It was mid-2011, I was unemployed and at my lowest point when I got to read Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. The version I read is translated by Charles E. Wilbour, abridged and edited by Paul Benichou. I remember sobbing uncontrollably after reaching the ending.
Les Miserables since then became one of my top 2 favorite books. The other one is George Orwell’s 1984. While the latter became my favorite because it is the most frightening/disturbing book I ever read, the former became my favorite because it is the first book that I ever hugged after reading. The life story of Jean Valjean really sliced up my heart.
So upon learning that a movie adaptation of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables was coming up, not just a movie but a musical, I was the happiest person on earth. I was so looking forward to it. And thank God it didn’t disappoint.
Starring Hugh Jackman (Jean Valjean), Russell Crowe (Javert), Anne Hathaway (Fantine), Amanda Seyfried (Cosette), Samantha Barks (Eponine), and Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen (Thenardier couple), and so many excellent members of the cast, this movie adaptation is simply both heartbreaking and heartwarming.
In the book, it was Jean Valjean that I emphatized with the most among the characters. An ex-convict who was thrown into prison for nineteen years for stealing a bread but became a changed man when a priest gave him shelter and food and acceptance. In the movie, it was Fantine and Eponine that I emphatized more with. My eyes were overflowing with tears when Anne Hathaway was singing “I dreamed a dream,” a song about regrets and helplessness (I didn’t know she can sing!). It was cathartic watching Samantha Barks singing “On my own,” a song about unrequited love. And it was amazing how the movie was able to perfectly capture the ending scenario. I sobbed uncontrollably after reading the book. I again sobbed uncontrollably watching the ending scene played out on the big screen.
Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the Thenardier couple provided the comic relief in the movie. In the book, I didn’t find them very funny at all. They were seriously evil in the book. By the way, did I mention that I watched this twice? First in Shangri-La mall with a friend and second was in SM Fairview, alone, all on the same day. Both theaters were filled with lots of people. Some just there because of the hype, for entertainment only holding popcorns and cold drinks, while the others came there to experience the story, who came out of the theatre with tears in their eyes.
I am not a movie critic. I am writing this to remember what my experience was like watching my favorite book, Les Miserables, on the big screen.