Last night, our family sat in a sold out theater enjoying the opening day of the newest incarnation of Les Miserables. The story of Jean Valjean and his journey from prisoner, to mayor, to rescuer, to father and hero has captivated audiences for decades.
The original story by Victor Hugo was first published in the mid-1800s and was considered by many to be the greatest novel of the nineteenth century. The story is set in the midst of the French Revolution and introduces numerous memorable characters such as Valjean, Inspector Javert (the officer who is bent on re-capturing the escaped convict Valjean), Fantine, Cosette, and Marius.
The novel holds its place in history as one of the greatest written. However, it is the musical adaptation, first presented on stage in 1980, that has captivated audiences worldwide.
My wife and I first experienced the musical in London in 2002. Having never read the book nor seen the musical before, we were taken in by the beautiful music and the production quality.
Perhaps the most famous musical numbers is "I Dreamed a Dream" as sung by the character Fontaine. The story of the desperate mother who has been pushed into prostitution in order to provide for her daughter is heart-wrenching and powerful. Many remember Susan Boyle's performance of this song on the British talent show "Britain's Got Talent" that propelled her to international fame.
There have been a few film adaptations of Les Miserables. In 1998 Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush starred in a quality film version. Though not a musical version, the retelling of Valjean's story was done well.
Yesterday, a star-studded film adaptation of the musical hit theaters. With such names as Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman headlining, this version was set to be a hit. It does not disappoint.
As my family and I were leaving the theater, we were talking about the film. I said to my daughter, "There's one scene in the film that is the most important. It is the key. Without it, the rest of the film and story does not work."
While there are many memorable scenes, this one, though early in the story, is vital.
It is the scene where Valjean is arrested for stealing silver from the priest who has offered him sanctuary. The priest's response is vital. It is a scene that shows what grace and mercy truly are.
This is the scene where we can all relate.
Deserving nothing, we are shown grace by our Heavenly Father.
That's our story.
The priest echoes that to Valjean and it changes the man.
As I think of the crowded theater, all caught up in the musical numbers and the story of adventure, love and rescue, I pray that those in the crowd, and the millions others who will see this film over the next few weeks will "have ears to hear" how God so deeply loves them and reaches out to each of them with love and grace.
Hugo was wise to include this scene. It's elemental to the heart of man.