You clearly already know how I feel about the subject, but if you still need convincing, all you need to do is watch the video for “One Day More”. Every time I simply even hear the song, I get goosebumps. Each of the characters are featured with their own parts intermingled, and the entire piece basically ties the entire story together.
At this point, if you still do not have the urge to read the book (understandably because it is roughly 1,400 pages), at the very least, I urge you to watch the movie, particularly the 2012 musical and get a glimpse as to what Les Misérables is all about. This timeless tale is a story for the ages with universal themes of compassion, faith, love, and justice. 10/10 would recommend, and I promise that you will not regret it.
A beautifully composed musical with an intense story line and amazing actors such as Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Amanda Seyfried. Sounds too good to be true, right? Wrong. In the 2012 production of Les Mis directed by Tom Hooper, these actors are brought together to tell the tale that Victor Hugo so eloquently wrote some hundred years earlier. This movie, my particular favorite rendition, is simply too good for words, and truly gives you an appreciation for the people of France as well as the actors who portray those people. To give you an idea of how great it is, it was the first musical in 10 years to be get an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture since the production of Chicago in 2002. You really just have to see it for yourself to believe it.
Fun fact: every single song in this movie was recorded live on set in order to capture the essence of the actor’s emotions whilst fulfilling their roles, a method that is rarely used in musical production, and has hardly any dialogue (it is pretty much all sung).
“A perfectly respectable Classics Illustrated version of the Victor Hugo novel”
“An intelligent, handsomely crafted adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic novel”
“Screenwriter’s Rafael Yglesias… manages not only to capture the essence of Les Miserables’ key theme- redemption- but also to faithfully render the characters as more than one-dimensional condensations of their literary inspirations”
These are examples of some of the many positive reviews from the 1998 production of Les Mis, starring Liam Neeson, Uma Thurman, and Geoffrey Rush. This particular movie was my first exposure to Les Mis, followed by the book and the musical that later came out. In an epically action-packed movie filled with romance and rousing revolutionaries, it sets the perfect precedent for one who is unfamiliar with the storyline. You can see a preview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhhsylxYafE
Perhaps one of the most dynamic enemies of all time, Javert and Valjean encounter many confrontations throughout the course of Les Mis. In one of the most famous scenes, literally entitled “The Confrontation”, Javert is trying to arrest Valjean who only wants to keep his word and help Fantine by rescuing her child. If you need more proof that Les Misérables is absolutely fantastic in textual form as well as that of the media, here is a video of comedians Jason Segal and Neil Patrick Harris (you may recognize them from “How I Met Your Mother”), reenacting that famous scene from the 2012 musical: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhzaGeklljE
Alas, we have come to the beautiful, kind, caring, devoted Fantine, mother of Cosette. Her story, much like Eponine is primarily one of sadness, but one of love as well. After having an illegitimate child, Cosette, the man whom she was with abandoned them, leaving them dirt poor with nothing. In order to support her family, Cosette had to send Cosette away because their circumstance was a huge taboo in French society back then. So as Cosette stayed with the Thénardiers (the scummy innkeepers in case you forgot), Fantine made her money by working at a factory and sending her child’s caregivers money on a monthly basis.
However, word got out at the factory that Fantine had a child with no husband, and she was immediately fired from her job (Side Note: the factory she worked at was owned by Jean Valjean). With nowhere to go and no means of making money, Fantine turned to prostitution and became extremely sick. When Valjean found her after she was nearly arrested by Javert, he promised her that he would find Cosette, a child at the time, and take care of her because he felt as if it were his fault that she ended up this way. Fantine’s illness ended up leading to her demise, upon which Valjean set out to find Cosette and raise her as his own daughter. The video below, “I Dreamed a Dream” is probably the most famous of the musical, as well as one of the saddest. It is in this scene which Fantine has her first client, and reminisces of her past before things all went wrong.
The “Friends of the ABC”, a fictional group of rebellious students created by Hugo, are the driving force behind the upcoming revolution of the story. It is their mission to enforce equality for the lower-class, and are led by the courageous Enjolras. These radical youngsters often hangout in a little café, plotting their next moves towards revolution and just doing regular 19th century adolescent things.
