My husband and I went to see the latest Hollywood version of Les Miserables recently. I have seen many productions of the famous story - everything from a local stage production to this latest film. I have been captivated by it since reading the original unabridged book by Victor Hugo while at university many years ago. It has remained the number one top pick on my favourites list ever since.
I'm always a bit hesitant to see another production of it, perhaps because I love it so much I'm afraid it will not be done well enough, not polished enough, not true enough. I'd read a few reviews of this production and I was nervous. Some said it was flawed, that the voices weren't up to the standard one might expect and that damaged the film. They were wrong.
As we left the theatre I thought about something Anne Hathaway said in a recent interview. She talked about the scene where she sings the famous solo, I Dreamed a Dream. She admitted it had been a difficult day and she had felt drained, not in the best place to attempt filming one of the most crucial scenes in the film. "And I didn't hit the note," she admitted.
She was right. She didn't. But she hit something else. The scene is raw and real, the anguish of the character grips your heart and you are left with a gaping mouth and torn soul. For the briefest of moments you are that character, feeling her pain, crying out with her to a world that has crushed her dreams and left her battered and abused.
It made me think about my writing, my work as an author. We strive for excellence, to get it right, to "hit the note," and that's a good thing, but perhaps it's not the most essential thing. Perhaps we should be striving, rather, to be real, to be raw, to let our voices cry out with the pain and the longing that is universal to all in this world. Because, for most, life isn't polished, isn't perfect. It's flawed and often full of pain. Our challenge as writers is to echo that reality while pointing to something more.
The production wasn't as perfect as some might have liked but tears were streaming down my face as the cast sang that last song, that last line. "When tomorrow comes, Tomorrow comes!" That's the genius of Victor Hugo's book. It is a book full of the pain and anguish of life yet it is deeply hopeful. It reveals all that life truly is and then says, "but take heart, I have overcome the world," for there is indeed a world "beyond the barricade."
May we all learn from this master as we lean on the Master of our souls.