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28Dec, 2012

Les Misérables

To love another person is to see the face of God.

Well, despite when some critics are saying (including my local favorite), I certainly enjoyed Les Misérables… for a number of reasons.

The kids and I have an annual tradition of attending a show together. While it has always been a stage or symphony production. we opted for this movie; the night after its Christmas day release. We expanded our definition of the Miller clan this year and a pack of nine gathered together.

While I can disagree with some of the artistic choices of the director… The actors squeezed out every possible ounce of their performances; nothing was left behind. As a Christmas-timed tale, the narrative of forgiveness, conversion, and redemption.

The story traces Jean Valjean, a paroled prisoner (guilty and overly punished of a minor crime) is taken in by a bishop. He steals from him and is caught and returned to the scene of the crime where the bishop makes a radical choice to follow Christ’s encouragement turn the other cheek. “But my friend, you left so early, surely something slipped your mind,” The  bishop claims as he hands Valjean two silver candlesticks. “You forgot I gave these also. Would you leave the best behind?”

The bishop makes an investment, not one taken lightly, but in depth of conviction and hope in Jean Valjean and it makes a profound difference in his life and story.

Later, Valjean repeats a similar gesture in prayer to the Lord for one of the next generation… One which, as the new year, approaches, we should all share.

Bring him peace, bring him joy
He is young. He is only a boy
You can take; You can give.
Let him be. Let him live.
Bring him home. Bring him home. Bring him home.

Will you be strong and stand with me? What is your take on Les Misérables… as a movie? as a message?


1 Comment

  1. Whenever I have seen the play (and now the movie), I am most struck by the character of Javert and his blind devotion to his sense of (religious / legal) justice. In the first scene, he declares Valjean a criminal like any other criminal, regardless of circumstances of child starvation, regardless of the corrupt society that allowed such circumstances to occur in the first place. And from that scene on, he is unyielding despite every piece of evidence contradicting his initial assessment. In his final scenes, he shows his own humanity when he allows Valjean to save Marius but is then totally unable to live with himself. Rather than finally recognizing that there might be more gray to the world than he first allowed (and acting with humility), he seems to come to the conclusion that if Valjean is in the right, he himself is in the wrong. “Is he from heaven or from hell? / And does he know / That granting me my life today / This man has killed me even so?” Moral and legal ambiguity is so intolerable to him that death is preferable.

    What is more striking is that in many ways, Javert is a caricature of the larger society (of 1800s France as well as 2000s USA). Look at the scenes in which Valjean, a freed convict, attempts to get a job. Person after person turns him away. There is no clear mechanism for social redemption (even after the priest encourages Valjean’s personal redemption, Valjean breaks parole and starts a new life as the changed man that he is). It begs the question that I’m faced with daily in my profession: how do you hold someone responsible, acknowledge the potential for repeat offenses (and protect society at large), and yet stay open to and supportive of personal change that might occur?

    Comment by Johanna — Friday, December 28, 2012 @ 9:15 pm

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