Skip to comments.Who Knew ‘Les Misérables’ Had a Christian Message?
Posted on 12/30/2012 7:05:20 AM PST by CHRISTIAN DIARIST
I first caught the musical Les Misérables back in 1987, when it made its U.S. debut on Broadway. My lasting memory of the Tony Award winning production, which enjoyed the third-longest run on the Great White Way after Cats and Phantom of the Opera, is that much of the audience wept through Act II.
As Les Miserables appears this holiday season on movie screens throughout the country, featuring the vocal talents of actors Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried, among others, I now think the musical decidedly spiritual entertainment.
Its not that Les Miz has changed since it moved from stage to screen; that the storyline, which is based on Victor Hugos classic novel, has been reworked to appeal to Christian evangelicals, in a crass Hollywood attempt to capture the movie-going audience that made Mel Gibsons Passion of the Christ a box office sensation.
No, what has changed in the 25 years since I saw Les Miz on Broadway is that I am today a re-born again Christian. Indeed, in my young adult years, I ventured away from the faith life of my childhood and early adolescence. But after getting married just before the turn of the millennium, I restarted my walk with the Lord.
I see in the story of Jean Valjean, the hero of Les Miz, a journey of redemption with which all of us can identify who have strayed from The Way, only to be rescued from our sin-sick lives by Christ, our Savior.
After his parole from prison, to which he originally was sentenced for stealing bread for his starving sister and her family, Valjean is provided food and shelter by a kindly bishop. The ex-con returns the kindness by stealing the bishops silver.
Valjean is caught by the authorities and brought before the bishop. But rather than confirm the ex-cons theft, the bishop tells the authorities he gifted the silver to Valjean.
That act of Christ-like grace persuades Valjean to become an upright man. So he changes his identity and starts a new life, eventually building a successful business and even ascending to mayor of the town in which he leads an exceedingly abundant life.
But that is not the end of the story. Valjean does not live happily after. As every Christ follower knows, just because we are born or re-born again does not mean there will not be times that try our souls.
In Valjeans case, when he changed his identity, when he began his life anew, he violated his parole. He was hunted through the years by a determined police inspector, Javert, who vowed to find and re-imprison Valjean.
As it happens, Valjean learns that a man believed to be him has been arrested. It presents an opportunity to Msieur le Mayor to be free of Javert once and for all. It is the kind of snare Satan often sets before us to get us to fall away from our Christian principles.
Valjean struggles with what to do.
Who am I? he asks himself, in one of the best-known musical numbers from Les Miz. Can I condemn this man to slavery? Pretend I do no feel his agony? Must I lie? How can I ever face my fellow men? How can I ever face myself again?
In the end, Valjean makes the hard choice; the right choice.
My soul, he sings, belongs to God, I know. I made that bargain long ago. He gave me hope when hope was gone. He gave me strength to carry on.
So what else could he do? Valjean revealed his true identity, saving an innocent man from wrongful imprisonment.
Valjeans act of self-sacrifice was extraordinary. But to those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, the extraordinary is made ordinary.
It actually was a wonderful movie! I always wondered when they would make the musical into a movie. I had seen three different movies made on the story, One in the old days, an old black/white one w/Valjean played by Frederick March, one where he’s played by Phillip Jourdan (?), and the one in 1998, w/Liam Neeson.
All were good, and so was the 10 anniversary concert, w/Colin Wilkinson (who, incidentally, played the kindly Bishop in the movie!)My two daughters took me to see it last night, and both younger women were crying during it, I had tears too! The younger one, particularly, was a fan of the play for a long time. She had a cd disk of the play, and a VHS of the 10th anniversary concert. I’d heard of the newer 25th anniversary of the concert, but hadn’t seen it.
We both enjoyed those when she was still in high school about 12 years ago. She couldn’t wait to see the movie! The older one had seen the 1980 t.v. movie and liked it, but hadn’t heard the play, or seen the concert based on it. She’s usually not a real big fan of musicals or operettas like that. But she did enjoy the movie a lot more than she thought she would!
Well that’s your choice and mine is to avoid giving my money to Hollywood leftists like Anne Hathaway, an avowed socialist who protested with the OWS goons in Union square and gave the profits of her wedding photo publications to pro gay causes.
If English actors choose to be liberal, they can do it in the UK. If American actors diss MY country and take anti American, anti capitalist stances in the process, then yes, I take offense and will not support them by seeing their stupid movies.
I would no spend a dime watching this and enriching leftists in Hollyweird
Les Miserables with Jean-Paul Belmondo is pretty amazing. It is set in Nazi Germany war times and loosely refers to the universal themes in original Les Miserables. It is one of my favorite movies, but rather hard to find.
