Thoughts on Les Mis: Amazing Movie; To Read the Book or Not To Read the Book?

This past weekend I went with a friend of mine to see Les Mis. I had seen the play while I was in London for a semester in college, and was familiar with the music. I have always thought it was an amazing play, but I never got too immersed in it. Well, seeing the movie blew me away and now I consider myself completely obsessed. I haven’t really discussed movies on my blog before, and I thought I could give it a try now and again.

I saw the movie on Saturday night, and since then have bought many of the songs that I did not previously own, and have had them continually running through my head. I have also been looking at interviews on youtube from the actors etc., and seriously debated the best version of each song to get on itunes. What can I say – when I get into something I really get into it. I would watch it again, and I do want to eventually, but I’m not sure if I have the emotional capacity for two viewings so close together. I didn’t cry during the movie, but it was hugely emotional which came across very powerfully on screen.

I was impressed with the camera angles, especially during solos when the camera was right in an actor’s face. In interviews Eddie Redmayne who plays Marius, talked about how each actor had intensive voice lessons, not only to improve their singing voices, but also to develop specific muscle control in their throats to sustain the amount of singing they had to do. The whole thing is singing after all, which is hugely impressive in the first place as a play, and even more impressive when you think about all the different cuts and takes that a movie goes through before the final product is put together. Especially when the singing is being done live while filming, rather than having it prerecorded to play back during the filming. That is a lot of singing, and a lot of work for one person’s voice. They also had to learn how to sing while showing intense emotion. There was one shot of Anne Hathaway while she is singing “I Dreamed a Dream” where she looks absolutely terrible after being thrown out on the street. She looks terrible, but the fact that there was so much emotion in the scene (where her face took up most of the screen) was really beautiful. There were tons of scenes like this throughout the film, and the same could be said of any of the actors. The emotion just came off the screen really well, and the extreme close ups made the songs and scenes much more personal. Both Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway lost 25 for their roles so they would look drawn, thin, bedraggled, and like a prisoner or a prostitute. But that is a lot of work and dedication within itself. Also, I was not really aware that any of the actors in the film could sing to the extent that they can before I saw it, and they all were amazing. I later found out that Samantha Barks, who played Eponine, was also Eponine in the London production of the play, and was in the 25th anniversary concert of Les Mis as well. (I did think that her voice sounded familiar at one point – On My Own is one of the songs that I owned before seeing the movie) Eddie Redmayne also took singing lessons when he was younger, and Hugh Jackman has been in musicals before.

Anyway, since I am now completely obsessed with all things Les Mis, I have been debating reading the book. Of course it is hugely long and rather intimidating, and the play/movie is a much abbreviated version of the book, but I feel like it is something I want to do eventually. Once again, I’m not sure it is something I have the emotional capacity for, but it is worth thinking about. The friend that I went to go see it with starting reading Les Mis in August with the intention of finishing it before the movie came out on Christmas, which she was able to do. I have read the first page or so and it is well written, which I knew already. It is also dense at times, and I have heard that Victor Hugo likes to go on and on about details in the book, such as a minor character and why he is there at that particular moment doing what he is doing, or the Battle of Waterloo. That sort of thing is interesting if you are in the right mood for it, or tiring if you aren’t.

There is also a version of Les Mis on sale at Barns and Nobles at the moment for $5. The only problem is that it is a rather large hard cover book, and although it is surprisingly light will I want to carry it around with me on the subway etc? These are the things I need to think about. If I do read it, I might read it while reading something else as well – maybe something lighter and cheerier. Les Mis is also available through Goodreads, which is probably the most convenient method of reading such a hugely long book, but I prefer not to read things on a screen. I am willing to try it though. I feel like I have a lot of thinking to do before I embark on this project. In the meantime, I think I will listen to some more songs from the play, and wait for Les Mis to win lots of Oscars come February.

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4 thoughts on “Thoughts on Les Mis: Amazing Movie; To Read the Book or Not To Read the Book?

  1. “I saw the movie on Saturday night, and since then have bought many of the songs….and have had them continually running through my head….and seriously debated the best version of each song to get on itunes.”

    Tell me about it! My wife and I watched Les Miz on Christmas Day and since then we will be listening to our favourite songs everyday. The songs kept repeating in my head. However, to be honest, we were already Les Miz nuts way before the film came out and the it merely caused a relapse of our addiction. We are getting an overdose of Les Miz songs. LOL…

    And oh…the best rendition of the songs? Get the 10th Anniversary concert! Every singer/actor was in the right role with the right voice for the character.

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