There is so much that I love about “Les Miserables.” It’s two and a half hours long, so there’s a lot to love. I make all my friends watch it, and you can catch me listening to the soundtrack all the time. My siblings and I act out the songs together and fight over who gets which part.
In 1862, Victor Hugo wrote the novel “Les Miserables.” One hundred-eighteen years later it was adapted into a musical theatre production. Later in 1998, it was adapted into a movie, starring Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush. In 2012, there was an opera film released that is titled “Les Miserable.” Nine years later, I still love watching it over and over again.
The music is amazing. The entirety of the script is sung. In most musical movies, the songs are recorded in the studio and the actors simply lip sync. “Les Miserables” is unique because the actors were actually singing in real time. This was a very ambitious idea, and it was one of the first movies to do this. The only exception is the very first song in the film. There was too much water rushing on set, so the actor’s voices were drowned out.
My first time watching this movie, I was constantly surprised by the actors. Wolverine? Princess Mia Thermopolis?? Newt Scamander?! They all played their roles excellently, with Anne Hathaway winning both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe despite only 15 minutes of screentime.
The plot has so much going on, and yet it’s easy to follow. Firstly, it follows Jean Valjean and Javert, and later Cosette and Marius. It’s a story of poverty, revolution, and love: familial, platonic and romantic. The writers keep the story engaging even though it’s long.
Though I love all of the songs, there are some standouts for me. “A Little Fall of Rain” is absolutely heart wrenching; I cry every time. This duet is sung by Eponine and Marius, while she dies in his arms. She was in love with him since they were children, though he never reciprocated her feelings. Her final moments are spent with Marius while he comforts her. Earlier in the movie, Eponine sings a song where she is standing in the rain. It’s a sad factor in this song, emphasizing how nothing’s going right in Eponine’s life. In “A Little Fall of Rain,” the rain is pictured as a good thing. “A little fall of rain could hardly hurt [her] now” and “the rain will help the flowers grow.” It’s a beautiful parallel.
Another song that has great parallels is “Javert’s Suicide.” Javert is a real stickler for the rules. He follows them to the letter, regardless of whether they are fair or reasonable. In the earlier song “Stars,” he sings about how stars are like “sentinels…keeping watch in the night.” They have order; they follow set patterns. He relates to the night sky, and it watches over him.
In “Javert’s Suicide,” he has just gained a new perspective on life. He has an existential crisis after being set free from the man he’s been hunting for years. Is the world not black and white? Is there room for gray areas and exceptions for rules? He couldn’t understand this, and contemplated his life up to that point. “The world I have known is lost in shadow…The stars are black and cold.” The call to the stars earlier symbolizes Javert’s internal struggle in a simple and clear way.
“Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” is the final song before the epilogue. This song is sung by Marius, after the barricades were unsuccessful. He sings about how all his friends are now dead, and the guilt he feels being still alive. He visits the place they used to have political meetings, but also spent time together drinking and conversing. Eddie Redmayne delivers an incredible emotional performance.
The final song I’ll talk about is “Turning.” This song is less than a minute long, but it’s still one of my favorites. “Did you see them going off to fight? Children of the barricade who didn’t last the night. Did you see them lying where they died? Someone used to cradle them and kiss them when they cried. Did you see them lying side by side?” That’s the whole song. It’s so impactful, though. It shows the personal side of war and revolution. These people had lives outside of the barricade. They had families who loved them. The last line, “lying side by side,” gives a small bit of comfort. They weren’t alone in death. They died alongside their friends, passionate about their cause to the last breath.
Yeah, this movie is super long. You have to start watching it early in the night to not fall asleep. The singing can sound funny sometimes. It’s really sad and dark. But despite all this, it’s one of my favorite movies ever.