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Les Miserables film opportunities – use this incredibly redemptive story

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Movie releases are a major opportunity to start conversations and point to parallels about God, Jesus and His redemptive purposes: reasons. (Find out more about God here.)

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.

Plan now!

New resources to help you
rusty wrightRusty Wright’s new outsider-friendly article Mercy Triumphs is available to republish FREE in print or online.

Adrian Fricker has produced a FREE two-up printable handout in PDF format. You may also freely reproduce or modify the text for your own needs under a Creative Commons License.

FREE downloads from culturewatch ministry Damaris.

Other FREE resources: at end of this page.

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

Cliff’s excellent study notes are now online FREE and also available
in print. They offer a useful overview and analysis of the book.

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.

Focus on the Family have made a dramatized audio version of the book on CD (also available from Amazon UK, and from ChristianBooks.com as CD or MP4).

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9 comments to Les Miserables film opportunities – use this incredibly redemptive story

  • [...] Damaris about new Life of Pi film. Les Miserables movie gives amazing opportunity to demonstrate redemptive parallels. And coming shortly on that page - free-to-re-use materials about the film from Damaris and [...]

  • D

    In fact there is an equivalence between Eponine’s love for Marius and Jean Valjean’s for Cosette. In an earlier version of the film (and probably original to the novel), his expectation is that when she becomes an adult she will marry him. Apparently, in Victor Hugo’s time this was an acceptable thing to do.

    SO, with this factoid added into the cinematic portrayal of Les Mis, what the revolutionary segment of is about is the contrast of Eponine’s begrudging relinquishment of Marius with Jean Valjean’s risking of his own life to bring to life Cosette’s and Marius’s love.

    To value the happiness of others and not just one’s own happiness is the moral played out here.

    In our culture where the dogma preached in every commercial is selfishness, and being the lone wolf fighting life’s battles on one’s own is the ideal that is routinely preached, the notion that our own happiness is bound up with the happiness of other is truely a radical notion.

    What I am not clear on is which verses in the Bible one would tie this in with. This moral doesn’t make the 10 commandments and is not directly evidenced by Jesus — whose self-sacrifice is closer to Fantine’s than Jean Valjean’s. There certainly is the verse about was love is, but those are words whose meaning remains abstract without someone to bring them to life for us.

  • J. Weatherly

    Great resource! Loved flipping through those articles. It’s such a moving and meaningful story.

    Might I also share my own recent thoughts on Les Mis? http://www.relevantmagazine.com/culture/film/why-we-really-love-les-mis

  • admin

    Thanks, much appreciate your article. Have added it to the blog post.

  • wonderful resource for engaging “outsiders” in conversations. Thank you for your insight and vision to recognize truth wherever found

  • [...] and downloadable Damaris video resources to use in meetings, youth groups or embed online. Our main Les Mis post contains a wide range of links, articles, books and other [...]

  • Les Haskell

    “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

    It’s not part of the “Ten” commandments, but according to Jesus it is the Second Commandment. ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’

    Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3,4)

    I’m sure “happiness” could easily be listed with our “interests”.

  • [...] our further Les Miserables resources, many of them looking at the spiritual lessons of the story. Share & re-use . . [...]

  • [...] Discussion of the story’s themes, with links to free study guides, articles, the libretto, book recommendations, and more. [...]

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