'Imagination will take you everywhere'
An old man sits in a chair looking close to death, his beautiful daughter and her husband are kneeling beside him. They exchange a loving final embrace before the man takes his last breath; the daughter cries inconsolably into her husband’s arms. There is a golden glow and all is silent. Except in the distance there is the unmistakable sound of many voices singing; their words are full of pride and optimism, their singing gets louder as if the people are coming closer…’Do You Hear The People Sing’ We cut to the source of the sound; a wide shot displays a vast expanse of 19th century Paris covered in barricades made from piles of furniture topped with thousands of people singing, cheering and waving flags in ecstatic victory. They are the French revolutionaries, all of which have been killed during the film, Valijean has now joined them – their bravery and spirit lives on. The screen fades to black.
This is the final scene within Les Mis which will have the whole audience reaching for the tissues – even the most cold-hearted musical haters. I loved the whole thing (and not just because of the gorgeous Eddie Redmayne). To be brief the film can be summarised in one word: inspiring. But I don’t want to use one word. The cinematic production was a dramatic and emotional feast for the eyes and ears; a creation of musical and acting splendour which sent shivers down my spine. The film directed by Tom Hooper (who previously directed The King’s Speech) has unsurprisingly been met with an unprecedented amount of positive reviews, Rolling Stone magazine described it as ‘perfectly marvelous’, while the film is sure to scoop up a monstrous amount of awards in the oncoming award season. It has already won three Golden Globes, been nominated for nine BAFTA Awards and eight Oscars.
Anne Hathaway certainly deserves to win every single award she’s been nominated for, due to her sheer dedication to the role of Fantine. She lost a substantial amount of weight and had her luscious locks hacked off whilst being filmed (those are real tears) so she could make her performance of the dying prostitute more realistic. In my view Hathaway’s Oscar nomination was sealed 30 minutes into the film when she sang the mesmirising ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ which was so raw and heartfelt that it promptly made me tear up (as well as everyone else in the cinema). Hathaway gives such a bare and vulnerable performance; she lets the audience see her at her most fragile . Consequently she has earned a huge amount of respect from me and probably from a large percentage of the global population (I don’t care what the ‘Hathahaters’ think – they’re wrong). In fact ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ was undoubtedly my favourite song, with ‘Do You Hear The People Sing’ and ‘One Day More’ closely following. These emotion fuelled songs are enhanced through Hooper’s inventive use of the close up to create a connection between the audience and the actor – you literally feel as if you are sat on their laps, experiencing every little tremor of emotion. My sisters and I haven’t stopped singing the songs since we left the cinema (much to the annoyance of our Dad).
As well as containing a hefty sprinkling of international stars, including, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Helena Bonham Carter (who is hilariously funny with Sacha Baron Cohen as the inn keepers), the film also propels some young rising actors into the spotlight. In particular the child actor, Daniel Huttlestone, delivers an outstanding performance as the streetwise poor boy, Gavroche, who runs around being troublesome with his friends but helps the revolutionary students, before meeting a shocking death during the battle (which caused a few gasps in the cinema) – he was brave until the end. Amanda Seyfried’s angelic voice was also a joy to behold – it reminded me of an enchanting Disney Princess’s voice. Similarly Eddie Redmayne’s singing was impressive (who knew he could sing?), although the actor’s facial expressions were at times strangely contorted. But it wasn’t only the actors who made the film such an enjoyable experience. The set design/location was a major contributing factor, particularly the breathtaking aerial shots of 19th century Paris, seen regularly due to Javert’s penchant for walking on the edge of balconies – which successfully reinforces his authority as he surveys the city from above. My only complaint about the film would be I would have liked more dialogue spoken between the actors, as there were a lot of songs which blurred from one to the next, dialogue might have helped reinforce the connection between the actors.
Overall it was a mesmirising experience (I’m running out of positive adjectives to describe it, I’ve used them all) and I’m so glad we braved the snow to go to the cinema. I definitely recommend you see it (but only if you like a LOT of singing). Now I can’t wait to see the stage version, which is apparently even better than the film – I don’t know if that’s possible.