Les Misérables

Les Miserables starring Jean-Paul BelmondoWe watched an amazing movie today. At first we thought it was a version of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, but it turned out to be much more. It wasn’t the telling of Victor Hugo’s story as much as it was a movie inspired by it. I’ve heard it summarized as a re-telling of Les Misérables that’s set during World War II, but that’s not right. I mean, it is, but it’s a gross over-simplification. This movie parallels Les Misérables, but it’s not quite fair to say it’s simply the original story transposed to World War II.
To quote IMDb, “In 1900, Henri Fortin is wrongfully imprisoned for murder; his loyal wife is forced into menial labor and prostitution; then in the beginning of World War II, Fortin’s son helps a Jewish family escape the Nazis, setting in motion his own imprisonment, escape, and adventures as a criminal.” Both stories somewhat mirror Les Misérables, and the second part with Fortin’s son is framed by the fact that he is illiterate and his Jewish friends read Les Misérables (which occasions flashbacks to the actual story) to him during their journey to the border of Switzerland (where they hope to escape the Nazis). Fortin realizes, of course, that the story parallels to his own life.
It’s an incredible movie. But if your sole exposure to Les Misérables is the Broadway musical, you’re going to be very confused. I’d say maybe watch the version with Liam Neeson (which I’m told is a fairly faithful telling of Victor Hugo’s original story), and then check out this version, which is actually a totally original movie based upon and inspired by the original. I read the book when I was a kid, and was completely lost in this movie, because I figured I’d simply forgotten parts of it… like not remembering that there were any Nazis in the original story. But if you’re a fan of Les Misérables and you’re familiar with the story, this movie is a rich, wonderful experience.
I should mention that the movie is in French. So if you’re allergic to sub-titles, you’re going to miss out. All of the actors are capable, but Jean-Paul Belmondo in the lead role is amazing. Unfortunately, you can’t seem to get this movie on DVD in the United States, which makes no sense to me. But I’m going to keep looking for it. I recommend that you do, too.
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