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Les Misérables: A Different Kind of French Revolution

Categories French Revolution, History, Literature

Essay, Pages 8 (1987 words)

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Essay, Pages 8 (1987 words)

Amidst the roar of conflict, it is inevitable for men to hope for the faintest chance to see the light of tomorrow. This is perhaps, in most circumstances, evident in early French society where the people are ruled by the regime of the monarchy. As a response to the injustices and immoralities in their society, people perceive revolt as an inexorable cause to a better chance. Les Miserables, a film directed by Tom Hooper from the masterpiece novel of Victor Hugo, embodies the themes of war, the pursuit of love, and inequality.

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The film bridged the concept of oppressive power to the masses, hence allowing the spark of appreciation to the sacrifices made by the French people who fought for the removal of their shackles from the monarch. Their liaised resistance stained the concept of tyranny as an immoral and evil act and marked their history with triumph over oppression.

Les Miserables is a stroke of genius during the French Revolution that discusses the social injustice in nineteenth-century France and also the lasting effects of the French Revolution on French society.

It epitomizes the intricacies during an uprising and the significance of compassion and love. The film stressed these through the character of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) as a symbol of the redemptive light of compassion and love. The musicality of the film also bridged the emotions required for the viewer to feel and grasp the intensity of scenes. Furthermore, the commonness of orphans and unusual family scenarios is the most evident indicator that the French society and politics in the period described have gone terribly awry.

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Also, the film’s overall mood was mainly bridged by the manipulation and use of proper lighting, which is gloomy and slightly dull, hence implying that the nature of the film is filled with tragedy and despair.

During 1789-1790, the French Revolution is a chaotic bloodbath between the French monarch and people. The people were resolute to overthrow the regime of King Louis XVI, thus altering their political landscape and government system (History). During this phase of French history is where the story of the film Les Miserables took place, also it is where several injustices and kinds of conflict dominated the lives of many. The film used the characters to represent these conflicts, allowing the viewer to spectate the movie from the perspective of the character and their social condition. Throughout the film, these are the dominant conflict that prevailed in conveying themselves through the characters: redemption, oppression, obsession, ignorance, and betrayal.

Jean Valjean is the figure of conflict in redemption and stands at the focus of Les Miserables. Valjean was prisoned and convicted in the film for stealing a loaf of bread and sentenced to almost two decades (Nichipor). Through the cold bars of the jail and damp chains, he started to see the realities and injustices worth of hatred and scorn. However, when he met Bishop Myriel, the bishop of Digne, his whole life became a quest for redemption. He embraced pseudonyms together with his newfound idealism and compassion to help others that are gravely in need. Despite facing several injustices and misfortunes, he was able to alter his way of perceiving things, hence Valjean is the symbol of redemption in the film—if he can learn to love and aid after the squalls of anguish, anyone can.

The symbol of oppression and innocence in the film is Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), the daughter of Fantine (Anne Hathaway). In the film, she grows up in an atmosphere of fear and scarceness but she was rescued from this way of life before her innocence gives way to incredulity. She spent years under the oppressive eyes of Thenardiers, but never did she adopt their ways, this means that she possesses fundamental innocence and decency.

In the film, the character of Javert (Russell Crowe) seemed to be the archenemy of Valjean. His character is plagued with the conflict of obsession, but unlike the typical figure of obsession, his obsession lies with the pursuit of justice. His character throughout the film was inflexible in the sense that he was blinded by his false assumptions and hypocritical fixation on false justice. It is tragically ironic that he has a strong sense of justice and law yet he is a man that strongly insists on things basing on his standard of appropriateness. Valjean, by saving his life, finally gives him an indisputable reason that a man is not necessarily evil just because the law says he is. Plagued with the thoughts of living a dishonorable life, he was unable to cope with the sudden gush of his realizations and tragically ended his life. Javert was indeed an epitome of a man who believes in order, but halfway through his journey, he lost sight of himself and became blind with things he couldn’t fathom.

The conflict of ignorance is conveyed in the film through the character of Marius Pontmercy (Eddie Redmayne), he is the son of Georges Pontmercy, a colonel in Napoleon’s army, and the grandson of M. Gillenormand, a monarchist. He lived years of his life in ignorance for not knowing the truth behind his separation from his father, hence when he learned the whys and whats regarding his identity, he ventured onto the path of discovering his very own self. Compared to the other characters of Les Miserables he is relatively more innocent, while this keeps him from becoming cruel in nature, it also makes him blind to the problem of others, especially regarding the feelings of Eponine to him. Generally, Marius is a good character but his ineptness to perceive the feelings of others can at times make him inadvertently spiteful.

