Les Miserables (1935) Director: Richard Boleslawski
The plot of the film loosely follows the novel by Victor Hugo, with a few major differences. For example, Valjean’s life is not told as a flashback as in the novel, his prison sentencing is 10 years instead of 5, at the end of the film Javert’s suicide concludes the film, while in the novel Valjean dies of grief.
The story takes place during Napoleonic France as Jean Valjean is arrested for stealing food as he cannot feed himself and the people he is taking care of. He sentenced to the galleys where many prisoners die. When he is released he looks for a place to stay out of the cold, and is only welcomed into the home of a priest. He steals the priest’s silver in the night but it arrested when fleeing but the priest does not accuse him, and instead says he forgot the silver candlesticks. He should use these to make an honest man of himself.
He disguises himself and becomes a successful factory owner as Monsieur Madeleine. He is appointed mayor of his town. He rescues a man crushed under a wagon wheel, and Javert becomes suspicious as he only knew one convict with strength of that kind, Jean Valjean. Valjean then begins taking care of Fantine, a woman who was fired from Valjean’s factory for having a child out of wedlock, and her daughter Cosette, who is forced to work at an Inn by abusive owners.
The next chapter in the novel is missing in the film, wherein Valjean escapes and rescues Cosette. They flee to Paris to live in a convent. After living there for years, Cosette falls in love with a revolutionary, Marius. As the film skips over great portions of the novel, Javert hunts down Valjean until his concluding decision to kill himself at the end of the film, as Valjean chases after him.
Les Miserables is an excellent film, though taking significant liberties from the Hugo novel. It is a remarkable and enjoyable film.