Les Miserables
House Church Central Goes to the Movies

Universal films and Working Title directed by Tom Hooper.

Les Miserables is truly a Christian movie, but this version suffers from the usual Hollywood treatment of musical theatre by substituting good voices with movie stars who can barely sing. Those who enjoy the music would be better served by the concert version with the "dream cast," which is also available on DVD, but which strips away all plot and context.

The main theme driving the film is the conversion of the main character, petty thief and parolee Valjean, early in the film by a priest who "buys his soul" for the price of some silver. From that point forward, we see him going out of his way to do the right thing ("works theology") despite a harsh prison term and violations of subsequent crippling parole rules when he is set free. Balancing Valjean's remarkable and heroic good deeds is a persistent policeman named Javert, who is blind to all the good done by Valjean but has an obsession to capture him and toss him back into prison.

The plots and sub-plots in this epic story by Victor Hugo reinforce this simple theme by elevating Valjean's deeds and excoriating Javert's evil. But Javert is evil only to the extent that he places "law" over good deeds, compassion, and mercy. And it is there that Hugo's theological criticisms come to light. Javert is a legalist in the extreme, just as Valjean is a sacrificiall Christian hero in the extreme. This important thread finally concludes when Javert realizes his error when captured by his adversary and released. Unable to reconcile the law with Valjean's forgiveness, Javert sees no way out other than suicide.

Watching this DVD years after experiencing the thrill of seeing Les Miserables on the stage, sung by real singing voices, was a disappointment. And, like most classics, it is a story best revealed by reading a good translation of Hugo's novel. But the Christian concepts of law vs. grace are so well baked into the story that this film is worthy of group viewing and discussion.

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