Thursday, January 17, 2013
Les Misérables: One Post More
Have you seen this movie yet? As a fan of the book and the musical, I was full of anticipation for the film version to come out. I'm not going to write a review per se -- there are loads of those online -- or even to comment on the quality of the film, because I don't feel terribly confident in my own judgment. (Here's a great review, with a very thought-provoking discussion in the comments ... refreshing to see people disagree (strongly!) with respect.)
I CAN tell you that it moved me deeply, several times. And I can tell you that I've had a few lively discussions about the characters with friends and family since then. And I can say that not a day has gone by in the past three weeks that I haven't thought about the movie and the story and what it all says about the One Good Story -- about the gospel, about the tension between the law and grace, about the power of healing love and redemption.
In the middle of the movie -- perhaps on my second or third Kleenex -- the thought popped into my head: I am Valjean sometimes. And sometimes I'm Javert. And when I'm the latter, I'm so wrapped up in justice and righteousness and what I feel that I and others deserve that I can't possibly receive the grace that's so freely mine for the taking.
I loved that the movie rounded out the character of Javert so much more fully. He wasn't a bad guy. Trouble was, by some measures, he was too good a guy. So good, so unassailably right under the law that being confronted with the forgiveness and mercy he didn't deserve completely set his world upside-down, made it impossible for him to keep living. The truth offered to set him free, but all he knew was prison bars of his own making. I loved the moment when he placed his medal on young Gavroche's dead chest, stricken by the role he'd played in snatching brave, short lives away.
And during the day, sometimes it'll come to me. Am I thinking about this issue as Valjean, or am I thinking about it as Javert?
I will tell you one more thing. That last scene of both the stage and film version? When Valjean's soul rises from the chair and walks calmly away to join those who have gone before him, leaving his children weeping over his body? Hard to watch. Like, sobbingly, I didn't-bring-enough-tissues hard to watch. And yet, oddly ... sweet? Because over a year ago, my family and I wept around a bedside as our father left us. And I remember feeling like I could almost see him walking away, leaving us with the mere shell but walking toward the music of the people who are climbing to the light.