I finally got a chance to go and see the film version of the musical Les Misérables. (I’m a big fan; I was delighted to be able, last summer, to visit the place, on an island in the English Channel, where the novel was written.) There were some significant though not lethal changes from the stage version, but I’m happy to report that the film is still very overtly religious. (After I wrote a column about the theism of the musical play a month or so back — a column referring to at least two elements of the stage version that, as a matter of fact, did not survive into the film — one or more of those who responded in the Deseret News comments section argued repeatedly that the musical is purely secular and that I was illegitimately attempting to read Mormonism [!] into it. This claim struck me then, and still strikes me, as perfectly absurd and transparently false.) Anybody who watches this movie and, thereafter, seriously tries to argue that it’s purely secular is living, so far as I can tell, in a parallel universe, not mine.
It’s a powerful tale of redemption and the transformative power of religious faith.
I hope that hundreds of thousands, indeed millions, will continue to experience Les Misérables in one or (preferably) more of its various incarnations — in the original novel by Victor Hugo, in the stage musical, in the old film with Charles Laughton, and/or in this well-done modern film retelling.
I had been warned, by the way, that the singing (particularly that by Russell Crowe in the role of Inspector Javert) is weak. I didn’t find this to be so. It’s simply different. And, since it wasn’t recorded in a studio and dubbed, it was actually done by the actors while acting, which gives it very potent emotional impact. Those who go expecting merely to see a filmed version of the stage musical may be disappointed. Those who allow the movie to function in its own character as a film will, I think, find it very moving.