I watched Les Mis on Amazon twice this weekend. I love that musical. I cry every time I see it. But I don’t think it’s ultimately a sad movie. Grace triumphs in the end.
At least that’s how I always saw it. But as I was thinking about it today, I was wondering if it really is a happy ending. Or, at least a just and good ending.
Jean Valjean ends his life with the only family he has known and he is “escorted” to heaven by Fantine. That’s definitely good. Jean Valjean has consistently been a picture of grace. He was given grace by the priest early on in the story and he then gives grace to those around him throughout his life.
What I wonder about is the young people who were fighting for justice. They were all killed. Yes, they are shown at the end of the movie on the “heavenly barricade”, but their sacrifice isn’t shown to have any purpose. Marius goes back to his privileged life and marries Cosette.
We spend a good bit of the movie with the poor people of Paris and see their desire for freedom. Yet, all the young men who were willing to fight are killed by the government. The people didn’t rise up in armed revolt. And, once Marius is removed from the scene, the only glimpse we have at the tavern again is Marius revisiting it to sing “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” and see some of the women cleaning the street. And then we’re back to upper class Paris.
What happened to the poor people of Paris? Did anything change for them? Did those young men (and one boy and one young woman) die in vain? We aren’t told in the story.
Something seems wrong, though. Marius eschews his upper class heritage to fight for freedom, but he is the only one to survive (although not by his own actions). And he is allowed to go back to his previous life. No one else had that option.
I think that Les Mis has a happy ending for the main characters, but the story is played out against a background that does not include social justice.
Just my two cents’ worth. What do you think?