I just got back from seeing a movie I have been waiting to be released since I first fell in love with this beautiful musical. Rather than give some sort of review of the film version, or brag obnoxiously about how I got to see it almost a week before it opens to the public, I feel compelled to write some reflections on why this story resonates not only with myself, but (obviously) with audiences worldwide.
It was Uncle Mitch's fault I got hooked in the first place. He left behind a 2-disc CD set at our house during one of his visits and around the age of 10, I listened these CDs into complete obliteration and bought another version when I left for college. When I was twelve, I sang Castle on a Cloud in a singing competition and by the age of 16, I knew I wanted to play Eponine in the musical someday. (Frankly I still do. Some way, somehow...) When I was 18 or 19 I finally read the book. Only one part distinctly sticks out to me: when the Bishop gives Valjean the candlesticks. I remember thinking about what kind of forgiveness it would take in your heart to immediately respond how the good Bishop did.
While I can't remember other distinct moments in the novel, I do remember thinking the musical followed the sense of what the book got across fairly well. You see, while this is a story about a man who steals a loaf of bread, and a government which punishes him unjustly for it, it's really something so so much more.
Victor Hugo (the author of Les Miserables) did something extraordinary within this one novel. He showed that in this world filled with death, there is a whole lot of life; where there is great amounts of sin and transgression, there is an equal amount of repentance and redemption; there is great hatred, but greater love; men of lust, but as many men of honor; greed countered by charity; and where we often see so much despair in this life, Hugo shows there is a great amount of hope.
In this postmodern world of ours, we are quick to point out (and even focus on) the problems. Hugo doesn't ignore these. He battles them head-on, showing the flaws in this life through those characters that show how we can best resolves these problems in our world.
I can't think of a better message for our entertainment to focus on this Christmas season.