One Take More…and another and another: Shooting “Les Mis” and seeing songs as prayers

Director Tom Hooper discusses the work that went into his interpretation of the musical, and offers this interesting insight: 

He said that he had consulted Australian director Baz Luhrmann who pointed out that moving between singing and talking can be difficult for an audience: “He said unless you can make some kind of contract with the audience that gives you permission to do this, it’s very tricky. Try as I might I couldn’t really see an obvious device.

“Even with really great musicals, like The Sound of Music, there’s always that moment where there’s 28 minutes without a song and then [a song starts] and you have a gasp and then you relax. In the end I felt that there’s something creatively and intellectually more honest in saying ‘this is a world where people communicate through songs’.”

Once he’d made the decision, then came the really hard part: directing a whole team of (very willing) actors who aren’t talking, but singing. Surprisingly, he says, the singing part wasn’t necessarily the problem: “It felt more novel to be doing a film with soliloquies because it isn’t a form that is allowed in the modern movie, you don’t have characters who talk by themselves for three minutes.

“Russell [Crowe who plays Javert] said something early on which was that you could see many of them as prayers. One of the solutions to the soliloquising was to think of it in relationship to people praying out loud or in their head.”

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