By Kummam Mohammed Al-Maadeed
This week Doha audiences will get the chance to enjoy the classic French novel and epic Broadway musical ‘Les Miserables’ as it comes to life on the big screen. The French classic begins in 1815, following the story of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), an ex-convict who is set free after serving 20 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread. Valjean sees his release as a second lease on life, but French law ensures that he remains under parole. However, he refuses to be a slave and breaks free of the societal confines. Life smiles on him again, but the feeling doesn’t last, as the ruthless officer, Javert (Russell Crowe) finds him and begins the chase. Valjean is about to surrender when Fantine (Anne Hathaway) enters his life and on her death bed leaves him a child named Cosette (Isabelle Allen / Amanda Seyfried). He is bewildered by his love of this child and goes on the run again. Years pass and Valjean and Javert meet again in the middle of a new revolution, with their fates having been decided.
The film opens with the theatrical song, ‘Look Down’ which introduces the epic narrative while setting the mood for the remainder of the film. The music and cinematography also introduce the magnificent set and conveys the importance of environment on the overall impact of the story. Scene by scene, the film takes us through various locales, from the giant ships, to the high green mountains and poor streets across France, and finally to the barricades of the revolution. The set expresses the feelings of the characters and provides viewers a deeper understanding of their emotions. The colour of the environment also becomes a type of pathetic fallacy, as it reflects each character’s feelings—when despair arises sets are painted in gray, dim light and when happiness returns, the lights brighten.
The film is based on a novel published in 1862 and written by Victor Hugo. The film is a depiction of the historical events and the state of people after the French Revolution in 1789. The people from this era rose again as they were fed up of being cold, hungry and dying in the rain. It takes a lot to get people to rise up. However, when citizens realise they have nothing to lose, the thought of taking up arms and death becomes a reasonable price for freedom. This is a sentiment that we relate to in the Arab world as we have won revolutions and are dealing with the aftermath.
The revolution is one of the major themes of the film, but is intertwined with the idea of redemption, told through Valjean’s journey. Javert on the other hand, faces a personal conflict as he has to decide between right and wrong, for he only sees a dichotomy.
Performance wise, the film has a strong cast. Anne Hathaway blows the viewer away with her powerful performance of ‘I dreamed a dream’, and draws upon the visceral nature and misery of Fantine’s character. Viewers have seen her acting mature year after year and this role promises an Oscar nomination. Isabelle Allen and her role as little Cosette is a performance not to be missed. While Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe bring to life the complicated rivalry between their characters. The film also stars the talented Helena Bonham Carter in her role as Madame Thénardier who delivers yet another brilliant performance as a villain.
Don’t miss out on this spectacular masterpiece that is accentuated by a sad lullaby. It’s nominated for four Golden Globes and won Movie of the Year at the AFI Awards, and will surely be on its way to the Oscars.