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“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”
A revival of a classic written by Victor Hugo in the year 1862, adapted into a musical during the late 19th century, Le Miserables has yet again made a comeback as a musical film directed by Tom Cooper in the year 2012. The film featured great actors and actresses such as Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, and Russel Crowe. The film has yet made a huge success in portraying the brilliance of love, deception, atonement, fears, justice, and equity in its finest.
The story is set during the French revolution period, almost 3 decades after the successful dethronement of a tyrant king of France. The protagonist of the story, Jean Valjen (starred by Hugh Jackman), was once enslaved due to being branded as a criminal for stealing a loaf of bread. One day he was approached by an inspector in charge of them by the name of Javert(starred by Russell Crowe) saying that Jean is to be released from his 19 years of imprisonment.
After being released, nobody wanted to shelter Jean since he is an ex-convict. Desperate, he knocked on the door of a church when a kind bishop, Myriel(Colm Wilkinson) let him in, gave him food and shelter. Having lost his trust on people, Jean was suspicious of the bishop and it resulted to him stealing the bishop’s belongings, but was then caught by patrolling policemen. Myriel covered for Jean instead of becoming furious and made him promise to become an honest man.
This lead to the protagonist to a growth which created a butterfly effect in the story.
8 years had passed by, Jean upheld his promise with the bishop and became a successful man, but his life was turned upside down when he encountered Javert again which opened up his long forgotten past. Things got worse when Javert uncovered his identity and chases after Jean. Jean refuses to return to prison as he held on a promise to Fantine(Anne Hathaway), a young mother who died a miserable death, that he will take care of her child, Cosette (Amanda Seyfried). He and Cosette lived a life like fugitives just to avoid Javert’s eyes.
9 years later, a war was brewing in France. The commoners were dissatisfied by the rule of the new king. Though the king changed, their stuation still didn’t improve and they were even worse off now. The nobles didn’t even spare a glance to their suffering. They wanted equality, not nobility who doesn’t even care for the sufferings of poor commoners nor a king who neglects his subjects who are in dire need. Only Count Lemark was a noble who supports and helps the poor. Before, the situation was at a stalemate. When he fell ill the situation became tensed. His death became the beacon that signalled the start of the rebellion. The country was plunged into a civil war. Chaos happened, and Jean was tossed in the middle of the mess when he discovered that Marius (Eddie Redmayne),the boy who Cosette had a crush on was in the rebel’s side. He was even discovered by Javert again. In the end, the revolution failed. Marius’friends died, Javert committed suicide, and Jean and Marius were barely able to escape and reunited with Cosette.
Knowing that the two were mutual, Jean told Marius about his past as a convict.He told Marius that he entrusts Cosette to Marius and that he should treasure heras it was time for them to part ways. During their wedding, Marius and Cosette found Jean’s whereabouts and sets forth to find him sitting in a chair in a small church, dying. Jean asked Cosette if he was already forgiven, and Marius answered that it was them who should ask for forgiveness since Jean saved both of them. He said that since the two of them are here already, he can now die peacefully. His life is now blessed. Cosette didn’t want for him to die because it was too soon. Jean stated otherwise since he felt that he could die anytime. In the end, he entrusted Cosette a letter containing his past. He was finally able to really move on from the past that was shackling him. He then died.
When he died, his soul saw the souls that have died during the revolution, seemingly happy waving their flags of revolution. They all joined together and sang their anthem, although the lyrics changed, focusing not on revolution but looking forward to when another tomorrow comes.
There is no doubt that the plots of the story have elements of Marxism in it. Little do you know, while the whole movie screams ‘Marxism’ in front of you, behind the scene, the movie portrays a much deeper mystery. The characters are actually trapped in their own pasts.Jean as a convict, Javert as jail-born child, and the rebels as oppressed citizens.
From the start, we all knew that Jean was an ex-convict. But after the fateful meeting with the bishop, he decided to leave his past as an ex-convict behind and start a new one. He started anew, but it wasn’t easy to leave behind our past as it is a part of us. At one point, he was scared of his past coming to light. There was a scene when a convict was mistaken as him by Javert. Then he was contemplating whether to tell the truth or not because if he does, then he will lose everything and the people under him will lose their job. On the other hand, the man will become a slave and Jean’s past will be forgotten. But he chose to be truthful and told the truth because of his vows and dedication to God. He cleared the convict’s name, making him embrace his past in the process, but not fully.
After meeting Cosette, he feared that telling Cosette his past may disgrace her and have her heart broken so he hesitated to tell her due to the fact that he treasures her so much. That was the reason why he left without saying a word. He was ready to die alone, but fate was not willing to dance in his palm. Cosette and Marius found him, and that was the reason why he resolved himself to finally tell Cosette the truth, though, through a medium of a letter.
