Les Miserables film opportunities – use this incredibly redemptive story
If we are planning blog or web articles, or focus spots in meetings, we must prepare ideally before the release date, since few movies remain on general release for more than two or three weeks, though some may run a bit longer if it is highly successful. The window of opportunity is very limited.
To help prepare, you can often read pre-release reviews. Advance showings do happen – often for local newspaper critics. Ask around – perhaps you can get in!
Les Miserables released December
The film version of the musical released on 25 December in N America (mid-January in most of Europe) and the story is so well known that we can plan before seeing the film. Since the musical has been translated into 21 languages, the film (and later the DVD) will be available with multi-language subtitles. Having seen the film, I can commend it highly. It’s the only movie we’ve been to that we agreed afterwards, “We must go and see it again next week.”
So this is a major worldwide opportunity. Les Miserables is not only the most most popular musical ever, but also a serious and deep story, with a hugely redemptive message.
Trevin Wax, pastor, author and blogger with the Gospel Coalition, says:
Les Miserables provides an unforgettable picture of undeserved, unexpected grace and its transformative effect in the heart of a guilty man.”
The first preview screening (in New York) had a rapturous standing ovation.
Now is the time to be planning how to use the story to illuminate these redemptive truths. There are opportunities for blog posts, website articles (great for your church website, for instance), as well as sermon illustrations, small group talks, Facebook conversations, or specific outreach events. Yet very few people have posted outsider-friendly articles about the book or the musical. Culturewatch ministry Damaris has an article. See info box for vital new resources ▶
Please share any others you know of. The Christian books and articles referenced lower down this page are seem mainly ‘insider’ works for believers.
The book itself is a long but rewarding read. You can get the original English translation (and Victor Hugo’s French text) free on Kindle and in other ebook formats, or read it online. More recent translations are widely available in paperback, including the new oneby Julie Rose.
The film (trailer below) necessarily cuts some of the full book story, but follows the stage version closely, with some new/modified lyrics by the original writers. Universal Films have released additional extracts of the film on their YouTube channel.
(You can watch the stage version on DVD as static performances, both the 10th and 25th anniversary concerts. You can find most of the 10th anniversary performances on YouTube.) The libretto is also online.
Themes in Les Mis
Where do we start? There are so many parallels and key life themes:
- law versus grace
- redemption and forgiveness
- the pain of single motherhood and orphan life
- exploitation of women and the sex trade, and resultant shame
- ransom, adoption and rescue from servitude
- choosing a costly ethical course of action as against an easy alternative
- the anguish of unrequited love
- the grief of losing friends, and false ‘survivor guilt’. (So many accident survivors and ex-military personnel suffer this way.)
- romantic love
- willingness to die for a higher ideal
- risking life to rescue another from death
- living under an oppressive government / fighting for the needs of the under-privileged
- letting go of an adult child
- no revenge taking
- how a single act of random kindness – the extravagant grace and generosity of the bishop – can (unbeknown to the giver) indirectly impact many others down the years
- dreaming and hoping for something intangible, just around the corner – what C S Lewis explains as sehnsucht.
When I first really encountered the musical (in the form of the 10th anniversary concert recording), two of these aspects spoke very strongly to the pain our family was going through at that time.
Please share your own insights about this story, or post good outsider-friendly articles you have found online.
Learning more, including free resources
These titles look at Christian themes in the book and movie:
• The Wisdom Of Les Miserables: Lessons From The Heart Of Jean Valjean (also available on Kindle)
• To Love Another Person: A Spiritual Journey Through Les Miserables
• The Temptation of the Impossible: Victor Hugo and “Les Misérables”
(this is the only book on this page I have not read yet, but it has good reviews)
• Christianity Today study guide (only sold in US)
• ChristianBibleStudies.com Movie Discussion Guide (sold worldwide)
Short FREE articles. Until two months ago, it was hard to find more than a handful of webpages looking at the Christian themes in Les Mis. Now, there are hundreds (as a Google search will show). Here are a selection: Legalism v Grace | 16 Bookrags essays | Helium | C’est la Vie | Finding God and Grace A Pastor’s Take on the New Les Mis | Becoming an Honest Man | A Brief Review of Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables | Why We Really Love Les Mis | Les Miserables – a Christian Reflection | UK Apologetics | Javert v. Valjean | Movie Review and Bible Study.
A good illustrated book about the genesis of the musical, includes a biography of Hugo and the full libretto: Les Miserables: History In the Making.
Movies and dramatization of the book
Les Miserables has been adapted as a non-musical English-language movie several times: with Gerard Depardieu 2000 | Liam Neeson 1998 | Anthony Hopkins 1978 | Charles Laughton 1935/52. In French, there is the 1982 film with Lino Ventura, and a 1995 reworking of the story into the 20th century, with Jean-Paul Belmondo.
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