I think I have a new favorite version of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.
I'm no stranger to this story. My first Les Mis was in Boston, around 1989, catching a bus and then the subway into the city, with a few of my college friends. For weeks and weeks afterwards we sang and played the music; Dan as Marius, JoAnne as Cosette and I, of course, ever the trusty side-kick Eponine. (Plus, I'm a mezzo. Just can't swing the whole Cosette range and all.) I was struck by the scope, the emotion, the grand scale and interweaving of the stories. And of course, being young and falling in and out of love, the whole Marius-Cosette-Eponine triangle stirred my heart and captured my imagination.
My second Les Mis was a magical night in New York City, with my hubby by my side. His marching band had performed selections from Les Mis in their half-time show; that year, his students purchased us a December day trip to NYC, with spending money and - gasp - free babysitting! It was 1999, Emily was just 1, and we were young parents, full of love and life and grand optimism. We reveled in the entire experience; the magic of seeing such an amazing production on broadway was incredible. Yurii & I loved the music, the operatic nature of it all, and just the entire production quality. This Les Mis was about the music for me; the men singing Javert and Jean ValJean had just unbelievably powerful voices that satisfied our inner music critic.
My third and fourth Les Miserables came in the form of the novel; more specifically, the novel that I was privileged to teach to my two oldest
Enter tonight. Les Miserables, the film version. Gritty, intense, real, emotional. Wow. I was absolutely undone by Anne Hathaway as Fantine - thus the image for this blog post. No, Russell Crowe is not a Broadway vocalist - if you're expecting a Broadway show, stay home. But his Javert. . . .
His Javert. Subtle. Powerful. Unyielding. Empathetic. Yes - that's right - empathetic. Unlike the Broadway/stage version, where Javert is far more of an unlikeable, evil character, Crowe's Javert is - human. Understandable. Righteous.
And really, that's the beauty of this version of Les Mis. I sat in that darkened theater, mostly in tears, and thought, "Who Am I?"
I am Javert. . . . . righteous in zeal, in the way things "should" be done, trampling over the needs of other humans all while claiming to seek the face of God.
I am Javert. . . . the older brother in the prodigal son story, doing everything right, but missing the central point.
I am Javert. . . in desperate need of the grace of God, but in my own sinfulness unable to accept it as wholly free and unconditional.
But for the grace of God.. . . . I am Javert.
However. . . . as the dear Norris Anderson says. . . .
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2: 4-9)Who am I?
I am shown the riches of God's grace. I am Jean ValJean; I am Fantine.
I am forever transformed.