The new film version of Les Miserables is amazing. I was excited about it, and it lived up to my expectations. It’s an incredibly, startlingly intimate film, with many of the major solo songs filmed in extreme close-up with long, uncut shots. They just sing straight at the camera. I’ve never seen another musical do anything like that; singing on set instead of in the studio paid off big time. These moments are balanced with panoramic battle scenes and gigantic sets, showing off the things that film can do and a stage production can’t. It was super smart of the director to focus his energy on taking advantage of his medium that way.
I’m glad I finished the novel before this film came out. There were a few small references to the novel that I’d never seen in a stage production: an elephant statue, Marius’s grandfather, Enroljas’s death. The subplots and history lessons that had been cut from the musical stayed cut, of course, and the show was still almost 3 hours long, so there was no room for them anyway. But it was still fun to recognize those few little items that this film salvaged from the novel. Also, I heard that the actor who plays the bishop was the original Jean Valjean. That seems fitting as well.
I cried twice. Fantine had never made me cry before, but Anne Hathaway’s performance was so powerful that I couldn’t help it. I’d seen an interview with her where she talked about how it would be wrong and dishonest to try to be pretty while playing this character who was just falling apart and suffering so terribly. She was right, and deserves the best supporting actress Oscar without a doubt for that humility, for putting her performance ahead of her image. My second sobfest was at the ending, of course. That line, “To love another person is to see the face of God” gets me every time.