Thoughts on Les Miserables
Les Mis and Lincoln are vying for Oscars this year, and although I loved Lincoln, I’ll be rooting for Les Mis.
Les Mis is one of those rare movies that combine great acting with a great story. True, the movie is hard to watch, especially at the beginning. Set before and during the early years of the French Revolution, the first scenes are full of cruelty, poverty, sadness, and darkness. They are just plain hard to watch.
Thankfully, the first bit of hope comes not too far into the story when a priest gives Jean Valjean mercy. Instead of turning him in for stealing, the priest gives him the stolen items. Stunned, Valjean accepts that mercy and vows to become a man worthy of the gift.
Because of this new life path, Valjean dispenses grace and mercy, saving several lives throughout the movie. His life and the lives of others are changed forever because of mercy.
Unfortunately, Jean Valjean’s enemy, Javert, stalks him throughout his life. When Valjean offers Javert mercy, he’s as stunned as Valjean was when mercy was gifted to him. He can’t accept it, and we see the consequences of refusing grace and mercy.
I saw Les Mis for the first time on Broadway several years ago. I thought it was a great experience, but, having toured New York all day, I must have been in some site-seeing induced unconsciousness. I couldn’t remember the plot, only a few of the songs and a couple of the scenes.
This time, however, the story has reverberated in my mind for the past two months. For me it isn’t a story of the early years of the French Revolution or even a story of good prevailing over evil—even though both descriptions are true. To me, it’s a clear study of what happens when we give grace and mercy, what happens when we accept it, and what happens when we refuse it.
Les Mis is a big movie with big performances and beautiful songs, but the most important part for me is the big lesson in giving and accepting mercy. I hope everyone who sees this movie can learn that lesson.