I fell in love with the soundtrack to Les Miserables years and years ago. I think I was about 11 or 12 years old and would listen to it over and over and over again. I remember I used to clean my room to it. Yep, a general room cleaning took the entire musical.. I was a messy child. I remember going to see it for the first time when I was 14 and being completely blown away, tears streaming down my face and feeling so completely affected by the musical. Later, I saw it in the West End several times and continued to be shaken and impressed and affected each time I saw it. So of course when I heard that they were making a film version, I immediately declared that it would become my new favourite movie and counted down the days until I could see it in the cinema.
When I saw it for the first time, I wasn’t completely impressed but I think it just took me back a bit. I was impressed by how they filmed it and the whole thing in general, but growing up hearing Colm Wilkinson as Jean Valjean, it took a while to adjust to Hugh. And going from the stage to the screen has its own difficulties.. so for whatever reason I wasn’t totally gripped the first time BUT I went again this weekend with some friends who had not seen it and I fell in love with it again.
As I sat in my seat, feeling all those feelings well up inside me again I started to think about why it is so powerful! I know there has been a lot of talk about Les Mis and the story and the spiritual significance as of late. Yes, it’s a story of forgiveness. Yes, it speaks volumes about life and love and purpose. I think I was struck by the fact that it so clearly shows humanity. It shows our flaws and emphasizes the importance of living life well. I also think that it reiterates our desire to be part of something bigger. Our desire for revolution. Our desire for acceptance. Our desire to fight for what’s right.
But while it shows us such big things it also depicts the fact that life doesn’t always turn out the way we want it to. Poor Fantine is testament to that. Life doesn’t always work out the way we imagine… or dreamed.
I am always moved by the last scene as Jean Valjean sits at the end of his life, he has those who have gone on ahead singing him to heaven and we see that he is a man who loved and did what he could and really did live his life well. He can leave his pain and hurt and grief behind him and find ultimate freedom and eternal rest. He made it to the end and was told “well done”. Isn’t that the ultimate goal?
As CS Lewis writes “we read to know we are not alone”.. I believe that Les Miserables is the film version of that idea.. We watch it and we realize that when it comes to our human struggles, desire for love and forgiveness and need to belong to a bigger cause, we are definitely not alone.