Les Misérables (2012)
Dir: Tom Hooper
A lot of dutch tilts for a film set in France…
Need I explain much about this film? Directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, it’s set in France at the time of the French revolution, and follows Jean Valjean, an ex-convict who works hard to improve his life and those of certain others. The film is a musical, with hardly a word uttered out of song, but oh what emotive songs! Les Misérables wasn’t a musical I was much familiar with before this, I knew about 2 of the songs partially, but now I’ll be getting the soundtrack.
Talking about the soundtrack, the most brilliant aspect of this film is that whereas other musicals are filmed with the actors syncing to a track they have separately recorded in the forgiving atmosphere of a studio, these performances were done while filming, so all the actors were both having to act brilliantly and sing to standard. For me, this was the thing that made it work so well. Rather than perfectly edited and polished vocals, there was a harsh realism that added to the power of the storyline and really brought a sense of pain and anguish when singing about themes such as death.
It’s not all bleak and miserable though, there’s love, and some great comic performances from Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen who manage to be wonderfully lovable rogues. There are beautifully crafted performances also from Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne amongst many others, including a few actors lifted from the London stage production. The performance being most talked about though is Anne Hathaway as Fantine, who is nominated for a ‘best supporting actress’ Oscar at this month’s Academy Awards. It has been widely publicised that she’s not on screen for long, but nobody leaving the cinema I was in tonight would begrudge her if she won, he performance is simply mesmerizing, at one point in uncut close up for minutes on end while heart-rendingly singing a whole song, live as aforementioned.
If musicals aren’t your thing, then this might not appeal, but there’s a fantastic story as the backbone of this film, it’s surprisingly powerful when the two are brought together so well.