Sunday, January 13, 2013

Les Miserables: A Review

Les Miserables: To See or Not to See.

Ever since she heard the movie was coming out, my daughter (who is 24) has been waiting anxiously to see it. Years ago, she saw the spectacular Broadway version. She sings the incredible music all the time. My other children also like to play the music on the piano. It is very dramatic and moving. The words are inspiring. My husband and I have also seen the theater production. All three of us have read the book. I don't think you need to read the book to understand the storyline, but it definitely offers a depth to understanding the complete story and the times. The author, by the way, likes to digress from the storyline and pontificate.

There have been discussions on blogs asking for advice on whether or not to see the movie and what age is it appropriate for? First off, I think the film industry was disingenuous in giving the movie a PG-13 rating. After seeing the movie, I would not let my 12 or 15-year-old see the movie. It should be rated R for the sexual content. That being said. They probably didn't give it an R because they felt there was not enough nudity. It is too bad the producer(s) decided to add some extra images that did not need to be included. I was hoping to take my younger daughters to see it.

The problem is images. They stick in your mind. The question is whether the negative images stick more or the positive images? If you want to close your eyes to avoid the negative images (as someone suggested), then the 2 parts to avoid are when Fantine sells her body to the soldier. She has nothing else to sell and she fears for her daughter. The other part is the song "Master of the House."

The song "Master of the House" displays the depravity and debauchery of man (humankind--for those who are politically correct). How low will a man sink? The Thenardiers are a direct contrast to the other characters who are trying to lift themselves up. They seem to know no bounds on how far they can sink.

In reading some comments on various sites I want to also add that the movie is not doing great at the box office, because they know how to market it to a Christian audience,, but because of the theme of the movie of love, mercy, kindness, and redemption--a universal message of Christian love. It is the innate desire of the human heart, as St. Augustine says, "Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in thee." The movie also shows how one person's choice can dramatically affect another. It is perhaps even more sad that people don't understand poetry. They truly don't understand the line "To love another person is to see the face of God."

 "To love another person is to see the face of God" is the message of Bl. Mother Teresa. She said, “Seeking the face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and his hand in every happening; This is what it means to be contemplative in the heart of the world. Seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor” (In the Heart of the World: Thought, Stories and Prayers).

This movie has one of the most Catholic inspiring messages I have ever seen. The ending alone is something to reflect upon. Where does JeanValjean die? In a convent! In front of the Eucharist!!!!  It is peaceful and quiet and the candles are flickering. What is he doing? Praying for his "daughter" and her husband to be: Cosette and Marius. When he dies, who comes to greet him? Fantine. Why? Because he has turned his hatred and bitterness into love. He loved another person--truly loved--with pure intentions, not expecting anything in return and at great personal expense to himself.

To fully understand the closing moments of the movie is to reflect back on the very beginning and to meditate on all the choices Valjean makes. Repeatedly, he comes to a crossroads and has to make a decision. When he wavers and starts to think about himself instead of those around him is when his poor choice leads to Fantine losing her job and sinking into depravity.

He could have chosen not to help the man who is trapped under the cart. By doing so, Javert would have found it more difficult to recognize him. But in freeing the man from under the cart, the man was later there to help Valjean to find a place of refuge. It is an incredible movie of love and forgiveness. 

Javert also contrasts with Valjean. Javert embodies justice without mercy to the bitter end. He despairs because he cannot accept mercy. He does not understand it. Through the Bishop's kindness and forgiveness, Valjean begins his journey to understanding mercy. He is at first the receiver of mercy, but then he must learn to pass mercy onto others. He does this multiple times: Stepping forward to save the man condemned because he looked like him, saving the man under the cart, interceding on Fantine's behalf, saving Marius' life, and sparing Javert's life. He personifies Christ's command to us to forgive "seventy times seven."

The movie is all about choices. It challenges the viewer, "Are you going to make choices so that you too can be like Valjean at the end of your life?"

"Come with me, where chains will never bind you
All your grief, at last, at last behind you
Lord in heaven, look down on him with mercy
Forgive me all my trespasses and take me to your glory."

"Take my hands
I'll lead you to salvation
Take my love for love is everlasting
And remember the truth that once was spoken
To love another person is to see the face of God"

The Complete Text Below:

Now you are here
Again beside me
Now I can die in peace
For now my life is blessed

You will live, papa
You're going to live
It's too soon to ever say goodbye

Yes, cossette
Forbid me now to die
I'll obey
I will try

On this page
I write my last confession
Read it well
When I at last am sleeping
It's a story of those who always loved you
Your mother gave her life for you and gave you to my keeping

Come with me
Where chains will never bind you
All your grief
At last, at last behind you
Lord in heaven;
Look down on him in mercy

Forgive me all my trespasses and take me to your glory

Take my hand
And lead me to salvation
Take my love
For love is everlasting
And remember
The truth that once was spoken:
To love another person is to see the face of god

Do you hear the people sing?
Lost in the valley of the night
It is the music of a people who are climbing to the light
For the wretched of the earth
There is a flame that never dies
Even the darkest nights will end and the sun will rise

They will live again in freedom in the garden of the lord
They will walk behind the ploughshare
They will put away the sword
The chain will be broken and all men will have their reward!

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing?
Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes!

Aaaaah, aaaaah, aaaah,
Tomorrow comes!

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