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Sunday, 10 February 2013





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Les Miserables once again on the big screen

Victor Hugo's masterpiece 'Les Miserables' which voicelessly celebrated its hundred and fiftieth anniversary last year is back with a third cinematic version which promises to be a smash hit musical film. The musical film has already been nominated for the award of the best film at the Oscar Awards scheduled for this month.

This immortal French story has previously come to Sri Lankan audience as Manuthapaya (translated by I.M.R.A. Iriyagolla) and as films 'Duppathage Duka' (suffering of the poor) and "Sirakaruwa" (the Prisoner). Tom Hooper, the director of Les Miserables has exclusively exploited the fullest acting potential in Hugh Jackman the popular Hollywood star who plays the role of Jean Valtjin in the film.

The plot of the movie has a musical format. The most prominent characteristic of the latest cinematic version of Les Miserables is that actors are 'compelled' to communicate musically what should otherwise be communicated verbally.

The film stars distinguished Hollywood actors such as Hugh Jackman, Russel Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Cyfreud, Hellen Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen. Here the director Tom Hooper has offered a direct challenge for the actors including Hugh Jackman and they rose to the challenge studying music and training their voices to music for a more forceful and convincing performances.

In this process, the actors of the latest movie Les Miserables are confronted with the strenuous task of giving utterance to 'musical dialogues' apart from the enhanced responsibility to give a realistic performance in acting at the same time. This definitely proves to be a formidable task on the part of the actors.

The film was premiered for the cinema lovers on the twenty fifth of December 2012 and still engages a massive public attraction. The musical movie with a successful screenplay by Claud Michael Cronanberg and Eline Mobleel is being greeted with an avalanche of popularity as it surpasses the quality of the previous cinematic versions and tele series on Les Miserables.

The film maker and the producers must have incurred enormous trouble and expense in reduplicating the social and cultural background of 19 century France.


Generally acting and uttering dialogues in a musical film is assuredly an uphill task unless the actors have talent for music - talent to sing tunefully. However, this difficulty has been considerably averted by most actors in the latest film because of their great effort and determination.

Hugh Jackman who plays the role of Jean Valtjin the tragic hero of the novel is well noted for his outstanding capacity to sing and musical dialogues have posed no substantial challenge for him.

Russel Crowe (Inspector Jarvette) trained his voice for singing for about five months by exploring varied singing styles appropriate for the new film.

Anne Hathaway who was honoured with the Golden Globe award for her acting recently, infuses fresh life into the character of Pantene. Hugh Jackman (Jean Valtjin the prisoner No. 24601) is certain to get a nomination for the best actor while Anne Hathaway is entitled to a nomination for the best supporting actor.

The musical film Les Miserables practically merits multiple nominations for Oscar awards - that is, nominations for the best film, the best actor, the best supporting actor, the best costume, the best song and the best make-up.

Victor Hugo's world classic Les Miserables has multiple translations in different languages and cinematic versions and tele serials to its credit.

The first film on Les Miserables was produced in 1935 and it was even nominated for the best film at the Oscar Awards held the same year. Again in 1998, a new film based on the French novel was produced and a teleseries on the same was made in 1978.

However Tom Hooper's film on Les Miserables is undisputedly a breakthrough achievement in the world cinema.

As Tom Hooper acknowledged, he employed the songs and musical dialogues in the new film and made minimum alternations in the pot of the original novel.

Hugo and Les Miserables

For this discussion to be more consequential, it is better to have a glimpse of Victor Hugo's novel written in a period immediately prior to French Revolution.

Victor Mary Hugo was the third son Joseph Leo Zig Hugo, a faithful general in Napoleonic army. Young Hugo suddenly turned away from his original expectation to be a lawyer and harboured ambitions to be a writer. Subsequently his writing career was blessed by his mother and wife and inspired chiefly by landmark figures in poetry such as Virgil.

Hugo's Les Miserables was published in 1862 and he is said to have taken up 17 years to pen his novel with five volumes in 366 chapters in all.

Les Miserables is indisputably a product of Hugo's fierce involvement in Romanticism - a major artistic movement of eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Silhouetted against a society laden with political tension and conflict, the people of Les Miserables present a mirror image of love, pity, suffering and vengeance.

Les Miserables which has been made into a few films and tele-series deals with the nature of law, underworld and the very fabric of society of nineteenth century France.

The story illustrates the plight and the spiritual rebirth of a prisoner (Jean Valtjin) who has been sentenced to an eighteen years' imprisonment in Tu Long for having 'stolen a bread' in an unendurable strong hunger.

Seized by the pangs of hunger, he goes from house to house and is repulsed downright by any on recognition. "Inspector Jarvet" in an unreasonably strong current of malice on Jean Valtjin, follows him even after the release and makes every possible attempt to prove that Jean is a criminal.

Hugo gives free expression to his views on religion, politics and trends of France at the time of the revolution and thus Les Miserables silently gives a dissection of French society.



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