Many of you will have seen the 2012 film adaptation of Les Misérables. I originally saw the stage show about ten years ago in the West End and it’s definitely one of my all time favourite musicals (back in the day I was a bit of a musical theatre connaiseuse…)
When watching the film at the cinema last month, I noticed a song, ‘Suddenly’, which seemed unfamiliar to me. Given that it sounds so much like it belongs to the rest of the Les Mis score, I assumed it was just one of those songs that I had somehow forgotten in the years since I used to sing ‘I dreamed a dream’ practically every day, accompanying myself at the piano (it must be a stage all 15-year-olds go through…) A little bit of research has shown me that actually, ‘Suddenly’ does not feature in the original production, but was written specially for the film by composer Claude Michel Schönberg and lyricist Alain Boublil, who had penned the original. Since the film is two and a half hours long, you’d be forgiven for wondering why an extra song was written for the big screen: Tom Hooper, the director, explains here how he wanted to show how central falling in love with little Cosette was to Jean Valjean’s life, something which is difficult to capture in theatre. The writers clearly agreed with him, because in the same extract Schönberg says ‘There is a chapter in the book I think that only a camera can catch’.
For those unaware of the plot or who haven’t seen the musical, Jean Valjean is an escaped convict who has never been shown love before, and he takes in Cosette, the daughter of a disgraced prostitute who has died, and brings her up as his own daughter. There is much I could write about this story and this film, given its strong Christian overtones, as although much of the plot is harrowing, it is ultimately a tale of grace. However, I draw your attention to this song because it is rare, I think, that intimate but non-sexual relationships of this type get explored in popular film. Jean Valjean is a single grown man, Cosette is an abused little girl. It seems an unlikely friendship, but it is a beautiful one. Have you ever had an unlikely friendship, where you have learnt to see the world in a new way because of someone else, someone who you would never have thought would touch you in the way they did, because they are so different from you in terms of background, age and so on? I know I have. I love the fact that the unlikeliest of relationships are often the ones that stay with us long after our paths have crossed. This song beautifully sums up this sentiment. Have a listen.