Film adaptation of ‘Les Misérables’ proves raw, powerful

Julia Schaller

Beautifully raw.
These are the only two words that resound in my head after just coming out of the Les Misérables theatre entrance. I had come into the the movie completely blind, not knowing what to expect. I had never seen Les Misérables in any form, and I had an inkling this film was going to surprise me in some way. And it did.
This magnificently crafted adaptation of the famous novel written by Victor Hugo wowed me, to say the least. Director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) brought the film to life, as he had all the actors sing live. This meant that every song was the actor or actress singing right into the camera. It made the emotion gripping and real.
The film comes full circle as it begins and ends with the main character, Jean Valjean, well played by Hugh Jackman (The Prestige), and the most astounding actress from the film, Anne Hathaway (The Devil Wears Prada), who plays the poor mother Fantine.

Image used under fair use doctrine
Image used under fair use doctrine
Entrancingly woven in, the film score and original music triumphantly told the story of Jean Valjean, a man who stole some bread for his starving sister and niece and consequently had to spend numerous years doing hard labor in prison. Valjean then escapes prison many years later and is ever since hunted by the ruthless prison guard Javert, played by Russell Crowe (A Beautiful Mind). Intertwined are the lives of all the characters in the film, including the sweet Cosette, played by Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia!) and some comical relief courtesy of Monsieur Thénardier, played by Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat).
The title of the film most definitely suits the sentiment as the title in English would translate as something like “The Miserables Ones.” The spectacular film set, costumes and makeup art expose the truth of the time — set during the French Revolution — as you see it not only in the actors’ faces, but also in their environment. The unbearable oppression and anguish is all right there in front of you.
Although the film may be a little long for some (2hr 37mins), it was more than well worth the time. The superb acting mixed with the emotion-filled singing will leave you breathless. I’ve heard the famous song “I Dreamed A Dream” before many times. I’ve bought multiple versions of it, and I know all the words. But I have to say, as I watched the scene of Anne Hathaway (Fantine) singing that song, tears poured down my face. I felt every sense of hopelessness and despair she was feeling, just by listening to the song. She had transformed that song we all know so well, into so much more than just a song, but a feeling. That’s what truly incredible acting is.
The whole film is filled with such extraordinary performances that every part of the story becomes real.
So for heaven’s sake, do yourself a favor and go see Les Misérables. It’s Christmas. Treat yourself. Vive la France!
By Julia Schaller