"Les Misèrables," when translated from French, means "the miserable," although the film was anything but.
Victor Hugo wrote the novel "Les Misèrables" in 1862, and more than 100 years later the musical was created for the stage. The story that is all about poverty, politics and the hardships of living in 19th century France quickly became one of the most famous adaptations ever, and on Dec. 25 the story was adapted once again for the silver screen.
The story revolves around an ex-prisoner named Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) who was convicted to 19 years of jail for stealing a loaf of bread for his dying sister and her child. Valjean breaks parole but then reinvents himself to become a new man who is less threatening for society. Unfortunately, Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe), who let him out of jail but always had suspicion, is never too far behind.
The story then follows Valjean's constant running from Javert and his quest to take care of Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), the daughter of Fantine (Anne Hathaway) who became a woman who sold herself to prostitution to pay for her daughter's care under innkeepers. "Les Misèrables" comes to life with the excellent casting for the film, in which every character plays their respective part above and beyond how they are written in Hugo's original novel.
From beginning to end the film emulated the original play form, making it a true musical rather than a movie. Almost all of the dialogue was spoken through song, and only rarely would the actors speak normally, while in the 1998 version of the film, the majority of the music was left out. The direction also mimicked a musical form using single, continuous shots rather than short shots, and it focused on details in the set and clothing design.
Director Tom Hooper took an original approach concerning the music. Instead of having the actors record their singing in a music studio, he recorded them singing during filming and had a full orchestral record the background music to the songs later, which was added to the film during the editing stage. This peculiar approach to filming a musical really made a difference in the final product. One notable example of this is during Fantine's solo, "I Dreamed a Dream."
Hathaway's voice felt raw, which in turn made the scene all that more emotional and elevated the feel of the music and the characters' dilemmas.
Costume design was impeccable throughout the film, from Fantine's soiled dress to Javert's post-revolution-era French uniform. Costume designer Paco Delgado perfected the 19th century French fashions and draped the actors in clothes that not only epitomized their classes in society but also their character's qualities. The set design was also flawlessly done in the film. From the minute the movie started the screen was transformed into France during the revolution through architecture and the construction of the sets. In the second part of the film, details like the cobblestone streets and the make and design of furniture made it clear that without the costume and set design, the film would not have been the same.
The release date of "Les Misèrables," being Christmas Day, marked its first contending spot in upcoming awards shows. The film will without a doubt be a contender at the Academy Awards come next month, and it has reason to be.