Last week I went to see the new film of Les Miserables, starring Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Amanda Seyfried, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen, evidently a lot of big names to draw in the crowds. I didn’t really know what to expect, except for a possibly dingy and depressing outlook on the French Revolution, as it had always appeared to me from the little I had seen and heard before, and I didn’t really understand how Anne Hathaway could play a character who was meant to be Amanda Seyfried’s mother.
However, watching the film, everything fell into place and I understood why so many people love this musical. It might be a little dingy at times, and a bit sad, but rather than being a depressing story, it is exciting and takes the audience on a dramatic journey against a backdrop of cheating, spying, and fighting, but also one that turns out to bring hope, love, and promise.
The music was amazing (apart from some dodgy notes by Russell Crowe) and I recognised a lot of the songs such as, ‘Do you hear the people sing?’, ‘On my Own’, and ‘I dreamed a dream’ (of Susan Boyle fame).
But there was one song I didn’t recognise, which actually, to me personally, had more power and emotion than any of the others. This was ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’, sung by Eddie Redmayne, who plays Marius. The song begins, ‘There’s a grief that can’t be spoken’, and describes the emotional pain that Marius feels after discovering that all his friends, his fellow fighters for the cause of the French republic, have all been killed in a battle which he managed to survive.
The song is extremely moving as Marius describes the gaping hole left in his life by the loss of his friends. Some of the lyrics are below, and I’ve also posted a video of the song from a performance by Michael Ball so you can hear the words put to music.
Although the song is a sad one, death and bereavement are something that everyone experiences at some point in their lives, and to me, it was a poetic and moving expression of the way that the death of a loved one can leave an empty space in your life. It also made me think about how important it is to appreciate your friends and family every day whilst they are here.
I hope you enjoy listening to the clip I’ve posted, and I also really recommend a trip to the cinema to see this film (but it’s quite long so don’t make the mistake of going on a week night like I did!)
“Oh my friends, my friends forgive me
That I live and you are gone.
There’s a grief that can’t be spoken.
There’s a pain goes on and on.
Phantom faces at the window.
Phantom shadows on the floor.
Empty chairs at empty tables
Where my friends will meet no more.”