‘Les Misérables’ is a 2012 British musical film, adapted from the musical of the same name by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, which in turn was based on Victor Hugo’s French novel, ‘Les Misérables’.
What does cinema mean to you? Would you watch a musical (mind you there are no dialogues, just songs), which is 2 hours 37 minutes long, purely because you love films? Do you believe that cinema has the ability to make you a better person? Do you believe that films change lives, or to put it a bit more mildly, your day? ‘Les Misérables’ does that. This grand, elaborate lyrical presentation strikes a chord, and how!
Circa 1815, convict Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is released on parole by prison guard Javert (Russell Crowe), after serving a nineteen-year sentence. However, Jean escapes the parole and lives a comfortable life elsewhere, using a different name. Nine years later, he is caught by Javert. This time, he escapes yet again, albeit along with a factory worker Fantine’s (Anne Hathaway) daughter, Cosette (Amanda Seyfried).
The plot spans 17 years and is set against a backdrop of political turmoil, which in the film culminates in the June Rebellion of France.
Claude-Michel Schönberg’s soundtrack, comprising 30-odd songs, is ‘enchanting’. Be it the introductory hard-hitting number ‘Look Down’ (Chain Gang, Javert and Valjean) or the ethereal rendition of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ (Fantine), the magical ‘A Heart Full of Love’ (Marius, Cosette and Éponine) or the heart-numbing ‘Javert’s Suicide’ (Javert), all the songs in the film are beyond brilliant.
Even better than the music and lyrics are the performers; in Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne, the line-up is magnificent. Special mention for the hilarious track, featuring Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter, who infuse this melancholic film with lighter moments. Watch out for this electric (and eccentric) duo in the film. Another noteworthy performance was by the gorgeous Samantha Barks, who plays Éponine. Her rendition of the tragic ‘On My Own’ is certain to make you watery-eyed. The music is just one of the terrific aspects of ‘Les Misérables’.
What about the visuals? The magnificent sets, the beautiful camerawork (stupendous cinematography by Danny Cohen) and the spellbinding costumes take you to that country, to that era! The aerial shots are one of the best that you will ever witness on the big screen. Who needs gimmicks like 3D, 48 fps, when you can produce such marvellous visuals, without much ado? The music of the film may be transcendental, but the visuals are not much far-behind on the mystical front!
The film has been divided into four segments. One includes Javert’s own story, second is about Fantine’s tragic circumstances, third deals with the conniving innkeeper couple, Thénardier and Madame Thénardier (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter steal the show, quite literally!) and the fourth is the love-triangle between Marius, Cosette and Éponine. Towards, the end, the segments take place in the backdrop of the French Rebellion. So, after all the romance and the tragedy, the latter half of the film manages to encapsulate patriotic fervour as well! The cast/performers of the film have done a brilliant job of singing and emoting at the same time. Moreover, all the songs have been performed live on-set, so you may as well lavish more praise on their efforts.
Tom Hooper, who already has an Academy award for Best Direction (‘The King’s Speech’), has come up with another Oscar-worthy effort!
Actually, won’t matter even if he doesn’t take the trophies back home! This film is an achievement in itself.
Tom Cruise had said this at an award function once, something on the lines of ‘what is cinema? That little bit of magic!’ ‘Les Misérables’ is that, and more.