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Les Miserables

Directed by Tom Hooper

UK, 2013

Cornerhouse, 12 January 2013

Les Miserables

It is an extremely fine film, and you’d even venture to say it’s superior to its source material.

What Tom Hooper has done is to take a good musical, albeit with one outstanding song, and enhance it through diverse cinematic means so it has the emotional force of a great opera.

You can see now, what wasn’t so clear before, that the grand theme is sacrifice: sacrifice for God, for love of another, for The People.  Those who sacrifice all – Valjean, Fantine, Eponine, Gavroche – are sanctified; and it happens that somehow the Revolution and God’s Will are as one.  Those who simply do their duty – ‘nothing more, nothing less’ – like say Javert, Russell Crowe’s pedestrian police officer, are condemned to Hell.  Mind, the manner of his death, a mortal sin, cannot have helped his cause either.

Anne Hathaway’s performance is outstanding, her singing of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ simply heartrending.  The most beautiful songs are the most despairing.  Hugh Jackman is terrific and as for Russell Crowe… well, he’s OK, he pulls his weight.  And he is to be commended for taking on the challenge.

At the end there’s a barricade leading to the sky and you could almost believe that progress is real, that human suffering is never in vain, that when you die you’ll meet your departed loved ones in Heaven at last.  But then you remember what dear old Einstein said about the frantic search for ether at the end of the nineteenth century.  It cannot be found because it does not exist.  Exactly so.