Monday, January 21, 2013

Review: Les Miserables (2012)

"Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.

                                            -- Alain Boublil and Herbert Kretzmer
                                               (the musical Les Miserables, based on Victor Hugo's novel)

I had been to the cinema over the weekend to watch the 2012 film adaptation of the hit musical Les Miserables (directed by Tom Hooper, starring Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway). The story, set during the time leading up to and during the June Rebellion of 1832,  is about ex-convict Jean Valjean dodging the authorities (specifically the dedicated Inspector Javert) while taking care of his adopted daughter Cosette, whose mother (Fantine) died many years ago.

The lead cast's acting was great. Hugh Jackman was a convincing Jean Valjean while Anne Hathaway's Fantine could move even the most unsympathetic audience because of the unfairness of her plight... with the exception of black-and-white rule-of-law Javert, of course. Russell Crowe, cast as the antagonist Javert, was scary; his singing made me think that Javert really had no emotions and that he did not believe in forgiveness and mercy. The other members of the cast also did a great job in this movie. I won't write in detail anymore since I agree with what Noan had to say about Cosette, Eponine, Marius, and Gavroche. The songs, coming mostly from the stage version, were performed impeccably. However, I've got to admit that I didn't get the goosebumps while watching the movie cast sing One Day More and Do You Hear the People Sing; the movie version fell short compared with the Les Miserables Dream Cast and the 25th anniversary concert singers. That's an unfair comparison, though.

While watching the movie, I thought I finally understood the attraction of the novel to Filipino liberals during the late 19th century. Europe-based Filipino luminaries at that time (Rizal, Luna, del Pilar, Ponce, etc) must have seen themselves in the Friends of the ABC. If Les Miserables (the novel) were available in the Philippines then, it might also have influenced the Filipino revolutionaries (Aguinaldo, Bonifacio, Mabini, etc) fighting for freedom from Spanish rule. Not only to the Filipino revolutionaries though; I believe that this timeless story of the search for a people's freedom from oppression is universal and might have inspired other nations to their own paths to independence as well. It gave names and faces to nameless people who fought for their nations' freedoms: the unknown soldiers who made, according to a CNN reporter at the Obama inauguration coverage, "today and tomorrow possible".