I’m a huge Les Mis fan. I recommend seeing the movie. It’s different than the Stage version. I think it does a much better job of conveying the Christian themes. There are crosses everywhere, and it’s much easier to understand the lyrics.
It’s much darker than the stage version. I didn’t like the Lovely Ladies or Master of the House scenes.
However, I loved Empty Chairs better than the stage version. On My Own was also fantastic!
I would never buy a CD of the movie. Musically, I like the stage better. However, the movie was good in a visual way. It’s a very emotional movie.
You’re correct. Hugo was a committed socialist. He also however, valued capitalism and Christianity. He was a complex person. His great uncle was a doctor of the church which no doubt influenced him.
I haven’t seen a movie in 29 years !!!!....
Get off my lawn!...lol
Actually, Colm Wilkinson did play in the movie! It’s not a large role, but he’s in a couple 2 or 3 scenes. He played the kindly bishop who gives Valjean the candlesticks! He played in scenes toward the beginning, and at the end when he’s joining him in heaven, smiling and beckoning him to heaven!
He (Wilkinson) has a wonderful voice still, even at his age (I think he’s in his late 60s-early 70s) and did a beautiful job! Also one of, if not the original actress, to play Eponine is in it too, as one of the prostitutes! (Francis Ruffelle (sp?)) Really, I understand your feeling on some of the players, but if you can set aside your feeling about some of the actors and just focus on their art, you can still enjoy it!
I know Anne Hathaway is a liberal twerp, but she did an outstanding job in her portrayal of Fantine, and sang beautifully! So did Hugh Jackman, his portrayal was powerful, and his voice was beautiful! (for a guy, that is!) He, Russell Crowe, and many other actors in the film-young and old-did a great job in the characters they played.
She’s (Hathaway)like Barbra Streisand in some ways; she (Streisand) is also an obnoxious liberal, but she can sing, beautifully, and her acting is decent. I can tolerate the known leftists, and still enjoy their performances. (it’s not easy, though)I can only suppose that not all of them are like that! I can enjoy movies and t.v. with actors w/both right and left politics if the story is a good one!
I read the unabridged version two or three times in my 30s and 40s and recently listened to the unabridged audio version. I find that listening to a favorite book enhances the experience. In this case, I enjoyed some of it more but since I couldn’t skip over the boring parts, I ended up glad I was done and I doubt I’ll ever read it again. Hugo’s essays on 18th and 19th century French politics was extremely tedious.
You’re right, I seem to remember that there was one that was set in the ww2 era! I couldn’t remember it for some reason until you mentioned it!
Yeah, you’re right about those two scenes (songs)! While very funny in a r-rated way, they did get a bit garish and over the top! The blood and gore in the battle scenes was stomach-turning as well as the scenes in the underground sewer (ugh!). Still, the cinematography and the singing performances were beautiful and breathtaking!
Yeah, you’re right about those two scenes (songs)! While very funny in a r-rated way, they did get a bit garish and over the top! The blood and gore in the battle scenes was stomach-turning as well as the scenes in the underground sewer (ugh!). Still, the cinematography and the singing performances were beautiful and breathtaking and sort-of made up for those other scenes!
4 times miserable ;-) —> book, movie, musical play; musical movie.
The movie had Edmund Gwinn as the bishop and Burt Lancaster as Valjean. I saw it a month ago on TCM, definitely worth watching. And Robert Newton as the police inspector/persecutor. and Hugh Jackman has performed on stage in musicals before he became knows as X-man “Wolverine.”
Thank you for this information in your post #8.
Whittaker Chambers noted the flaws of Les Misérables--"its melodrama, its windy philosophizing, its clots of useless knowledge, its overblown rhetoric and repellent posturings"--but despite these shortcomings, he considered it "a great act of the human spirit."
I'm not sure that the French revolutionaries of 1832 were actually socialists (they weren't Marxists, since Karl Marx was all of 14 in that year). Victor Hugo did refer to himself as a socialist, but it's hard to say just what he meant by that. It was a very vague idea for him and for many others at the time. Hugo was appalled by the idea of class warfare, but was the kind of 19th century gentleman who thought that "something must be done" for the poor.
Boublil and Schonberg who wrote the musical thought about playing up socialist themes more, but decided to bring Christianity to the fore, feeling that was more consistent with Hugo's original vision.Les Miserables was the favorite novel of Ayn Rand, who hated both socialism and Christianity, so I guess there's something in there for everybody.
Who was Hugo’s great uncle?
the movie was very good, well done in all
the theater was packed and absolutely silent for the entire show, with great applause at the end
similar to one of the old time epics I remember going to see, like Ben Hur
I haven’t seen the movie with Edmund Gwinn as the bishop and Burt Lancaster as Valjean. Thanks for recommending it.
Thanks for the ping!
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