Friday, March 1, 2013

Les Miserables. 

One of the longest running musicals on Broadway...and now a major motion picture.

I admit that I am a new fan of Les Miserables. I saw a high school theatrical version a couple years ago which I enjoyed, and I have enjoyed listening to the music from time to time. But I was completely stoked to hear that they were turning this 8-Tony-Award-Winning musical into a major motion picture.

The movie was out for a full week before I got to see it. I heard mixed reviews: from some that it was the best movie they had seen. From others that there were parts they wish they hadn't had to see, which dampened their excitement (and I can't argue with that). I was expecting it to be an emotional movie. I was expecting to cry (amazingly I didn't, and I'm still not quite sure how I accomplished that). What I was not expecting was for it to be so powerful. While I managed to keep dry eyes, I was overcome with emotion. In fact I could not stop thinking about the movie and the story for at least two weeks. I am very eager for the movie to come out on DVD or Netflix so I can watch it again.

The music of the musical is powerful. For those of you who haven't seen the movie, let me give you a heads up that it is literally all singing. I suppose that makes it more of an opera. I loved it, some may hate it. Just be forewarned. Also know that this means I will be referencing music in my post. I will try to link to the song on YouTube when I can.

I'm not here to give a summary of the movie. You can find summaries online any number of places. I want to keep this post slightly shorter by letting someone else do the summarizing and just sharing my thoughts on the power of the music in the movie as that is what impacted me.

The main characters are Javert (played by Russell Crowe), Jean Valjean (Prisoner #24601 - played by Hugh Jackman), Fantine (played by Anne Hathaway), Eponine (played by Samantha Barks), and a handful of other characters.


There is one song in particular that is a rather iconic piece. I had heard it many times. I had sung along with it in my car. Susan Boyle sang it on Britain's Got Talent and became famous. I had seen it sung when I saw the musical as a stage play. But the song did not really impact me until I saw it on the big screen. Until I heard the emotion that Anne Hathaway used in the role of Fantine. Until I saw the circumstances that caused the song. It's a controversial scene. Those who didn't like the movie didn't like this scene. In fact I know of one couple who left in the middle of the movie during this scene. I didn't like the scene either, but I think it was necessary. The scene shows Fantine who, recently out of a job, resorts to becoming a lady of the night as she thinks it is the only way she will be able to earn money to support her young daughter who is living with an innkeeper and his wife (who, incidentally, do not care for her at all). The scene is slightly graphic, showing Fantine having teeth pulled to make money, and cutting off her long, beautiful hair, and other things are implied (the movie is rated PG-13). She has reached rock bottom and realizes that the idyllic life she had once imagined is not the way life really is. It is at that point that she sings the well-known lyrics of "I Dreamed a Dream."

There was a time when men were kind
When their voices were soft
And their words inviting
There was a time when love was blind
And the world was a song
And the song exciting

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving
Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
As they turn your dream to shame

He slept a summer by my side
He filled my days with endless wonder
He took my childhood in his stride
But he was gone when autumn came

And still I dream he'll come to me
That we wil live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.

Fantine has reached the point at which she can go no lower. Life did not turn out how she envisioned it would. She does not want to do what she does, but she feels she has no other choice. Unfortunately this situation is not limited to the mid-1800s. Situations like this happen today all over our world and somehow this scene in the movie made me realize just how bleak of a situation it was, and continues to be for many.

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