Les Miserables, a Movie of Martyrdom: Marxist Criticism Approach

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Ten francs for your hair, twenty for a tooth, for you loved ones to survive, are you willing to sacrifice? If you were a peasant living in the French Revolution, would you also steal a loaf of bread to ease the hunger of your sister? Or, what if you were a prison guard or an army general working for the government? Would you also abuse your power to the extent of being enslaved by the constitution? In the movie Les Misérables written by Victor Hugo, during the French revolution around 1815 to 1832, the society was divided into two social classes: the bourgeoisie, which is the upper class, and proletariat, the lower class. Generally, this review points out that the higher authority has a control of the government, leading them to take advantage of their dominion over the lower economic class. As a result, their abuse triggered the proletariats to fight against them, aided by the Friends of the ABC to voice out their sentiments.

“Look down, look down; you’re standing on your grave.” The movie starts with the prisoners’ complaints of being unjustly sentenced in jail. Jean Valjean receives his parole from Javert, a prison guard, after his 19-year imprisonment for stealing a loaf of bread and for attempting to escape several times. The Bishop of Digne gives him a second chance by lying to the authorities that the silverwares Valjean stole were actually a gift given by him. Jean Valjean regains hope, starts anew, and eventually becomes the town mayor, under a new identity. In his factory, Fantine is caught sending money to her daughter Cosette, who was born out of wedlock. She then dies from severe tuberculosis and Jean Valjean takes care of her child by bribing the Thenardiers with money to let him take Cosette away. She grows up into a beautiful lady whom Marius Pontmercy falls in love with at first glance. Eponine, the daughter of the Thenardiers, tells Marius who is unaware of her feelings towards him, about Cosette’s whereabouts. The heartbroken Marius learns about her departure and aids in fighting against the government due to their abuse of power. Eponine sacrifices her life by taking a bullet for him. During the war, Valjean volunteers to help the students and frees Javert from them. He then hides the injured Marius in the sewers to save him from the army. Most of the associates of the Friends of the ABC have died from self-sacrifice and martyrdom, including their leader Enjolras and the brave child Gavroche. Valjean tries to hide his past from Cosette and escapes with the aid of Marius, who takes her hand in marriage. Jean Valjean, suffering from loneliness, reunites with Cosette and now dies in peace.

Considering the Marxist criticism approach, Victor Hugo effectively addressed the social differences in the society during the French Revolution in the movie. The unjust treatment is first shown in the 19-year jail sentence of Valjean for stealing a loaf of bread, mainly due to his low social level, same with the other prisoners’ cases. In Fantine’s situation, if only she was in the upper class, the society would have had a different view of her having an illegitimate child. She did not have any choice but to sell her hair and teeth to provide the needs of Cosette, just because she was kicked out of her workplace. Also, when she was abused by a man of higher authority, Javert immediately took the man’s side, not hearing her sentiment. If not only for Valjean, she would have been in jail already. Javert abused his power to the point that he became a slave of the law, leading him to end his own life when he freed Valjean. The abusive social differences were too evident that the lower class started a war against the government. A brave child, Gavroche even sacrificed his own life, pointing out that little people should not be downgraded for they can also do great things.

Les Misérables is overall an outstanding film. It effectively expressed its sympathy for the socially-mistreated and oppressed. The cinematography, music, songs, blockings were a plus to the greatness of the movie. The actors gave effective portrayal to their roles and made the audience feel deeper emotions. The plot sequence was also transitioned properly. The ending song “Do You Hear the People Sing” gave justice to the film’s objective and message. Just like the martyr characters, are you also willing to fight for what is right and just?

write by Artemis

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