Movie Reflections – Les Misérables

The last weekend of 2012 was a rare relief – kids-free, and a little free time to spend with my mum, the Man, and also myself. And I watched a movie a day, with each of them.

The show I had chosen to watch with myself was Les Misérables. This would be the second, or third, show I have watched alone since Sherlock Holmes in 2009. Something I had never dared to try earlier in life, but one I found quiet satisfaction and enjoyment in doing, despite my initial trepidations.

It was a fair morning, and the huge cinema was largely empty, save for about twenty of us who didn’t have to work on New Year’s Eve, and who were up early. I had, as usual, chosen a seat near strange people. A bickering, loud, middle-aged couple gave me a glimpse into their lives from the seats behind me. I was amazed at the wife’s control – I would have shut up long ago, folded my arms in frustration, and put as much distance as possible between us without having to walk away. Instead, she sat where she was and carried on the bickering, her low voice resonating with anger and hurt, while her husband was condescending towards her. Her last words before the commercials came on stuck in my mind, “I’m just trying to be a mother, while her husband always scolds her for no reason.”

Their quarrels carried on, floating into my conscious mind while I tried to concentrate on the flitting images on the big screen, chomping down on my popcorn loudly in order to drown out their voices. It was sheer hard work.

Finally! Les Misérables started, and there was some peace. I focused all my attention on Hugh Jackman, the shallow reason why I had chosen to watch the movie amongst the heavy-weights during the festive season. I was amazed again and again at his singing abilities, despite being severely musically handicapped all my life. I sat enthralled, alternating being held captive by Hugh Jackman’s voice and gorgeous eyes, and surprise that Russel Crowe was quite good too.

The spell was momentarily broken by a loud “Why all songs hah?”. Mr. Husband clearly didn’t come to watch this movie on his own accord. I had to suppress my impulse to throw a fistful of my popcorn over my shoulder to ward off the evil. Then the seat shaking began, because Mr. Husband was cheated of his feelings that this was not a ‘normal’ movie, and started fidgeting about his cage. Double Grrrr…

Anne Hathaway was on her deathbed, pining for her beloved daughter, full of sorrow and regret of not having Cosette by her side. And finally succumbing to blissful death, after Hugh Jackman promised to take care of Cosette on her behalf. I felt my chest tighten and the tears well in my eyes, witnessing a mother’s love for her daughter on the huge screen. As I reached for a piece of tissue paper, Mr. Husband did it again.

“She died already meh? Sleeping only right?” What?!! Are you blind or what??

Maybe dumping half a box of popcorn over my shoulder wasn’t such a bad idea after all. More seat shaking.

It just went on. Seat shakings, and more comments like “Why all songs one?” (again!) and “Why the story so long-winded?”. Not surprisingly, his Wife did not respond to him throughout the show. Though I wished she had the courtesy to shut him up, for the sanity of others. Namely, mine, since I was the nearest victim.

The last part of the movie was to me, the most poignant. Hugh Jackman declaring that being a father to Cosette was the best thing that happened in his life, and that he was unwilling to let her go, but no longer having the strength to carry on with his mortal life. My chest constricted painfully; my tears quickly soaked up 2 pieces of tissue paper, the strong emotions a parent has for his child coursing though my blood, touching my cold heart.

Having neither read the novel nor watched previous works of Les Misérables, I could only say that the movie was about sadness. Of missed opportunies, wasted time, futile dreams, unrequited love and stubbornness. Of Valjean’s unjust years as a prisoner, years running and hiding from Javert, Javert’s stubborn insistence of right and wrong, good and evil, leading to his eventual, dramatic suicide, of the young lives lost to their suicidal dream of overthrowing the government. At least there were some happy endings – Marius and Cosette finally together because of Valjean’s sacrifices, and Valjean in paradise where those who died ‘in vain’ carried on with their dreams.

I wouldn’t say Les Misérables was the most touching movie I have ever watched, for I am seldom moved by movies. But at least some parts of the movies stuck with me long enough; that would suffice. Now would be to find the time to read the novel, to do what I love – comparing original works with remakes. Looking forward to that…

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