Friday, January 11, 2013

Victor Hugo & the Musical Les Miserables

    Yesterday was a grey, snowy day in north Idaho. A good day for staying in the house to read, write letters  or go to a movie.  My friend Patty and I chose the later. We met in town at noon -   the weather didn't seem to bother the many folks  milling about, most  in  coats, many  with the identifiable North Face logo,  and colorful scarfs and knit hat. Patty and I  looked the same, all bundled up  when we  walked into Riverstone Theater to see  Les Miserables., the much talked about movie musical adapted from the stage and based on Victor Hugo's timeless novel of the same name. It was a  perfect movie to see on a cold January day. I would say  a near perfect movie in every way, to see  any day.

    This movie was wonderfully cast - from Anne Hathaway's Fantaine and hearing her sing the  hauntingly lovely I Dreamed a Dream to Samantha Bank's Eponine to Daniel Huttlestone as the child Gavroche.

    While some critics bemoaned the singing voices of Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe, I thought their voices were strong and steady, filled with just the right emotion, and  natural for the way  Jean Valjean and Javert might sound. Listening to Valjean (Jackman) prayerfully sing

God on high
hear my prayer
In my need you have always been there

He is young
He's afraid
Let him rest
Heaven blessed
Bring him home,
Bring him home,
Bring him home

 was only one of many times   I was moved to tears and  held out my left  hand for Patty to give me a tissue to wipe my eyes.  I thought of all the sons, including my own, and the fathers and mothers who passionately pray that same kind of prayer when their child has gone through struggles or in harms way.

    After learning his friends - the friends he  talked and laughed with, dreamed dreams with and were so full of hope   have all been killed , Marius (portrayed by the charming Eddie Redmayne) touches our hearts with his sad, lilting voice when he sings these lines from Empty Chairs, Empty Tables 

That I live, and you are gone.
There's a grief that can't be spoken.
There's a pain that goes on and on

and we think of our friends, the ones we laugh and talk with - so very dear to us.

    On the inside cover of the Broadway album   from 1986 is written, Les Miserables is a great blazing pageant of life and death at the barricades of political and social revolution in Victor Hugo's nineteenth century France. Yes.  But  also  so much more than that, as  Hugo himself wrote in his letter to M. Daelli, publisher of the Italian translation of LM

    "YOU ARE RIGHT, SIR, WHEN you tell that Les Miserables  is written for all nations. I do not know whether it will be read by all, but I wrote it for all. It is addressed to England as well to Spain, to Italy as well as to France, to Germany as well as to Ireland, to Republics which have slaves as well as to Empires which have serfs. Social problems overstep frontiers. The sores of the human race, those great sores which cover the globe, do not halt at the red or blue lines traced upon the map. In every place where man is ignorant and despairing, in every place where woman is sold for bread, wherever the child suffers for lack of the book which should instruct him and the hearth which should warm him, the book of Les Miserables knocks at the door and says: "Open to me, I come for you."

    It is a story of love, and loss, of sin and redemption, of hope and  moral courage; A story of friendship and faith.  Never give up. Press on. Hold to the high road. Choose the better part. Freedom .

    The blending of Hugo's novel with lyrics of Herbert Kretzmer and music by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg is brilliant, elevating  the tale of Jean Valjean and his question  Who Am I  to new heights.


  1. I loved that movie and would like to watch it again. Thank you for sharing what I am sure other beside myself felt about this awesome movie too.


  2. Bravo Kath! A well thought and written piece....thank you for enjoying the movie with me, my friend.