When I was 10 we went to the UK and while in London we went to 3 stage shows. Two fade into insignificance in my mind, but one stood out – Les Misérables. I sat transfixed, on the edge of my seat for the entire 2 hours. When it was finished I was unable to speak, being so overwhelmed with the wonder of what I had just seen. My young mind did not grasp it all especially the more adult themes, but I knew it was a story of great power and about a man whose life was changed by a demonstration of the love of God.
Every time since that I have been in the same city as a stage production of Les Misérables, I have gone. So, I have seen it at least 4 times, and could sing every word of the soundtrack to you by heart.
So it was with excitement yet trepidation that we headed out to see the movie. Would it live up to expectation? Could it possibly be as good as I remembered (I had not seen it live for at least 10 years)? Could all the actors really sing?
Thankfully, the answer was ‘yes’. It was a fantastic rendition. In fact, because of what film can do – clearly tell the story, illustrate in more depth, show faces in much closer detail – it was better. The cast was excellent, their singing mostly superb and the film itself was visually fantastic. I understood the story much more clearly than from the stage production and it filled in details I had not previously grasped.
I think having seen and recognised the value of the story of Les Mis at such a young age, it actually has left me permanently disappointed with most musicals ever since. In my experience, the majority of musicals have a silly story line. The music is good, granted, but the story is only held together by the music.
In contrast Les Mis is at its core a great story. It is the story of a man’s redemption when shown grace, and his decision to honour God as he tries to face the consequences of his past. At the same time, the music is wonderful. The songs make the show. It is a great gift to be able to write a stirring music score, with realistic words which themselves unfold the story and mostly to do so in rhyme.
As we sat in the theatre I was struck by how many truths of the gospel were being sung to so many unbelievers. It could be a great movie for starting gospel conversations. Where else at the movies do you hear about redemption, grace, the goodness of God and payment for sin? For so many who never hear these things spoken of, Les Mis could be a great place to begin.
However, pick your audience. I saw the stage production at the age of 10, but there is no way I would take my 10 year old to this movie. It is just too adult – the poverty, the filth, the prostitution and despair of the lower classes, let alone the revolution battle. They will have to wait for some time to see this one. Maybe the show will be on stage again sooner!
If it’s not clear yet though - we loved it. If you haven’t seen it - do.