passion and humour. For the Les Mis devotee it is a treat.