Les Misérables (2012)
Frequently Asked Questions
Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), in the prologue referred to as Prisoner 24601, is paroled after 19 years in prison. Initially bitter and angry at the years he lost and how he will always be marked as an ex-convict, he is forever changed after the kindness of the Bishop of Digny (Colm Wilkinson) saves him from returning to prison. Valjean ends up breaking his parole in order to turn his life around. Several years later, Valjean is a successful entrepreneur and mayor renowned for his kindness and gentility. Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe), who was a prison guard during Valjean's sentence, eventually finds out who he is and vows to bring him to justice. There are other plots, such as Valjean's guilt over the firing of Fantine (Anne Hathaway), a single mother forced into prostitution to care for her child, Cosette (Isabelle Allen); a love triangle between the grown Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), the student revolutionary Marius (Eddie Redmayne) and poor street thief Eponine (Samantha Barks); the exploits of Eponine's villainous parents, the Thénardiers, and the lives of the poor in post-revolution France as a revolutionary group starts a battle in the streets of Paris.
Indirectly. It's adapted from the musical that opened in London in October 1985, which is based on the 1862 novel Les Misérables by French author Victor Hugo (1802-1885). While the movie is based primarily on the musical adaptation, some elements were changed or added to reflect events that occurred in the book but not in the stage version.
While it is "sung-through", the libretto is more similar to that of a conventional stage musical. During pre-production, director Tom Hooper indicated that the performers would sing live on set, departing from the usual practice of miming to pre-recorded playback. There is very little spoken dialogue. (Source)
People who haven't seen it performed on stage may have come across some of the songs elsewhere. Among the more well-known ones are "I Dreamed a Dream", "Do You Hear the People Sing?", "Stars", "Master of the House", "One Day More", "On My Own", and "Bring Him Home". "I Dreamed a Dream" was made world-famous by Susan Boyle on Britain's Got Talent. The clip went viral and has been seen over 100 million times on YouTube.
Claude-Michel Schönberg, the musical's original composer, created one new song and additional music. (Source.) Schönberg collaborated with his original lyricists, Alain Boublil and Herbert Kretzmer, and the song is entitled "Suddenly". (Source.) This was done so the film could qualify for "Best Original Song" at the 85th Academy Awards, as previously released songs are not eligible.
No. The French Revolution occurred from 1789 to 1799, whereas the narrative of Les Misérables begins in 1815, around the time that the Napoleonic Wars ended. It does however feature a revolt by students, known as the June Rebellion or the Paris Uprising of 1832.
In the novel, Valjean made his fortune by coming up with a cheaper way to make jet, a gemstone used to make costume jewelry. Fantine and the other women are stringing necklaces and bracelets. They also make rosaries, which are prayer beads used by Catholics. In the scene where Javert reports for duty at the factory office, Valjean hands him a set of rosary beads.
The workers had just discovered Fantine had given birth to a child out of wedlock. The story is set in the mid-19th century, when the vast majority of the population considered premarital sex of any sort to be a sin, and also any child born to an unmarried woman to be morally corrupt. By their standards, Fantine was a horrible person for doing what they considered morally wrong. They also resent Fantine for rejecting the Foreman's advances, and feel he takes it out on all of them. When they learn she has a child, they decide she's a hypocrite as well.
In the novel, Fantine was shown to have perfect white teeth, which would have been desirable for making false teeth.
The Elephant of the Bastille was a full-scale plaster model of a monument that Napoleon proposed in 1808 to commemorate his victories. He intended the final statue to be made of bronze from captured cannons. The project was dropped after Napoleon's final defeat, although the original plaster mold of the elephant remained. Victor Hugo had Gavroche living inside the elephant—with his two younger brothers—in spite of its crumbling, rat-infested condition. It symbolized the failure of both the revolution and Napoleon to improve the lot of France's poor. The elephant was finally taken down in 1846.
Jean Maximilien Lamarque was a general in Napoleon's army, leading several key victories.When the monarchy was restored after Napoleon's fall, he became an outspoken opponent, and when that government was overthrown in 1830, he was given a new command.He became an outspoken opponent of the new constitutional monarchy, arguing it failed to support human rights and political liberty, stands which made him a popular figure. His death became the catalyst for the "June Rebellion" portrayed in Les Misérables.
In the novel, he is Félix Tholomyès, a student from a wealthy family. He spent one summer with Fantine when they were young, but he left her unaware that she was pregnant. He is alluded to in "I Dreamed a Dream": He slept a summer by my side / He filled my days with endless wonder / He took my childhood in his stride / But he was gone when autumn came / And still I dream he'll come to me / That we will live the years together / But there are dreams that cannot be / And there are storms we cannot weather.
