PBS take on Les Miserablés Conjures Relatable Emotions
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Victor Hugo’s Les Miserablés, or “Les Miz” as diehard fans call it, is a timeless French novel about the social and economic upheavals of 19th century France. Award-winning screen writer Andrew Davis, who crafted classics such as “Bridget Jones Diary,” and “War and Peace,” tackled this 2,000 page undertaking by creating six episodes that encompass what the acclaimed musical and previous movies have skimped on - the heart wrenching details.
Episode one of “Les Miserablés” first aired through Masterpiece April 14, 2019 on Maryland Public Television. I watched the show online on www.mpt.org (viewers can watch episode one from April 14, 2019 until April 28, 2019 for free).
Several years back, I garnered great seats for the musical version of “Les Miserablés” in London. I was also ready to be that girl who sang (out of tune) “I Dreamed A Dream” by Claude-Michel Schönberg. Sadly, that moment never happened. I fell into a deep slumber and only awoke to the final round of applause for the cast. Before watching episode one online, I was naturally apprehensive with this epic tome given that my previous foray into “Les Miz” was met with epic failure.
In a surprising turn of events, episode one of the PBS series got me hooked and shook.Unlike the play that I slept through, this version has rich backstory, epic melodrama, and convincing dialogue. This stunning series truly breaks down author Victor Hugo’s five volume piece into compelling chunks of emotion, grit, and allure.
Episode one opens up with two storylines - prisoner Jean Valjean, played by Dominic West, toiling away at a prison site and Fantine, played by Lily Collins, demurely walking with her two best friends into town. Viewers are instantaneously immersed in richly complex scenes that beguile the eyes. Character emotions, furtive brows, and trying circumstances pop out.
Fantine batts her eyes at Felix, played by Johnny Flynn, and coyly asks about his true intentions. This is but one of many scenes that foreshadow an epic milestone in her life. Epic in that she has to shake off her naiveté, grow up fast, and forever lose a part of herself.
In contrast, Jean Valjean, who has already lost his innocence due to a petty crime gone wrong, is at a crossroads. After leaving prison after serving a 19 year sentence, with only 109 francs in his pocket, he questions whether to keep stealing after no shopkeeper or townsman would hire him due to papers marking his crime. An unlikely character comes in with humorous quips, and a light-hearted take on life that will forever change him.
As someone who has never read the novel, I became emotionally invested in Jean Valjean’s and Fantine’s storyline. I wonder what will happen next. You can watch Episode one of Les Miserablés on www.mpt.org here.