Sunday, December 30, 2012

Lost in translation

I really wanted to love Les Miserables, the movie, as much as I do the stage production. But despite some spectacular sets which were unreproduceable onstage such as the jaw-dropping manual dry-docking of the hulking warship in the opening sequence and the colossal barricade of the closing; and the palpable reality of the sewer escape sequence, the experience wasn't as emotionally impactful as it was onstage.

Perhaps some genres don't translate well into others. The script being originally written for stage assumes that most of the audience would not get close enough to the characters to empathize with them as individual people. It is the music that carries the emotion and from a distance therein lies the drama of the musical.

On film, it's quite different. On the 70mm screen, the action is literally in your face. Every tear, every frown, every wrinkle is there for all to see so the delivery has to become more realistic. The irony is that using nuances of spoken delivery takes away something of the emotive potential of the music and so the effect gets watered down.

There is also a problem using recognizable faces in the leading roles. At some point I was expecting Jean Valjean to sprout adamantium claws from his fists and eviscerate his tormentors; Fantine to grow pointy ears and a tail and bi*chslap with a bullwhip the sleazebuckets going after her. That they meekly rolled over and resigned themselves to their fate was mildly disappointing. Big names may help box-office receipts, but it's better to cast iconic roles with performers who themselves have not been cast in other iconic roles else the wrong images are likely to stick and confuse.

It's not that I didn't enjoy the movie, but that this experience is unlikely to be as memorable as the stage version, for me anyway. But at least I didn't have to pay an exorbitant sum for crappy seats in the theatre's nosebleed section for it.

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