Les Misérables (1998)

PG-13   |    |  Crime, Drama, History


Les Misérables (1998) Poster

Valjean, a former criminal, has atoned for his past and now finds himself in the midst of the French Revolution, avoiding a law-obsessed policeman hell-bent on capturing him.


7.5/10
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  • Liam Neeson appears as Jean Valjean
  • Claire Danes appears as Cosette
  • Director Bille August
  • Bille August in Les Misérables (1998)
  • Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert
  • Liam Neeson appears as Jean Valjean

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8 September 2000 | Nazi_Fighter_David
9
| An echo of greatness!
Victor Hugo's enormous output is unique in French literature... He was described as 'The most powerful mind of the romantic movement' and his novel, published in 1862, continued to be widely read...

The plot - that of a detective - is as well the epic of the people of Paris... Its author claimed it as a 'religious' work, and indeed by means of its characters, sometimes a little larger than life, yet always vital and engaging, and by its re-creation of the swarming Parisian underworld, the main theme of man's ceaseless combat with evil clearly emerges while the whole gives a faithful picture of the declines and flow of life...

Hugo relives his youth in this vast novel, the culmination of 14 years work... He and Valjean share their most outstanding characteristic: their charitable heart...

The story contains glimpses of Hugo's disgust towards 'the treatment of the lower class French citizens by the government: Valjean, an ex-convict recently released from prison, but he is not given the opportunity to make a good living for himself; Fantine forced into prostitution due to the lack of money to pay her illegitimate child...

And towards the 'general injustice of the law enforcement system: Valjean sentenced to prison for stealing a loaf of bread; Fantine arrested for hitting a man of a higher class...

The symbol of France's greed that Hugo despises is Thenardier - the man that Fantine entrusts Cosette to - who betrays the trust by essentially making Cosette his personal slave...

The strongest emotions of "Les Misérables are love and hate...

Javert and Valjean are both extremes, with a conscience incredibly strict...

Liam Neeson is cast as the gentle Valjean who takes the twist of fate parlaying it into personal success and moral rehabilitation... He changes his ways to become years later the much-loved mayor of Vigau, and as a caring businessman he struggles to forget the past and manages to redeem his soul becoming benevolent, giving manual and financial help to the weak, sick and poor...

After nine years, Valjean was horrified to discover that Javert - a former guard of the Quarries of Toulon, where he served almost 20 years - has arrived to be the head of Vigau's police force...

Valjean's desire to protect the employees from bad influences leads him to fire (indirectly) one of his workers Fantine - turned prostitute... He assumes responsibility for raising her daughter Cosette... He becomes a father figure and soon forces the choice of sacrificing his own freedom for her happiness...

Geoffrey Rush plays the icy chief inspector Javert, the man who tries "to live his life without breaking a single rule." When he is given the job of spying in the barricades and Valjean gives him his freedom instead of shooting him, things begin to fall apart for him...

The action of mercy of Jean Valjean causes him to doubt the solid base of his existence... He is in emotional agony unable to betray his convictions... He sees too late the truth...

Valjean's legendary physical strength are enough to stir his suspicion that the town mayor is a fraud... He is less villain than a man driven by his own hard concept of justice begging permission of his superiors in Paris to investigate the mayor, the man he believes is a convict...

When he thinks he has made a mistake in identifying Monsieur Le Maire as the 'convict' Jean Valjean, he insists on informing him that he has denounced him unjustly and that therefore he must be dismissed: "You must punish me", he says, "or my life will have been meaningless." (A key line in the film).

Uma Thurman approaches the self-indulgent character of Fantine with admirable restraint, giving a certain level of charm and charisma to the film... She gives her sick mother role a good amount of realism demonstrating her character's frustration and pain exquisitely...

Fantine's misery overwhelms her as she sells her body to support her child... Being in a wild state, enraged at how she is a helpless victim of misery, she is arrested after being humiliated by several would-be customers, but Valjean intercedes on her behalf overriding Javert's authority...

When Valjean helps her, she begins to rediscover hope... Her joy at the thought of having Cosette with her is great... But the shock of Valjean's arrest and the discover that Cosette is not there, are too much for the poor creature...

Claire Danes plays the teenage Cosette who realizes one day that she has become quite beautiful... She disobeys her father's rules by secretly sneaking out and seeing Marius - a charismatic young Parisian revolutionary - with whom she fell in love...

Cosette spends her childhood as a servant girl at the Thenardier's inn, horribly mistreated and constantly terrified... She grew up in a convent, innocent, pure and a bit naïve...

Peter Vaughan is excellent as the compassionate bishop whose act of generosity turns an embittered Valjean around...

Bille August tries to capture the essence of Hugo's morality staging its political turmoil strongly enough to give it contemporary resonance, keeping the eternal three elements: the bishop handing over the candlesticks; Fantine's collapse; Marius crying out: "To the barricades!"

History doesn't change, as Voltaire once remarked... But what we need from it, does... Valjean's story is not unique, it's universal... In other world, it's contemporary... There are certainly enough "Les Misérables" to go all around the world...

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