Les Misérables is Victor Hugo’s fictional masterpiece of commentary on law versus grace and the power of redemption. It has been adapted for the screen several times. The latest adaptation is set to air on PBS very soon.
I was fortunate enough to see the stage play on Broadway and it is one of my favorite musicals. I’ve also seen the 1998 and 2012 feature films, which I thought fell a bit short of in capturing the soul of the story I saw on stage. When the opportunity arose to view the first big screen adaptation made, of course, I had to watch it to see how it compares.
Our tale is set in nineteenth century France. Jean Valjean receives an unjust prison term for a minor offense. It is while in prison he first comes into contact with the merciless Javert who eventually becomes a policeman.
After his release, he encounters a compassionate priest who challenges him to show the same mercy he has given Valjean. This changes the course of his life. Valjean assumes a new identity and leads an exemplary life. His financial success allows him to be generous with others, but from a distance.
Then another life-changing encounter occurs when Fantine, a young woman fired from his factory, dies and leaves her young daughter behind. At the same time the rigid Javert, has been searching for Valjean for a long time over another infraction of the law he loves so much. Valjean is barely able to escape with his new daughter Cosette. They head to Paris where they hide out for many years.
Years later a grown Cosette falls in love with the young revolutionary Marius. Marius’ group is under surveillance by none other than Javert. This brings Valjean and Javert into one last confrontation with a surprising ending.
For my full review, please follow me over to The Silver Petticoat Review.