I’m not normally a fan of musicals. I prefer the epics (Braveheart, Gladiator, Saving Private Ryan, etc). Until recently the only musicals I ever actually enjoyed have been “Newsies” and “Phantom of the Opera.” However, I have to say that I absolutely loved the new version of the Victor Hugo classic. I know that I might hear flak for it, but I mean who knew that Wolverine, Catwoman, and Maximus could sing like that?!?! The 2+ hour journey is filled with drama, action, love, and occasional comedy. If you haven’t yet, you NEED to go and watch this movie/musical.
1. THE STORY
The story takes place in the 19th century around the time of the French Revolution. Jean Valjean is released on parole from a 19 year prison sentence for stealing a loaf of bread. Upon receiving shelter from a local Bishop, Valjean steals silver from the parish in the middle of the night. He’s caught by authorities and returned to the parish for questioning. When asked about the silver the Bishop says that he gave it to him as a gift, and secures Valjean’s freedom. Moved by generosity, and the Bishop’s challenge, Valjean commits himself to God and vows to live a life of integrity and honesty under a new identity, however breaking his parole. Javert, who was the inspector that originally brought Valjean to justice, swears that he will do so again.
The story branches out to include a variety of characters. Corrupt innkeepers, young revolutionaries, and a single mother with a young daughter are just a few of the other characters we meet along the way. All of these people play a direct part in the lives of Valjean and Javert.
2. THE CHARACTERS
Fantine: Brokenness & Hopelessness
One of the sub-characters we meet is Fantine. She is a factory worker who sends her earnings away to support her illegitimate daughter Cosette. After causing a stir at the factory she is fired and sent away. Her life begins to spiral out of control. She sells her hair to make money and then with nowhere else to turn, she goes to streets and unwillingly becomes a prostitute. The pain of heartbreak and tragedy is overwhelmingly evident. Cold, sick, and seemingly hopeless, she sings:
There was a time when men were kind
When their voices were soft
And their words inviting
There was a time when love was blind
And the world was a song
And the song was exciting
There was a time
Then it all went wrong
I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving
Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted
But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
As they turn your dream to shame
He slept a summer by my side
He filled my days with endless wonder
He took my childhood in his stride
But he was gone when autumn came
And still I dream he’ll come to me
That we will live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather
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.
Javert: Law & Morality
We are not given much of his back story, but at first glance Inspector Javert seems like a model citizen. He has devoted his life to the study and practice of the law. He takes pride in his work. He is faithful and persevering in his search for justice. This is most clearly seen in his pursuit of Valjean, who broke parole, and is therefore guilty. He dedicates himself to bringing this criminal to justice. His passion for his work comes out one night as he sings from the rooftops.
There, out in the darkness
A fugitive running
Fallen from God
Fallen from grace
God be my witness
I never shall yield
Till we come face to face
Till we come face to face
He knows his way in the dark
Mine is the way of the Lord
And those who follow the path of the righteous
Shall have their reward
And if they fall
As Lucifer fell
In your multitudes
Scarce to be counted
Filling the darkness
With order and light
You are the sentinels
Silent and sure
Keeping watch in the night
Keeping watch in the night
You know your place in the sky
You hold your course and your aim
And each in your season
Returns and returns
And is always the same
And if you fall as Lucifer fell
You fall in flame!
And so it has been and so it is written
On the doorway to paradise
That those who falter and those who fall
Must pay the price!
Lord let me find him
That I may see him
Safe behind bars
I will never rest
This I swear
This I swear by the stars!
Valjean: Mercy & Grace
The themes of grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness emanate from the life of Valjean. His life is a demonstration of how powerful grace and mercy can be. Valjean is deserving of punishment for theft and yet receives pardon. Hope instead of misery. Freedom instead of judgment. From condemned criminal to forgiving citizen.
The Bishop extends grace:
You forgot I gave these also
Would you leave the best behind?
So Messieurs you may release him
For this man has spoken true
I commend you for your duty
May God’s blessing go with you.
But remember this, my brother
See in this some higher plan
You must use this precious silver
To become an honest man
By the witness of the martyrs
By the Passion and the Blood
God has raised you out of darkness
I have bought your soul for God!
What have I done sweet Jesus? What have I done?
Become a thief in the night? Become a dog on the run?
Have I fallen so far and is the hour so late?
That nothing remains but the cry of my hate?
The cries in the dark that nobody hears?
Here where I stand at the turning of the years
If there’s another way to go, I missed it twenty long years ago
My life was a war that could never be won
They gave me a number, murdered Valjean
When the chained me and left me for dead
Just for stealing a mouthful of bread
Yet why did I allow that man, to touch my soul and teach me love?
He treated me like any other
He gave me his trust, he called me “brother”
My life he claims for God above. Can such things be?
For I had come to hate the world, this world that always hated me
Take an eye for an eye, turn your heart into stone
This is all I have lived for, this is all I have known
One word from him and I’d be back, beneath the lash upon the rack
Instead he offers me my freedom
I feel my shame inside me like a knife
He told me that I had a soul. How does he know?
What spirit comes to move my life? Is there another way to go?
I am reaching but I fall, and the night is closing in
As I stare into the void, to the whirlpool of my sin
I’ll escape now from the world, from the world of Jean Valjean
Jean Valjean is nothing now! Another story must begin!
3. CONNECTING THE DOTS? – COMING SOON!
(written by Jonathan Atkins)