So here is where the story really picks up from a revolutionary standpoint. Marius floats in on Cloud 9 into his fellow rebels’ hangout spot and proclaims his love for Cosette after seeing her for the first time. It is upon his proclamation that the leader of the gang, Enjolras, questions his devotion to their upcoming plans of revolt against the government. The song that correlates with this scene is titled “ABC Café/Red & Black”. It is one of the most powerful songs of the musical as well as the climax, in which Marius and Enjolras go back and forth over the symbolism of the colors red and black. While Marius equates the colors to his passionate love for Cosette, Enjolras counters his claims with examples of the previous rebels who have died for the opportunity that awaits them.
The second video, “Do You Hear the People Sing”, is a small glimpse of what the Friends of the ABC do. In this riveting song, the members are beginning their revolution and inspiring the townspeople around them. It is such an inspiring piece that shows the perseverance of the people and how they will stop at nothing for equality.
As with any good story, there must be a character or two that just kind of gets under your skin a little bit, despite how entertaining they are. In Les Mis, the Thénardier’s fill just that role. This married
couple is truly the perfect duo: each scummy and frugal, doing anything to rip off the customers of their inn. Throughout the duration of both the movie and play, they are static characters wh9o do not change in the slightest bit. Their only concerns are that of themselves, not even their only daughter, Eponine, can stand in the way of their ill-placed persistence. However, you really get to see their true characters during the song “Master of the House” in which you literally watch how low they will go to earn even a cent extra through their sneaky antics.
What is any good romance without the classic love triangle, or variation that thereof? Yes, Cosette and Marius are undeniably one of the cutest couples in literature, but Eponine is an essential part of that relationship. A truly heartbreaking story of unrequited love, Eponine is the glue that holds the two together. If it had not been for her, Marius and Cosette would never have met in the first place, and she did it all out of love despite the fact that she wanted to be with Marius. What’s worse is that she is forced to sit there and helplessly watch as the love of her life falls for another woman, and there is nothing she can do about it. In one of my favorite songs of the musical, “On My Own”, Eponine has an emotional solo and just breaks down over all of the things she wishes that her and Marius would be.
In her final scene, Eponine takes a bullet for Marius as he is about to be shot by one of the police officials during the storming of the barricade. It is in this moment that Marius realizes her love for him, and stays with her during her last moments by comforting her until she passes away in peace, in his arms. The two collaborate on a tear-wrenching duet, “Little Fall of Rain”, in which Marius is reassuring her that he is there for her and that she has nothing to fear. Overall, Eponine is such a genuine character that places those she loves over herself time after time, but faces a tragic ending that is so undeserving. Although ultimately I believe that Marius and Cosette do belong together, it really is a shame to see such an amazing character like Eponine not gain anything out of all of her good deeds.
We’ve all heard stories about the stereotypical tragic set of star-crossed lovers: Romeo and Juliet, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, even Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan fall into this category. However, there is no better match than that of Cosette and Marius. From the moment that Marius first laid eyes on Cosette, it was love at first sight. From that point on, Marius knew that they were destined to be together, and stopped at nothing in order to make that possible. Quiet little Cosette also had this feeling, but was limited in her actions by her “father”, Valjean.
In the song “A Heart Full of Love”, Marius and Cosette speak to each other for the very first time (in song form of course), and are immediately drawn to each other. There is no questioning their attraction right from the moment when Marius says, “I am lost” to which Cosette replies, “I am found”. You truly cannot ask for a better love story than the one that they share. Although it is tested during the revolts and upon Valjean’s attempts to flee from Javert, ultimately nothing can keep them apart, and they end up marrying each other. The following video is from their first verbal interaction together in which they realize the extent of their love.
Contrasting Valjean, we have Javert, the story’s antagonist who is on a never-ending quest to convict Valjean once more and throw him behind bars. A character who sees the law as only black and white, Javert does not understand the concept of Valjean being a changed man, and believes that he must pay for running away from the law. Having grown up in unfortunate circumstances himself (being born in a prison), Javert sees himself as superior to all else because he was able to overcome the social stigma of the life that he was born into. In Russell Crow’s performance of “Stars”, his character Javert swears that he will find Valjean and convict him for his wrong doings once and for all.
He eventually ends up breaking this promise to himself after a final encounter with Valjean. After he was captured by the Friends of the ABC (a radical group of revolutionaries), Valjean sets him free. Javert, being such a stickler for the rules, cannot comprehend while Valjean did not just kill him when he had the chance. Feeling defeated and as if he had nowhere to go, Javert ends his own life because he realized that the life he had led, compromised of strict societal and moral rules, was a lie and that not all people are purely good or bad.