RSS

Tag Archives: adaptation

Les Misérables

les miserablesI’ve just been to see Les Misérables and it seems the angst-ridden trailers that I’ve seen everywhere for this film would have been sufficient. It seems the marketers were given very little to work with and all the best bits of the film were used in the trailer, so there’s not really a need to pop along and see it.

I really hate to say it, but it’s the Australasians that let the film down (yes, New Zealand, when he does badly, Russell Crowe is a Kiwi; we’ll only claim him as an Aussie when he does well). Hugh Jackman is a little awkward but tolerable; the problem is that whenever he’s on screen, I’m seeing Hugh Jackman do Jean Valjean, rather than seeing Jean Valjean. The awkwardness with which he carries the role just undermines the suspension of disbelief.

I fully concur with those who have criticised the choice of Russell Crowe for the role of Javert. He is not entirely inappropriate, but it seems that although he can hold a tune, he can’t hold both a tune and a character at the same time. I believe he could have carried the character well enough were this not a sung-through musical, and I also have a feeling that there is scope for a film version of Les Misérables adapted to prose rather than the musical, which doesn’t really do the story any favours.

The film does have a few redeeming points, though. Whenever Anne Hathaway is on screen, I forget the awkwardness of Jackman and Crowe; she is engaging and poetic in every sense. Edward Redmayne is likewise convincing as Marius, and his chemistry with Amanda Seyfried‘s adult Cosette is palpable. Along with Isabelle Allen, these performers almost manage to redeem the film from the clunky performances of the two Australasians commanding the big dollars.

Whatever its faults, this film does one thing particularly well, in my opinion; while most productions that I’ve seen, whether for stage or screen, position Les Misérables as a quintessentially French story, this film sets the story amidst the mere backdrop of revolutionary France, allowing the characters greater autonomy from their political circumstances. It is my opinion that the story would sit just as well in front of any struggle for independence and liberty. It would be as at home before the Battle of the Chesapeake, the Eureka Stockade, the Myall Creek Massacre or Tiananmen Square, because the focus in this story is the journey of the individual characters within a particular political context. And of course, this being a story originally written by a Frenchman, its French context is de rigueur.

And perhaps that’s the big thing to learn from this rather expensive mistake of a film. What the world needs is an adaptation that takes the story of Les Misérables and depicts some fictional Aboriginal characters going through the same experience in the lead up to the Myall Creek Massacre… with prose dialogue to ram home the point. I’ll take that one. Anyone want to pick up Tiananmen Square?

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on Friday, 18 January 2013 in British Film, Cameron Mackintosh, Film, Working Title Films

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Notes on Directing ‘Take Their Life’

I have just handed over the reins of my current project, Take Their Life, to the stage manager, Joyce Gore. I thought I was scared of directing anything of Shakespeare’s before, but now I’m even more scared because I no longer have any control over what happens!

I have learned an awful lot from the experience of directing a sacred cow. Having only directed new, or relatively new, works before, I’ve never had to deal with strongly-established and conflicting interpretations of character before. The principles are the same: you look for various interpretations and pick the one that best suits your needs, but when there is such a wide range of varying interpretations, and when some of those interpretations are so firmly entrenched from centuries of analysis, it can be a tough call to pick the one that best suits our purposes.

All directors say it, but it really has been a pleasure to work with such a talented cast. They’ve amazed me at times with their capacity to take an idea I’ve had about how a character should act or respond, and incorporate that into a holistic expression of a character, which essentially is nothing more than a concept. I have found it quite humbling to watch those characters emerge from vague and shadowy ideas in my head into characters who stand and walk about and interact as if they’re real people.

So next stop is opening night, when we turn Shakespeare’s sacred cow into a profane one. I hope people enjoy it, but really, the best part of the experience of profaning a sacred cow is over, and after nine months in development, I am both breathing a sigh of relief, and beginning to fret about letting it go.

Chookas, cast.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,