“It was a story of one who turned from hating, a man who only learned to love when you were in his arms”
In his point of view, that was his form of atonement for all the previous sins he made, but a phantom version of Fantine says that he did his best already and that he was forgiven a long time ago. In the end, he died without any regrets left. His past which acted as his shackles were removed when he told Cosette the truth. As a soul, he saw bishop Myriel again who left him a message:
“And remember the truth that once was spoken:
To love another person is to love God”
Truly, one of the things that drove Jean’s character development could be said to have been majorly contributed by his past.
We can see that Javert is a persistent “by-the-book”man who treats the rules as his life. When an order comes, he never doubted nor disobeyed it, always doing his best to fulfil it. . He believes that serving justice and vanquishing evil is his mission. When facing against Jean, we could clearly see hostility coming from Javert. Later on, it was revealed that Javert was born in a jail and that he detests people like Jean. He also thinks that Jean has fallen and evil that needs to be vanquished so he kept on chasing him.
“When you fall, as Lucifer falls, you fall in flames·..those who fall must pay the price”
His righteousness is plain twisted because of his beliefs. He acts like a loyal subject of the society because he thinks that by accepting the missions he can erase his past (born in prison). He is the exact opposite of Jean who completely accepts and embraces his past. Javert thought he was the law, so he followed the law because he never doubted. Suddenly, because of Jean’s constant actions, he doubted the law for the first time. He thought he was as unfeeling as a robot, but his heart would winced in pain when he think about Jean sparing his life. The life he knew was now in the shadows, turning everything black, cold, and void. Unable to bear and accept the changes, he threw everything aside and then escaped his confusion by committing suicide.
Focusing onto the citizens, they were the ones who was heavily affected by their past. In the past, there was a king who indulged in luxury and ignored their cries. They grew miserable. Hope came to them when the sovereign changed, but according to Gavroshe (Daniel Huttlestone):
“There was a time we killed the king, we tried to change the world too fast. Now we have another king, he was no better than the last.”
Nothing has changed. The new king still ignored the miserable cries of the citizen who were in worse condition than the past, forcing the public to become a mess. Knowing that nothing will change and that they had enough of suffering in poverty for years, it instigated them to perform a revolution with the hopes that their lives would become better under a new banner. This was their sole drive that made them fight for a long time, until they eventually died under the king’s forces.
In my opinion, the movie is great. Its uniqueness stood out through the musicality of the film. The chosen actors have great voices and they never got out of tune. It really shows that the director picked up actors that can perfectly portray each character deeply. Anne Hathaway’s role as Fantine was portrayed magnificently. She evoked pity to the audience and perfectly showed how much Fantine suffered just to earn money for her child. The plot of the story also incorporated a faction of our history, which lets the reader understand and experience the history behind the French revolution periods and the culture of France.
The dynamics of each character and their growth were also portrayed realistically in the film. Jean and Javert, although have different beliefs, are kind of similar. Both have devoted themselves to God and they have a sense of righteousness and duty in their beliefs. Jean manifests his righteousness in the form of service to others while Javert manifests his by executing his orders and the law properly.
Though the film was great, there were still inconsistencies that can garner dissatisfaction from the viewers. The film’s dialogues being consist of 95% singing made it hard for the viewers to distinguish what the conversation is all about. Viewers often miss out important dialogues from the film because they get distracted of the musical factor of the film. The musically although unique, was exploited too much to the point that it becomes distracting and unnecessary. Sometimes the lyrics are out of melody and rhythm which often causes discomfort to the viewers. There are also a few mistakes the film had that I’ve discovered. In the scene where Jean dragged the unconscious Marius to the sewers, the lightings were moving like it was not a lighting of the scene but a flashlight, making you wonder where or when did Jean grabbed a flashlight when it didn’t even exist during that period. There was also Gavroche’s death scene. He was supposedly shot in the head, but blood wasn’t oozing out from his head. When he died, his eyes were wide open. When Jean carried his body, his eyes were closed, but when the scene showed Javert pinning a medal to Gavroche’s chest, it showed that Gavroche’s eyes that should’ve been closed were wide open again. Even so, the film is still successful even with these mistakes present.
In conclusion, the film lived up to its name as a masterpiece. The plot, the setting, the character development was built up properly and was able to move the audience watching it. The film encourages us to forgive and be compassionate to others, for kindness may not make the world go round but even a little of it can save others. You should never reject and forget your past as they made you who you are today. This film may be recommended to all for its beautiful portrayal of lessons in life that can change your views of what life really is.
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