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Les Miserables—An Epic of Humanity and Freedom
发布时间:2014-06-13 浏览次数:

As the movie Les Misérables appears in a form of musical, it won a great success and makes people review the masterpiece of Victor Hugo. At the 85th Oscars held in 2012, Les Miserables was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and finally won three Academy Awards including the Best Supporting Actress played by Anne Heathway. As is known to us all, Oscar best-pictures not only reflect world movies, but also act as a kind of method for culture’s conveying. Meanwhile, it also has obtained much praise at the 17th Annual Satellite Award, the 70th Golden Globes and the 66th British Academy Film Awards. Then why this reproduced film could make such a success instead of being criticized like other reproduced works? How could it earn both considerable box office return and decent reputation at the same time?  The success not only reside in the elaborate film-making and the actors’ excellent interpretation but also depend on the huge history background.

●The background—never forget the history
The story started with a piece of huge red white and blue flag which was sunk into the water, then the subtitle comes out that “1815 twenty six years after the start of the France Revolution, a king is once again on the throne of France.” The France Revolution taking place in 1789 was really a magnificent feat in France history, it had overturned the Bourbon Dynasty which as a feudal monarchy regime had ruled France for more than 200 years. Before the revolution took place, there had been some elements that indicated its coming. At the time of Louis XVI of France, the capitalism was developing rapidly, which eventually caused the  rising of bourgeoisie. However, they did not gain the corresponding status in politics. In the meantime, domestic drought from 1785 to 1788, heavy taxes, high unemployment, the seven year’s war with Britain led to the accumulation of domestic conflicts. Louis XVI decided to convene the Estates General to solve the economic crisis, but, only to result in the outbreak of conflicts. In the year of 1789, Parisians attacked and occupied the Bastille, the French revolution broke out roundly.

After the great revolution, the Constitutional Monarchy Group came to power, drawing up The 1791 constitution to carry out constitutional monarchy, and the famous Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was also enacted in this period. Yet, the power was once overturned by Parisians. After this, Girondins, Jacobins had been in power one after another, only to be overturned because what they did then did not exactly solve the problems of France. The chaotic situation did not change at all until Napoleon started the Fog Mouth Coup, which declared the end of French Revolution.

Napoleon established the First Empire of France and his troops had driven across Europe. However, his failure against Russian army  and the battle of Waterloo finally led to the wreck of the First Empire of France. And then the Bourbon Dynasty came back, the red white and blue flag sank into the sea as the White irises flag rising up, story has come to the very beginning.

The Bourbon Dynasty had ruled France for another 15 years from 1815 to 1830 after the restoration. During this period, France were faced with serious economic and agriculture decline, which was severer then that before 1789. The French were really dissatisfied so that they were ready to start a new revolution.

●Synopsis—break the darkness before dawn
This world-famous work was written by Victor Marie Hugo, one of the most famous French romantic writers in 19th century. He created an epic of France through the French Revolution to Paris Uprising and showed us a panoramic of social life during that time.

The whole story began at 26 years after the start of the French revolution. A king is once again on the throne of France and people were living in an extreme suffering condition including Jean Valjean, the man who was imprisoned because of stealing a loaf of bread for his suffering nephew. After 19 years’ hard work, Jean Valjean, portrayed by Hugh Jackman, permitted to be released on parole; however, a man would never be employed with a parole certificate at that time so that he still have no place to stay and have nothing to eat. Under that suffering condition, he stole all the silverware from a Christianity church, but when he was arrested by the local police, the godfather of that church forgave him and let the police released him rather than accuse him. Jean Valjean was deeply moved by the godfather; he tore the parole certificate to shreds and made up his mind to turn over a new leaf. Rely on his endeavor and intelligence; he finally became a successful businessman and beloved mayor after ten years, but Javert, the sheriff who had arrested Jean before showed up and tried to gathering evidence to arrest him again. At the same time, Jean Valjean learned the encounter of Fantine. Fantine was reduced to become prostitution because of others’ bullying so that he promised her that he would bring her daughter Cosette up after she died. He kept his promise. Having spent 8 years’ peaceful life together, they sank into trouble again. The dynamic Paris Uprising started, and his kind-hearted daughter Cosette and Marius, a handsome and brave young man who followed with Republican Party fell in love with each other. Unfortunately, the uprising failed, in order to save Marius, Jean Valjean sacrificed his own life and moved Javert with his kindness. At the end of the whole story, Cosette and Marius married and started their new life happily with all the people’s blessing.


As a musical “famous four” of the musical Les Misérables in drama, music, stage performances, etc, it has demonstrated high artistic standard and unique artistic value. The horrific court, bloodcurdling prison, gloomy cloister and miserable Slumdog of Paris gathered together and summed up a vivid and cruel scene by Hugo’s elaborate description.

It is undeniable that Hugo has created an epic of Jean Valjean’s lifetime; what’s more, it not just limited to one person, but represented all the toilers of that time. He is a protagonist with legendary and romanticism, and they all reflected in his moral spirit. Meanwhile, his spirit also experienced a winding process. He was a good man by nature, however, the slaughter of society, the punishment of law and the merciless of reality all forced him to become a monster and let him want to revenge on this unequal world. Fortunately, the stranger’s spirit-salvation awakened him and strengthened him, letting his consciousness become the power to support him survive the hard life. Heroism in his heart has helped him to break the darkness before dawn.

●The cast—star-studded
As a well-known opera movie, no wonder that the director has to give a lot of care on the selection of cast in order to not ruin those classical songs of this opera. There is no denying that Tom Hooper has made wise choices and created an excellent cast. Audiences would complain everything but the wonderful performance of the actors and actress because they really have done a good job beyond everyone’s expectation.