According to the novel, water was rare in Montfermeil. It was necessary to fetch it from a bigger distance. During the day, people in Montfermeil paid to a special person do it, after his "working hours," they had to do it themselves (or wait until the next day).
The franc, which was divided into 100 centimes. Five (5) centimes were called a sou. An ordinary worker earned about 500 francs a year, so the 1,500 that Valjean gives the Thénardiers was an enormous sum.
In the novel, Valjean meets a man while imprisoned who had seen his sister in Paris. She only had one of her seven children with her, and the man suspected she didn't know where the others were. When Valjean is released, he tries to locate them but never does. In the film, he visits a grave after being released; presumably it belongs to one or some or all of his relatives.
In the play, Eponine and Fantine appear to Valjean in the finale. In the movie, Valjean never meets Eponine. The presence of the bishop at the end is in keeping with the novel, where there is mention that Valjean is having some sort of vision of the bishop upon his death.
Based on the original Broadway production, here are a few:
※ Several scenes include incidental spoken dialogue to advance or elaborate on plot points (such as Valjean asking Fantine where to find her daughter), whereas the musical is completely sung throughout.
※ One song—"Suddenly"—is added.
※ One song—"Dog Eat Dog", which Monsieur Thénardier sings in the Paris sewers—is replaced with a spoken dialogue between him and Valjean, but the scene of him looting dead bodies remains.
※ Another song—"Turning", sung by the women of Paris after the barricade falls—is truncated.
※ Fantine is shown selling both her hair and teeth, which is part of the novel. The stage version only included the hair.
※ Fantine's signature song, "I Dreamed a Dream", is moved after "Lovely Ladies" (on stage, her despair leads to her descent; by moving the song, her descent leads to her despair).
※ The scene where Marius threatens to blow up the barricade during the first attack is not present in the play, but in the book.
※ In the movie, Valjean sees Javert during "At the End of the Day" and speaks with him shortly after in an extra scene before "The Runaway Cart". In the play they don't meet until Valjean interferes during Fantine's arrest , which is followed by "The Runaway Cart".
※ A scene is added, in which Javert remorsefully urges Valjean—now the respected mayor—to press charges for being falsely accused by him. This scene is present within the book.
※ Valjean and Cosette's escape to the convent, which is part of the book, is added.
※ "Stars" is moved from after "The Robbery," in the stage version, to after Javert chases Valjean and Cosette through the streets of Paris following Valjean getting Cosette from the Thénardiers in the movie. This is closer to the novel, where Javert is on Valjean tail after he gets Cosette but does not see Valjean again, not suspecting him at the Robbery, until Javert is imprisoned at the barricade.
※ On stage, Marius is present when Eponine stops her father from raiding Valjean's house.
※ In the movie Eponine withholds the letter from Cossette for Marius until her death, which does not happen in the stage version but does in the novel.
※ As in the book, it is Gavroche, not Eponine, who delivers a message to Valjean, which figures in the finale.
※ Marius' grandfather, a character in the novel, is included here.
※ Eponine's song, "On My Own", precedes the ensemble's "One Day More" in the movie. On stage, the latter ends Act One and the former opens Act Two.
※ General Lamarque's funeral is shown, and with it, the song "Do You Hear the People Sing?" is moved after "One Day More". Thus, "Do You Hear the People Sing?" is introduced as very much the "anthem" of the revolution right from the get-go, and appears more often than in the musical.
※ Marius is portrayed as being more active in the revolutionary movement and more is shown of the preparations and early stages of the revolution.
※ Eponine initially hides a message from Cosette to Marius but makes up for it by later saving his life, which is faithful to the book (but not how it happens on stage).
※ In the play, Enjolras and his lieutenants die on the barricade, not in the tavern.
※ Marius pays the Thénardiers' blackmail in the stage version, wheras in the film he refuses.
※ The song "Beggars at the Feast" is shortened. On stage, the Thénardiers are able to enter the wedding ball and make comments about the guests, before trying to convince Marius that they knew him from a previous high society event, whereas in the film, Marius recognises them immediately and has them removed as soon as possible.
※ In the play Eponine is present alongside Fantine when Valjean dies. Since Valjean never meets Eponine in the film, it makes some sense that she wouldn't be confronting him directly (though she is visible amongst the crowd at the end). Valjean also does not encounter the bishop in the stage version, as happens in the film. The presence of the bishop at Valjean's death is alluded to in the novel form.
Animaniacs "Les Miseranimals" (1993) is a parody of the play, with singing by Bernadette Peters. A Prairie Home Companion parodied the film on its 12 January 2013 broadcast.