On Christmas Day my parents drove over to spend the holiday with us. After we opened presents, enjoyed a family dinner (I made it all by myself this year!), both my parents and my sixteen year-old daughter were more than ready to go to the movies. We had been waiting for months for the remake of "Les Miserables". I saw the musical in 1989, in London, and it was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. So I was both excited and anxious to share the story with my daughter. I wondered how the movie would compare to the play, how these famous and popular actors would fare with the singing required in the musical. I hoped the emotion that I still remember from watching it over 20 years ago would come through on the big screen.
So we bundled up and drove to the theater...and waited in line much longer than normal to get tickets. It seems lots of other people had the same idea. As the movie began, the first pounding of drums and angry chanting filled the auditorium, along with a larger than life picture. From that moment to the end of the movie, I was enthralled.
Granted, there were several scenes that were much coarser than in my memory. I think the movie makers pushed the boundaries of vulgarity with the whole inn scene, and I was truly worried at how much would be shown when Fantine finally sold what she had left, her body. (My sixteen year old daughter sat beside me, remember.) But, in my opinion, these scenes of despair and hopelessness only served to magnify the redemption that was and is available for all who accept it.
One of the most powerful parts in the story, for me, occurs at the very beginning. Jean Valjean gives in to despair and steals the silver from the priest who has offered him sanctuary. He is captured and dragged back to the scene of his crime, where the priest informs the officers that the silver was not stolen, but was a gift. Then he turns to Jean Val Jean and says, "But my friend, you forgot the candlesticks. How could you leave the best behind?"
From that time on, everywhere he goes, we see those candlesticks...a reminder of grace.
I have since heard of some who were so outraged by the immorality in the movie, they refused to sit through it. I would not condemn any person's right to leave a theater if they become offended in such a way. But I will say, in this instance, they missed the whole point of the story.
I believe the fear, anger, degradation, despair, and immorality shown at the beginning of the movie is necessary. If Victor Hugo had sugar coated the conditions in which his characters found themselves, would we still be enthralled with this story, hundreds of years later? Would we still marvel at the hope, the grace, the forgiveness Jean Valjean portrays after he accepts it for himself? I don't think so. I think sometimes we need a glimpse of hell to understand what mercy means. We need to see loathing to better feel the depths of love. We can best comprehend grace when we have experienced evil.
I will admit I have not read "Les Miserables". But my daughter requested and received a copy for Christmas, so I certainly plan to do so this year. I can only imagine it will bring me to tears just as the musical did.
What is your opinion on delving into the dark side of life in order to show how strong the Light can shine in the darkness?
Subscribe to The Price of Trust by Email