Thursday, December 27, 2012

Capturing the Essence of Les Mis

It happens toward the end of the film; Valjean is talking to Marius and explaining why Cosette cannot know about his past.   They are in a room that has no ornaments on the wall save a tiny crucifix. At that point it became so crystal clear that the main character in the story was not Valjean; it was not Javert;  it was not either of the young lovers.  Later Valjean sings in the end, “To love another person is to see the face of God.”  Indeed the main character in the movie is God – or more specifically, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whose suffering and death on the cross redeemed the world and brings hope to those whose lives are so tragic and “miserable.” 

Each of the characters talks to God about their own situation and what is remarkable in the film is that the visual effects remind us of His enduring presence as well. From the early scene where Valjean is walking along the mountain road and passes a shrine of a simple cross to his transformation before the altar to the closing scenes, the visual signs are magnificent to behold.

Just as the story of the prodigal son is about the love of the father, so too, the story of Les Miserables is about the limitless mercy of God.  Valjean, whose hatred after nineteen years of hard labor is so gripping, is confronted by true love; first in the kindness and mercy of the old bishop; then in the sacrificial life of Fantine; and then in the innocence of Cosette. He embraces this love and personifies it throughout his life. It is this love that Javert cannot accept – the love of a brother that has its origins, its roots in the mercy of God. 

Valjean acts not only out of a sense of duty and obligation – but out of a genuine understanding that he is called to be this way. His penance he knows will take a lifetime to complete. Yet he has embraced the cross knowing the risk.

There is so much more that I will say in later posts. This much please consider now.  How do we as a society treat those who have been oppressed, attacked, marginalized?  Let us consider the mercy of God and give life to those vulnerable and dispossessed.  As a nation we need to stop the senseless killing of our children – whether they be born or still in the womb. As a society we need to look at the role of men and women and their relationship to children. Why do we have the institution of marriage, if not to create and promote the beauty of life and love that is seen in our children? What is this “right” we call liberty? Is it something that is selfish or is it to be used for the service not only of ourselves but others?

Go see the movie. Then tell me what you think.