For example, as far as I’m concerned, the most attractive performance in this movie must attributable to Anne Heathway. Although she just played a supporting role, Fantine, her exquisite acting made that role so charming that even surpassed the leading actors. In order to perform well in this classical opera, Anne lost nearly 20 pounds in a short time with harmful methods and she even cut her long beautiful brown hair into weird short hair. That can be called as a great sacrifice because we all know that how precious it means to a popular female star. What’s more, her amazing beautiful voice really impressed all the audiences. When she was singing “I dreamed a dream” of that classical part, we can say that she really expressed Fantine’s desperate and helpless feeling with her outstanding performance and made people moved by her pathetic situation. In a word, that’s why Anne Heathway could win the best supporting actress of the Academy Award.

In addition to that, Tom Hooper directed with a technical bravura that he decided to record sound on site. And that means all the actors have to sing while acting with their unprofessional level of singing. In fact, some actors did not let us down and performed so well beyond our imagination such as Hugh Jackman. His simple and honest sound of singing showed the complicated mental activity of Jean Valjean perfectly extremely when he was singing “look down”. Besides, his faultless performance also enriched the inward world of this protagonist and no wonder that why the director has arranged so many close-up shots for him. Expect for that, the romantic true love of Cosette and Mairus is also a watching focus of the whole story. They were played by the two of the most popular performers, Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne. Maybe the fragment that they were singing “a heart full of love” together can touch all the movie fans and make them feel pity for their difficult love.

●The charming voice—impressive songs raise the whole story
As a great musical, the movie is full of impressive songs, which make the plot more breathtaking, meanwhile characters become more vivid and deeply rooted in audiences’ hearts. with a bold male voice singing the song Look down, the movie beginning, Jean Valjean shows up as a Torture committed convicted for stealing a loaf of bread. An obsessive police named Javert is monitoring all these prisoners regularly. The movie is established with a kind of tragic tone at the very beginning.

Fantine,as a typical tragic character in the movie, lost her only job in the factory. In order to send money to the Thénardiers who take care of her little daughter Cosette, she has no choice but to sell her beautiful hair, then front teeth, and finally turns to prostitution. It’s too hard for a young woman to get through all these extreme sufferings. In this painful situation, Fantine sings the song I dreamed a dream which express the desperate inside her incisively.
“There was a time when love was blind
And the world was a song
And the song was exciting
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.”
The melody appears relaxing and happy at the beginning and then as the change of mood, the song becomes grief and indignation, Which has definitely grasps the audiences’ hearts firmly.

When the kindly old priest Bishop Myriel forgave Jean Valjean for stealing his valuable articles of silver and candles, as the priest says, Jean Valjean’s soul has been saved, he recovers from so many miserable pains and becomes a successful and better-off mayor. However, Javert never gonna give up to arrest identity entirely, Javert always keeps his eyes on him. At this point a prisoner who is mistaken as Jean Valjean appeared and is about to be killed, Jean Valjean realizes that it may be the only one chance to escape from the danger of being arrested. But if he doesn’t acknowledge his real identity the innocent man will be killed. How to make the decision? At this critical moment, the song Who am I shows the answer.
“My soul belongs to God, I know
I made that bargain long ago
He gave me hope when hope was gone
He gave me strength to journey on ”
With the passionate music and the actor’s brilliant performance, it seems that I can truly feel the fierce struggle in Jean Valjean’s heart. It is too hard to give up all the things he has now and back to become an escaped prisoner again. But Jean Valjean will never do anything that obeys conscience, what he advocates is always the holy belief in god. Finally he chose to sacrifice himself. When Jean Valjean rushed into the court and acknowledged his real identity in a loud voice, I see the glory of God.

In addition, there is a famous song about love that leads to a huge resonance in the audience. Maybe having the same feeling or being infected by the wonderful performance, almost everyone cannot help but shed tears when they watching this part.

It’s a song performed by Samantha Barks who plays the role of Éponine in this movie. As a child, Éponine is pampered and spoiled by her parents, after growing up, she participates in her father's crimes and begging schemes to obtain money. Although she is in love with Marius crazily, At Marius' request, she finds Cosette's address for him and leads him to her. Finally she disguises as a boy and joins the uprising and reaches out her hand to stop a soldier's bullet heading for Marius in the end of her life. The song named On my own just like the heart portrayal of Éponine’s feeling. It is also a kind of praise for true love.

The movie reached its climax at the end. Although the revolution is failed, many young lives are gone, it is still wroth to memory these brave and aspiring people, to remember how hard did they fight for the freedom. The last scene in the movie is a imaginary heaven where live a happy life without the sufferings, the revolution won a great success, everyone is singing and smiling, freedom always belongs to people. Just like the chorus singing:
Do you hear the people sing?
Do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring
When tomorrow comes!
Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing?
Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring
When tomorrow comes...
Tomorrow comes!

●Defects cannot belittle virtues
Nevertheless, there still exist some blemishes in this movie. For instance, the most anticipated track “on my own” was supposed to be a very eye-catching part among the whole movie. But the reality is that Samantha Barks, who played the part of Eponine didn’t have fair-sounding voice to sing this track well so that maybe her performance couldn’t satisfy those real opera aficionados. Furthermore, the film cutting is kind of disorder, that makes the narration of this whole story looks kind of incoherent.

Generally speaking, it’s undeniable that Les Miserables is a successful reproduced movie; it’s not only a magnificent epic of one man, but also an epic of France history. No one would regret to have this rare opportunity sitting in the cinema and enjoy this grand history as well as appreciate those classical melodies which have become fashionable for decades.


(Editor:Zheng Nantian; Source:English Net)

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