From guest blogger and Hollywood Producer Ralph Winter:
“Take my hand and lead me to salvation. Take my love, for love is everlasting. And remember the truth that once was spoken. To love another person is to see the face of God.”
This is the last line of the movie and sums up the journey that Jean Valjean has taken us on for two hours in the film “Les Misérables,” now playing in theatres.
Written by the great Victor Hugo as a novel in 1862, it was immensely popular, translated into many languages, made into plays, dramas, and opera, and most popularly, the musical opera of 1985, which gives us the memorable music. This film drives home an unflinchingly positive portrayal of the Christian faith, and its unquestioning depiction of Jesus as the redeemer of hearts and minds. It is actually astonishing. It’s bolder than you might have any right to expect, and bolder than even its director might realize.
The film is relentless in its embrace of Christian iconography and insistence on stamping “the Christ Figure” on Valjean’s sacrificial acts. The visuals are everywhere if you are watching with an eye to see them. At the heart of the story is the conflict between law and grace, as well as the power of love to create something that lasts, and forgiveness that heals and transforms.
This story resonates for several reasons. First, the audience identifies with a world of tragedy and disappointment. We all feel that sense of grinding sorrow, and wonder if there's any hope for those who are sick, suffer injustice, and long to start anew. Second, Les Misérables answers those doubts with hope for redemption. There is a way to start afresh. There is a grace that surpasses, that sets us free from the burdens of our past, and that leads us home to God.
Hugh Jackman explained in an interview, “For Victor Hugo, there’s a large comment in the book about the Church at the time. It made him very unpopular when he wrote it. It was the behemoth, powerful, distant, quite-excluding thing. There was a lot of fire and brimstone. I think he was reminding everyone at the time of Jesus Christ’s example, which is to love people.”
The film is almost entirely sung, with very little spoken dialogue. The technical approach to making this film was a decision not to pre-record the songs but to sing “live” on-camera, giving the actors a unique tool to express their character and feelings in a way that is much more powerful than just spoken words. They are able to give more of themselves, and it shows. This is another way the audience resonates with the story; they connect emotionally with the characters and join them on this journey. The combination of the music, singing, and acting, all knit together with the story structure, makes this a compelling two hours.
The novel’s story is set during a time of social upheaval and political change just after the French revolution. Social change doesn’t happen in the movie and perhaps that’s the point. Fairness and justice don’t come by war or even law. They come from a change of heart; certainly there is a time for war and a need for law. But as the film’s director wisely noted, “Real change starts with love for those we see around us.”
Whether you’ve already seen the film or are still planning to catch it in theatres, it’s redemptive message is a compelling reminder as we begin this new year: “To love another person is to see the face of God.”
For more on thoughts on film, check out Ralph’s new "Faith and Film" class, starting on Sunday, January 6.
Tue, January 1, 2013
by Ralph Winter filed under