Monday 24 August 2015

BBC Les Misérables

I've been quite a late arrival at the Les Mis party. My love was only awakened by watching the 2012 film. Rather incredibly my first ever encounter. Sadly that movie had Russell Crowe as Javert of course, but even he wasn't enough to put me off the magnificent story and score. I'd never seen a stage version- despite knowing that the rest of the world loved it. I did however make up for that last year in Melbourne and saw it two days in a row!

I have a magnificent edition of the book waiting for whenever I can contemplate starting such a mammoth read (super big books and I don't have a good history).

So when I found this 2001 BBC Radio 4 dramatisation when browsing my local bookshop I snapped it up, and started listening to it immediately whilst driving about town in the car. It is just wonderful. I don't know how closely this story mirrors the book, but Victor Hugo provides narration between scenes. It sounds like it could be straight from the book but of course I don't know yet.

This 5 CD set allows a much broader historical sweep than the film or stageshow can. The story looks back to the Revolution, Waterloo and Napoleon, and it also gives more precise locations for the current Parisian action. While I suspect that many of the street names are fabricated or out of date now, I was thrilled to hear of Marius and Cosette first meeting in the Luxembourg Gardens and then they later they married in Notre Dame.

I had no idea from the movie that Gavroche is a Thénadier! I'll have to rewatch it and see if it is mentioned and I just missed it. Thénadier himself is much more of a character, and a more malevolent criminal than I have seen him until portrayed until now.

It's long been a cherished dream to restart my life in Panama City. The Americas it seems were designed for gentlemen like me. 

It was really quite an emotional experience to listen to this production whilst driving to and from work, or just to the shops. Sometimes you wonder if other motorists can tell that you're crying your eyes out when Eponine, Gavroche and so many others die violent, early deaths? The sounds of the cannon and gun fire can make you jumpy and the sound people excelled themselves with the eerie, drippy sounds of the sewers below Les Halles!

The writing is wonderful, dramatic, full of tension and full of fabulous words like blaggard and swashbuckler.

Over the roofs of the city a soul is set free. Not yet a man, and yet more than many men grow to be- a brave heart and a good friend. 
Ah summer, sweet summer. The convent gardens shimmers in the morning light ...... But in the heart of every flower, in the drone of every bee lies the steady beat of death. Constant as the dazzling summer sunshine. 

There are more characters and many more story lines.

Jean Valjean is still alive when he is lifted onto the hearse. Jean Valjean: the stealer of bread, the despised convict, the generous mayor, the rescuer of Fantine and Cosette is borne alive in a coffin along the back streets and the boulevards of Paris.

The French classics always convey more humour than I find in English classics. When Jean Valjean ponders moving to England to escape the unrest in Paris his servant Toussaint is not sure about the move.
I'll come with ya. Although I can't say what it will do to my constitution- all that damp and bad bread. 

I really loved the production and the opportunity to learn more about Les Mis than I knew before. I imagine it's still a much condensed version- I now must wonder how much more amazing story awaits me in that doorstopper of a book?

Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog 


Sim Carter said...

That sounds fantastic, although I don't usually enjoy audio books. I haven't read Hugo's masterpiece either but like you I loved the movie. My husband surprised me by crying so much he had to leave the theater before the house lights came up as he didn't want anyone to see his tea-ravaged face.

Paulita said...

Louise, I love that you have committed to Les Mis and are exploring all the different versions. Hope you keep digging deeper and deeper into it. Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France.