DVD
Les Misérables

Starring: Gerard Depardieu and John Malkovich
Fremantle Home Entertainment/Arrow Films
RRP: 19.99

FCD186
Certificate: 12
Available 20 September 2004


Jean Valijean lives a life on the run for stealing a loaf of bread. Settling in a remote town, he devotes himself to the care of the poor, including the beautiful, young, and poverty stricken Fantine. When Fantine dies, she leaves a daughter, Cosette, who Valjean raises. But they are haunted by Javert, a policeman whose lifelong search for Valijean as become an obsession. A hunt begins that will come to a final confrontation on the revolution torn streets of Paris...

Based on Victor Hugo's classic novel, Les Misérables is an epic tale of love, honour and obsession set against the dramatic backdrop of the French Revolution. Gerard Depardieu turns in a first rate performance as Valijean, while John Malkovich is... well, John Malkovich really.

This made for TV movie has exceptionally high production values. The acting, on the whole, is believable and the sets and location filming is breathtaking on occasion.

Sadly though, many of the scenes didn't seem to be set-up very well. There were too many times when the passage of time was not clear. For example, after Cosette's marriage several months have passed, yet the way that it is filmed it appears as though it is the next morning. Also, the French Revolution is merely a background detail, which is never really explained. Okay, the educated amongst us may know more about this anyway, but it just seems as though it was a small scuffle between a tiny number of young men, who hold out against one platoon of Louis XVI's guards. A bit of bloodshed and and the whole thing is over by teatime.

The French Revolution did many things, unleashed new forces, destroyed old ideas, offered new promises. Not the Revolution itself, of course, but the people who made it. An ideal that is also behind the main characters in Hugo's book. Aren't Valijean and Javert fighting on opposite sides, both with their own ideas about the other? In the end don't they too throw aside old ideas and embrace the new ideology before they vanish? Valijean and Javert both fight their corner and the end result is that Cosette and the next generation are free of the shackles that have bound their parents? But, sadly, this just doesn't come across in this production.

There are no extras at all on this DVD. In fact, you can't even play the two episodes separately. You can play the whole thing, or select chapters, but it would have been handy to be able to have the option of being able to choose between the two episodes. Also, audio subtitles would have been handy, especially in the early scenes, as the heavy French accents are not always easy to understand. Oh, and this production also suffers from some very poor lip synching in places.

The lack of any extras could have been excused if this was being knocked out at a bargain price, but £20 for a single disc is a little pricey. How about an additional audio commentary? A making of featurette? or an interview with the director on the problems he had bringing this novel to celluloid?

Despite my moaning, I still enjoyed this DVD - It's just that what is a good production could have been much improved if a little extra thought had gone into its DVD release.

Amber Leigh

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£14.99 (Amazon.co.uk)
   
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£16.99 (Streetsonline.co.uk)

All prices correct at time of going to press.