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Les Miserables: From Stage to Screen

With the success of Tom Hooper’s ‘Les Miserables’ being hard to miss it is no wonder that interest in everything to do with the story has spiked. From Victor Hugo’s initial novel, to the musical theatre adaptation and now to the film, it seems that people simply can’t get enough. When it comes to adaptation you so often hear people complaining because ‘it wasn’t like the book’, or ‘the stage show was so much more emotional.’ How anyone can expect a film to contain every aspect that a book does is beyond me. Of course they will be different; it is a completely different form of entertainment. Personally, I think noting the different ways that one book can be interpreted is far more interesting than hoping that every adaptation is exactly the same as the original and complaining when it isn’t.

Les Miserables has touched a cord with many people across the world and for many different reasons. Some might be drawn in by the famous names and the chance to hear their favourite actor singing; others might be enticed by the chance to see their favourite musical on the big screen, but I can imagine that many were enticed by the reviews that promised heart-stopping shows of emotion. Anne Hathaway’s performance alone made the film worth watching.

Once you’ve left the cinema your mind starts working through the film, trying to work out exactly how they created such an intense portrayal or how they hoped to compete with a musical that has been popular since 1985. That is where Benedict Nightingale and Martyn Palmer’s book comes in. Les Miserables: From Stage to Screen details the process behind the adaptation from book to stage and then stage to screen. This type of book might not be a new concept, but it is an effective one and certainly has a wide audience. It is for precisely this reason that websites like the Internet Movie Database are so popular; because the public want to know the story behind the film, the actors and all the bits of trivia in between.

The authors come from an experienced background, with Nightingale being a former theatre critic and Palmer being a film and music writer for numerous publications including Empire magazine. Anyone who has read this type of book before knows that the real value is in the images included. Screenshots from the film are to be expected, but what you are really looking out for is the behind-the-scenes images that give you an insight into how the film came to life. This book goes one step further, including over 20 facsimiles showing key moments in the adaptation process, to stage and to screen. I can see it becoming a very popular read, although the price tag might scare some people away. It would be an ideal gift for someone special who has an irrepressible interest in Les Miserables.

About Elizabeth A. Wright