Les Miserables - trailer
Les Misérables is an adaptation of the successful stage musical based on Victor Hugo's classic novel set in 19th-century France, in which a paroled prisoner named Jean Valjean seeks redemption. Starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway.PT2M32S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2bbrg 620 349 December 13, 2012
How will it compare with the stage show? This is the question many will be asking when they go to see Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe in Les Miserables.
If they're hoping to revisit the show they adored so many years before, they may be in for a surprise.
Rather than create a star-studded film version of the theatre production, the creative team behind the movie say they stripped it down to its parts and built something new. The music has been recomposed by Claude-Michel Schonberg, a new song has been added and roles have been reshaped.
Dreaming a dream ... Les Miserables at the Theatre Royal.
Still, it could have been a more radical update. An initial decision to include dialogue (the stage show is sung throughout) was rejected by the film's director, Tom Hooper.
''I thought the difficulty with going from dialogue to singing and back is gear changes,'' Hooper says. ''The reality like ours and the reality where I sing to you … This is a world like ours but where people's primary form of communication is singing. We're just going to commit to that and be brave about that.''
The transition to the big screen has also involved many stylistic decisions. Hooper has adopted lengthy close-ups on actors who would have had spotlights on stage.
Fantine ... Anne Hathaway.
''The challenge I laid down to the cast was 'can you find a way of telling the stories of these songs in the medium of the close-up?''' he says. ''They found brilliant ways to do it. I honoured that by staying close and meditating on the face and meditating on the emotions.''
Sir Cameron Mackintosh, who has produced every professional production of Les Miserables to date, as well as the movie, agrees.
''You can get behind the eyes of an actor and the emotion that you simply can't do on the stage,'' he says. ''You can show what's going through the actor's mind.
''The trio of Cosette, Eponine and Marius, I think, works even stronger in the movie.
''You seem to understand that fated love trio even more - it's more powerful because of the medium of cinema.''
Hooper says he found the wide shots more challenging to justify.
''A single person singing close up you can say 'it's like a prayer, it's like a soliloquy in a play','' he says. ''It's not that unreal. Whereas 100 people singing in unison felt [harder] for the audience to accept.''
That need to justify the songs lies at the heart of a film that seeks far more realism than the show.
Hugh Jackman, who plays Jean Valjean, feels that it came from Hooper never having worked on a musical before.
''He very much approaches it as 'sometimes I get embarrassed watching it, I feel uncomfortable', so he did it in a way where I think it feels very accessible. He took some bold choices. It has a very muscular, real feel, the way he shot it,'' Jackman says.
Sir Cameron feels the movie is a unique amalgam of cinema and stage: ''Everyone is saying how cinematic it is, yet in the cinema people are applauding it [as] if it is a stage show.''
Recalling the first Australian production, in 1987, Sir Cameron says: ''We were lucky. We sort of brought together what became the next generation of stars with Anthony Warlow, Marina Prior, Simon Burke.
''An amazing cast of people that have gone on to all be the leading players in Australia.''
And the film version doesn't spell the end of Les Miserables as a stage production. Sir Cameron plans to bring his 25th anniversary stage production to Australia ''to find a whole new raft of talent, which I'm looking forward to doing next year''.