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Les Misérables is a 1998 film adaptation of Victor Hugo's 1862 novel of the same name, directed by Bille August. It stars Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush, Uma Thurman, and Claire Danes.

As in the original novel, the story line follows the adult life of Jean Valjean (Liam Neeson), an ex-convict (paroled following 19 years of hard labor, for stealing bread) pursued by police Inspector Javert (Geoffrey Rush). The film received a 77% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It was filmed at Barrandov Studiosmarker in Praguemarker.


The movie follows Jean Valjean (Liam Neeson), a man arrested for stealing bread. When released on parole, Valjean stays with a bishop as no one else was willing to allow a convict to stay the night. Through the kindness of the bishop, who Valjean attempted to rob, Valjean starts his life anew. He becomes a wealthy industrialist and a mayor. He eventually befriends Fantine (Uma Thurman), a single mother-turned-prostitute whom he rescued when she was nearly arrested by the police officer Javert (Geoffrey Rush). Javert was also a guard previously at the prison Valjean was held in and starts to become suspicious that the Mayor and Valjean are the same person. When Valjean receives word that another man is mistaken as him and about to be rearrested, he reveals his identity. When he visits Fantine, he finds that she is deathly ill and he promises to raise her very young daughter, Cosette. When Fantine dies, Valjean escapes from Javert and buys Cosette from the Thénardiers, corrupt innkeepers who were supposed to care for her (but were actually abusing and enslaving her).

Many years later, a teenage Cosette (Claire Danes) falls in love with a revolutionary, Marius (Hans Matheson). By this time, the trail of Valjean is cold, and Javert is undercover as an insurrectionist trying to undermine the organization to which Marius belongs. Javert, however, is captured by Marius and is brought to the barricades as a prisoner to be executed. Valjean journeys to the barricades himself when he learns how much Cosette and Marius love each other, intending to convince Marius to return to Cosette. When the soldiers shoot and kill Gavroche (Shane Hervey), a young boy allied with the revolutionists, Valjean uses his influence with Marius to have Javert turned over to him, to execute him. Instead of killing him however, Valjean frees Javert. The movie ends with Javert, unable to reconcile the goodness shown to him by Valjean with his perfectly lawful existence, freeing him, then committing suicide.


Differences from the novel

The film greatly reduces the roles of many of the characters in the novel, especially the Thénardiers, who are only seen when Valjean buys Cosette from them. Éponine also does not play a major role in the film. She and her sister Azelma only appear in one scene together as children playing at a table in the Thénardier Inn, whilst Cosette makes stockings for them, as their mother calls their names.

Marius' role is changed from reluctant participant in the Revolution to principal leader, resulting in Enjolras' role to also be changed and reduced. The subplot involving Marius' political shift is also not present.

Valjean does not steal a coin from a little boy.

A large number of names have also been changed. Valjean is the mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer in the novel, not of Vigau. A town of that name does not even exist in France. The man he saves after the cart crash is called Fauchelevent, not Lafitte. The man mistaken for Valjean is called Champmathieu, not Carnot, and the prisoners identifying him are Brevet, Chenildieu and Cochepaille; the film only changed the last two names to Lombard and Bertin (probably for pronounciation reasons).

Much of the events surrounding the love story between Marius and Cosette have been removed, including Marius and the Thénardiers living in the same apartment house as Valjean and Cosette did; the events involving Éponine; the events involving Gavroche; and most of the events involving the Revolution.

Javert finds Valjean's trace in Paris when he leaves a note for him, warning him about his daughter's involvement with a "dangerous revolutionary." The words "she betrays you every night" in said note have already been the source for many speculations.

Javert captures Marius as he visits Cosette and takes Cosette hostage, trying to get at Valjean. Cosette manages to knock him out and free Marius upon which Marius takes Javert to the barricades, claiming him to be a spy.

In one scene, Valjean slaps Cosette, which is an act he would never do in the novel. In the same scene, Valjean also confesses his convict past to Cosette, while in the novel he reveals this to Marius, begging him not to say a word to Cosette.

Valjean does not die at the end of the film as he does in the novel; the film closes with him walking away smiling from where Javert threw himself into the river, free from the "shadow of the past" that the Inspector represented.


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