Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Books into Screen: Les Misérables (2012)

Directed by Tom Hooper, this is actually an adaptation of a musical by Schönberg, which is itself an adaptation of Victor Hugo's famous work of the same title. But this film brings more allusion to the novel than regular musical stage performance, even changes the musical here and there to fit the novel more – an effort I truly appreciate.

If you haven't watched the film and don't want to read any spoiler, please do not continue reading. You have been warned.

Firstly, the setting, the props, the costume are magnificent. From the factory uniform to the prostitutes vestitures, Javert's uniform to barricade boys' emblem, all are amazing. The barricade, the elephant, and Valjean's garden, all bring memories back to the novel, which makes watching the film even more exciting.

Then the story itself. I've only watched the 10th and 25th Anniversary Concert of Les Miserables. Thus I only know the lines that they sang there. But here are the things that are in the film but not in the two productions mentioned above and yet true to the novel:
  1. Valjean meets Javert in Montreuil-sur-Mer and how Javert confesses to Valjean that he has reported Valjean to the authority, wrongly accuses him as an ex-convict.
  2. Valjean buys a doll for Cosette.
  3. Marius background as a grandson of a rich royalist is mentioned there. There is even a scene when he says he eats only what he earns. One of the things I love most from Marius, and those are not in usual musical performance.
  4. Valjean actually sings that he doesn't want Cosette to marry, that he fears the idea. Again, nice reference to the novel.
  5. Gavroche dies while singing and taking cartridges from the dead bodies. The only difference exists from the novel is the song that he sings.
  6. Enjolras' death, together with Grantaire's is emphasised. Still, pity the bullets don't pin him to the wall.
Those are just some of them. I only write the most important and outstanding of the novel-based scenes that I found in the film. Now to the things I don't really appreciate.
  1. No clue whatsoever that Grantaire doesn't care a bit of revolution and only stays there for the sake of Enjolras. In the musical, one part of Drink with Me actually shows it. Just a little, but enough as a tribute to his indifference to all idea of revolution, freedom, equality and such. In the film, they cut it. What a pity!
  2. In the film, Valjean takes a National Guard uniform from the field and wears it. Well, I understand that perhaps they have no time to explain where Jean gets this uniform from, but they don't have to make him steal it from a dead body. A bit out of character there.
  3. My eyes may be wrong, but does Valjean kill a soldier in the barricade? He shoots at least. In the novel, he aims for the hat only, but spares the man's life. That's the point. He's there, not to join the rebellion. And moreover, it's important that he kills nobody.
  4. No clue that Gavroche is Eponine's sister.
Now, the cast.
  1. Anne Hathaway is a brilliant Fantine. Nice acting. I don't want to comment on her singing. Although so many people report that they cry during I Dreamed a Dream, I didn't. Sorry.
  2. Hugh Jackman is also a very good Jean Valjean. His smile when he's around Cosette is actually heart-warming. A little comment on his singing. I understand that he wants more emphasise on acting, but his Who Am I doesn't work for me. His Bring Him Home, which is already out-of-character, doesn't impress me at all.
  3. Russell Crowe's Javert doesn't really impress me either. Instead of being a passionate lover of the law, he looks like a body without soul. His voice lacks the sternness required of the role, and he struggles with the notes at times. But his death, huft. I screamed.
  4. Eddie Redmayne as Marius. He's the most likeable Marius I've ever seen in Les Miserables adaptations. He has the balance of revolutionary student and inexperienced lover.
  5. Aaron Tveit's Enjolras gains a lot of fans out there. No wonder. Enjolras is a deep and attractive character both in the novel and the musical. He is even more likeable than Marius. Aaron is stern, serious, and frightening at times. He clearly shows his strong conviction, and his mind consists only of revolution. Great interpretation of Enjolras. Still, I love Ramin Karimloo's interpretation better. Aaron lacks a bit, only a bit, of fire. The blazing, fierce flame of revolutionary spirit, the vision, hope and dream of tomorrow, all that is hidden too much behind that serious expression he wears.
  6. Samantha Barks as Eponine. Nice singing, nice acting. She's perfect for the role.
  7. Helena Carter and Sacha Cohen are not really impressive. They do well, but not really impressive.
  8. Colm Wilkinson plays a great Bishop Myriel. I love his expression.
Overall, the film is a must watch, and is worthy of the novel and musical. Despite all the minus point that I give to it, I still love it all the same. But beware! The film will be hard to understand if you haven't read the book AND watched the musical. Yes, it was an AND. As stated before, the film is a complex combination of both, with plot and detail twist here and there. I watched it with my mother and she bombarded me with questions (and I bombarded her back with explanation) afterwards.

That's it. I actually didn't want to complain about the singing since it has nothing to do with the book, but I love opera and musical too much not to say anything about it. Watch the film – it worths the pain.


  1. Wasn't that an AMAZING movie? I cried several times. This is the most powerful story I know of.

    I was a little disappointed with Jackman's speaking-rather-than-singing, too. Most of his songs weren't quite what I hoped for. But his acting was excellent. I felt the same way as you when he was around Cosette.

    All said, I think the singing in the play was a LOT better (I listen to the soundtrack to the play frequently), but it was STILL an amazing movie. Very well-acted and directed. :)

    Oh, and I liked Russel Crowe's Javert, but I guess that's just a matter of taste. (We had to disagree on something...only natural.)

    1. Yes, indeed! I cried at least three times.

      The singing is, well, you know.. But at least more people know both the novel and the musical now, and more importantly, some of them have started reading the book. It's a great thing!