Les Miserables – Ending Explained & Film Analysis

The musical by K.-M. Schoenberg and A. Bublil based on the world-famous novel by Hugo was literally doomed to be screened: after all, its English-language version has not left the stage for more than 30 years. Les Miserables has played on stages in 38 countries, and has hosted no less than 6,680 performances on Broadway. It remains only to be surprised that the film based on the musical was staged so many years later.

Les Misérables (2012) analysis and review of the musical film

But the film adaptation of Tom Hooper managed not only to convey all the musical merits of the production (but at the same time to receive three Oscars). Despite the “frivolous” genre, Hooper’s Les Miserables conveys the spirit of Hugo’s novel in such a way that it becomes close and understandable to any viewer.

How different is the plot of the film from the book?

Although musicals are characterized by a rather free treatment of the literary fundamental principle, in this case it must be admitted that the images, event outline and ideas of Hugo’s novel are reproduced quite accurately. With the exception of a few arbitrary deviations from the original text, such as the acquaintance of Valjean and Javert in hard labor (in the book it occurs later), all the discrepancies between Hooper’s film and the novel are explained by two reasons: the specifics of the genre and the screen time limit. For example, Fantine’s novel, which led to the birth of Cosette, and the story of Valjean’s gradual rise, thanks to the intelligence and ingenuity of becoming a manufacturer and mayor, remained behind the scenes – there was simply no time left for them. But these episodes, by and large, do not change anything in the perception of the characters, and their absence does not in any way affect the content of the film.

Les Misérables (2012) analysis and review of the musical film

A number of events in the book are fully preserved, but “condensed” due to the specifics of the genre. So, the eerie scenes with Fantina selling her hair, teeth, and then her body, in the book are separated by several weeks, and in the film they follow one after another, creating an impressive picture of a rapid fall to the social bottom.

Les Misérables (2012) analysis and review of the musical film

Separately, it should be noted the director’s careful attitude to detail: the film contains both the doll that Cosette dreamed of, and the huge artificial elephant in which Gavroche lived. At the same time, Hugo Hooper’s ideas were treated with equal care.

Why does the film focus so much on social issues?

The slave labor of convicts in galleys, the “juicer” of the factory workshop, beggars and prostitutes, homeless and vagabonds, the fiery speeches of revolutionaries and the shooting of barricades – all this is in the novel of Hugo, who was not afraid to touch upon the most complex social issues of his time. In this case, the director follows the literary basis of the musical with one essential clarification: if Hugo wrote about contemporary life, then for us the times of Les Miserables are a rather distant history. Because of this, Hooper enhances the social aspect a little over the novel, seeking to paint a convincing picture of the unjust society in which Valjean and Cosette lived. The film reminds that in the 19th century everything was far from being as cloudless and romantic as those who are inclined to idealize the past with manors, balls and the crunch of French buns like to imagine.

Les Misérables (2012) Review and Film Review

However, the social issues of the film are not limited to the class struggle – then it would seem pretty outdated in terms of meaning. There is another very serious problem that has retained its relevance: it is the alienation and disunity of people. As long as man is a wolf to man, everyone will live badly: both those who gnaw on the crusts and those who shake with fear for their wealth. All the heroes of the film understand this, and everyone is painfully looking for a way out.

What is the meaning of the image of the archbishop?

Les Misérables (2012) Review and Film Review

At the beginning of the film, we see a church minister who sheltered Valjean, whom everyone turned away from, and forgave him the theft of silver. Of course, he does not give the silver to the former convict, not because he himself doesn’t peck money – the situation shows that the archbishop does not live well. He forgives Valjean, wanting to follow Christ and symbolically turn the other cheek, and also because he deeply sympathizes with his suffering. The archbishop is the first who saw a person in a former convict, and by personal example he proved that love for one’s neighbor is not empty words.

The Archbishop embodies the first way to overcome social contradictions – faith. The problem is that it is difficult, almost unrealistic for the average person to rise to such a height of self-denial.

What is the meaning of the image of Valjean?

Les Misérables (2012) Review and Film Review

The main character of the film is a man who has managed to radically change himself. This makes him so interesting and memorable: after all, there are many characters with an unhappy fate in world literature, and Valjean, who managed to live 4 different lives – a poor man, a convict, a mayor and a rich man, a father and a humble man in the street – is one. At the same time, hesitation and temptation are peculiar to Valjean, but every time he finds the strength to overcome them. Of course, this is a largely romantic hero, but he convincingly demonstrates the benefits of the second path – personal self-improvement. As the saying goes: if you want to change society, start with yourself.

Les Misérables (2012) Review and Film Review

What is the meaning of the images of Cosette and Marius?

The main romantic couple of the film, of course, embodies love as a force capable of changing, if not the entire society, then its individual members. This gift – to love and to be loved – is especially strong in Cosette. Love makes a person happy in any society and saves him from any trouble. At the same time, Cosette and Marius are the embodiment of the future of France, its brightest and most positive beginning.

Les Misérables (2012) Review and Film Review

What is the meaning of the images of Friends of the ABC?

Young revolutionaries, friends of Marius, propose a fourth way of changing society – the way of revolution, uprising. At first glance, they are almost ideal heroes – young, beautiful, sincerely believe in their ideas, ready to give their lives for freedom. But let’s remember who is almost the first to die on the barricades – a child, baby Gavroche. Revolution is a complex phenomenon, fraught with enormous sacrifices, and Hugo (like Hooper) understood this perfectly.

Les Misérables (2012) explanation of the musical plot

What is the meaning of the Thenardier images?

A colorful couple of swindlers-innkeepers demonstrate that there is another way to confront an unjust society – crime. Paradoxically, the noble Enjolras and his friends are as lawbreakers as Thenardier. However, crime disfigures a person externally and internally, and ultimately leads nowhere.

Les Misérables (2012) explanation of the musical plot

What is the meaning of Javert’s image?

Javert is the only character who fully embraced an unjust society and dedicated his life to serving unrighteous laws. Objectively, he is an extraordinary person in his own way, but for him there is neither faith, nor self-improvement, nor love, and therefore he loses in the fight against crime, and the only rebellion he is capable of is to kill himself.

Les Misérables (2012) explanation of the musical plot

But was Javert doomed to such an ending in the first place? Of course not. This is what a musical film was made about: in any circumstances, a person is able to make the right choice, and only those who do not know how to love and believe are truly outcasts.

Les Misérables (2012) explanation of the musical plot

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