In the film, the character of Fantine (Anne Hathaway) is tormented with misfortunes and the conflict of betrayal. Most of her adversities were caused by the cruelty of others, but the society—society that thrives on schadenfreude, betrays her by holding her accountable for her deeds. Unarguably, Fantine is one of the characters with a very tragic fate caused by her naivety and innocence to put her trust into others’ hands. One of these punishing betrayals is when the father of her daughter, Cosette, abandoned her. Another is when she entrusted Cosette to the Thernardiers only to extort more money from her and forcing her to resort to depraving means of prostitution. These tragedies in Fantine’s life are symbols of the mistreatment of the hardworking poor by the parasitic deviousness of the working class. Her character also highlights the unequal attitude of French society toward women and the poor.

Among all of the characters that represented different ideas in Hugo’s Les Miserables, it has been noted that each of them signifies a different dimension of conflict that was depicted during the period of 1789-1790. People of France during the revolution were bombarded with conflicts inflicted by the very aftermath of the monarch’s regime. The poverty-stricken area emerged rapidly, cases of immorality became rampant, injustices and violence were only a few of these conflicts that plagued the French people during this dark time of their history. These scenarios were vividly portrayed in Hooper’s film, making it a realistic glimpse into the past. Moreover, it may seem cliché from the perspective of others that the movie was flowing in a musical way, however, the soundtracks of the movie were very much of a help.

Typically, a historical drama might seem boring and dull, but the film Les Miserables strategically used it to have the viewers remember lines from the movie, making it more haunting. One of these soundtracks is Eponine’s (Samantha Barks) “On My Own”. It may seem like a normal song about a cliché and boring romance but the lyrics veil a deeper sense underneath its entrancing melody. The song can actually be interpreted through David Kessler’s Five Stages of Grief.

“On my own, pretending he’s beside me
All alone, I walk with him till morning”

This part of the lyrics implies the stage of Denial and Isolation, wherein the lyrics convey that Eponine is alone and is pretending to be with Marius even though deep down she knows very well that it’s unreal.

“And although
I know that he is blind
Still I say, there’s a way for us

This part is the stage of Bargaining, wherein she tries to make it work in her head to avoid the hurtful truth and convince herself that there’s still a way to tie her fate to Marius.

“I love him, but when the night is over
He’s gone, the river’s just a river
Without him the world around me changes”

This part is the stage of Depression and the height of her grief, although the entirety of the song has a saddening tone to it. She has snapped back into reality a bit and realizes what her life would be without the one she loves.

“Without me, his world will go on turning
a world that’s full happiness
that I have never known”

This part is the stage of Anger, she’s mad at him for being so aloof and herself for not being enough and blaming the unfairness of life while thinking that Marius gets to be happy while she obviously won’t.
“I love him, I love him, I love him
but only on my own”

The final stage is Acceptance, wherein she concedes herself to the fact that she will never have him and be with him, except in her mind and desires. This remarkable part of Eponine in the film proved that despite intricacies and storms of conflict during the French Revolution, love will unavoidably sprout but the uncertainty will always be there.

Aside from these major conflicts that the film used to brilliantly strengthen its characters, there were also some sub-conflicts in the film that was hard to miss. One of these sub-conflicts is the conflict of disunion, in the film this conflict is symbolized by the barricade where the revolutionists are behind the barricade and the soldiers on the other side. Despite having the same motherland, the people of both sides are left with no choice to succumb to their ideals and fight for either duty or purpose. This clash between two sides is also both futile and heroic, futile in a sense that lives were thoughtlessly severed and heroic that lives were lost for a sensible cause.

Another sub-conflict is the conflict of family, in the film, unusual and unpleasant family scenarios were prevalent. This conflict in the film was conveyed by the family of Thenardiers. As portrayed in the film, Thenardiers are evidently spiteful, the head of the family, M. Thenardier is a cruel, and money-obsessed man who first appears as Cosette’s keeper and tormentor. Madame Thenardier as depicted in the film is just as wretched and despicable as her husband since she becomes her husband’s accomplice in doing their usually dirty schemes. Eponine at the beginning of the film is also just a marionette of her parents in their schemes, but in the latter part, she is eventually redeemed by her love for Marius. The very existence of this indecent family highlights that the family set-up in early France wasn’t that idyllic.

Clearly, Les Miserables (2012) with regards to the characters and central ideas in accordance with the setting was able to exquisitely bridge the past to the present in a very vivid and creative style. It was able to confer the complexity of living during the French Revolution where conflicts in different forms were prevalent. Tom Hooper in his adaptation to Victor Hugo’s novel, visibly used the characters to emphasize the conflicts of the French people. Although some disregarded this masterpiece as an epitome of perfectness, Les Miserables (2012) was certainly a rare gem and an epochal masterwork in this modern world where the woes of the past are slowly being forgotten. Indeed, the film was one of the most alluring and enticing collisions of art and history.

Cite this essay

Les Misérables: A Different Kind of French Revolution. (2020, Nov 03). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/les-miserables-a-different-kind-of-french-revolution-essay

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