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Questions about the BrickI know you guys don't like random threads being opened, but I was looking back in the forum and I got to about page twenty something and they were all started in 2007... and I figured most of them were dead. So I thought this might be a pretty good place to get answers about the Brick, and I have a couple major questions.
-When Jean Valjean is deciding whether or not to go to Arras to turn himself in (or whatever you want to call what he does... ), and he makes his final decision based on the dream, why did that change his mind? I didn't quite understand it and I can't figure out if you're supposed to. Could someone clear this up for me?
-I don't really understand what the description of the Battle of Waterloo was put in there for. I'm pretty sure I'm going to get shot in the face for this, but I don't really see what it has to do with the plot. I know nothing of French history or anything, so it doesn't catch my attention. Maybe if someone could explain its importance I'd be more into it...
Thanks for reading and answer if you can, and I'll probably have more questions as I get further in the Brick
Heh heh heh. Be prepared for more digressions. The Waterloo one is the biggest one, but there's also one about a convent, a shorter one about criminal underworld slang, and one about the Paris sewer system. (And the one in the beginning about the bishop, which I assume you've already read.)
The digressions aren't directly related to the plot, and you can skip them if you want to, although I suggest at least having a crack at the sewer digression because it's interesting. They're thematically and symbolically connected to the plot, but they're not essential reading. The thing to understand about Les Mis is that it's only partly a novel. If you just took the plot and characters on their own it would be a misshapen wandering mess that doesn't adhere to any novelistic structure. In reality it's a gigantic essay or collection of Hugo's thoughts on society, religion, politics, history, etc. The section on the bishop is there to drive home a point on religion. There are many sections (including the Waterloo digression and "The Year 1817") about how history is made and how it's constructed after the fact. And Hugo, like many of his contemporaries, was obsessed with Napoleon, both the original Napoleon who was defeated at Waterloo in 1815 and his nephew who was ruling France in 1860 when the book was finished. So no, the Waterloo section isn't directly related to the plot, but there are many elements to suggest that the book symbolically hinges around Waterloo and that Jean Valjean's life parallels Napoleon's.
All Orestes said is true, but I would also say that all the digressions add substance to the novel.
The very precise descriptions of real places and historical events put the characters in context so they seem real.
I am not sure the Misérables fans would think "that's where javert died" when walking along the "quai de la mégisserie" between the Pont-au-change and the Pont-Notre-Dame in Paris. I am not sure we would try to locate where exactly were the barricade, or where was the Thenardier's Inn, or where Cosette took water...
Even if Les Misérables is fictional, the political views are real (or, well, where real) and the social aspects were also true, and sometimes are still true! So those digressions are not completely unnecessary.
Moreover, I love the ones about the Bishop and the convent!
Oh no... *cough* Never.
(Do you have any idea where the Thénardiers' inn would've been? I can't find any references to a rue du Boulanger or ruelle du Boulanger in Montfermeil, and none of the old maps have street names marked. Nearest I can find is that it was based on some inn near the Place de la Halle called "Au Rendez-vous d'Austerlitz." I wonder what the innkeeper did to deserve Hugo's ire...)
||In the book Waterloo also links Marius and Eponine's families; their fathers meet during the aftermath of the battle.|
In my opinion, you've got it!
If you look at the city's website, you can find this:
Read the part about "Place de la Halle". It says :
My translation :
Austerlitz being also a very well known Napoleon battle (that one being a victory for the emperor), Hugo just changed it to Waterloo...
It seems that the inn was at the crossing between rue de la Halle and ruelle des Béguines.
Here's Rue de la Halle:
Today, that strange house on the right is still there:
On Google street view
Strange... the crossing between rue de la Halle and ruelle des Béguines is where you can see thar big white wall on the right, behind that strange house. Nothing there looks like an inn...
OR... the thénardier's inn IS that strange house... It is close to the church, there is a kind of square where the temporary shops could be... I'll assume that's it!
I've found something else, very interesting.
Being the Misérables hardcore fan you are (), you probably know the "Fontaine Jean Valjean" in Montfermeil.
The fountain today :
On Google street view
We learn here that this fountain was named "Fontaine Buisson", for the name of the owner of the land or "Fontaine de l'abyme".
In 1807, Mme Hocquart was sick about the events of the french revolution, and then decided to close the access to the water in her castle's park, which was the main access for drinkable water in Montfermeil.
Then the fontaine Buisson became the only place you could find water you could drink...
When Hugo released Les Misérables in 1862, everybody in Montfermeil recognized the place where Cosette go to have water as the Fontaine Buisson : From the church (place de la Halle), on the road to Chelles… In the chapter where hugo explains the water issue in montfermeil, he explains the real thing: water by the lakes, or that small fountain.
The church :
On the way to Chelles :
This is called "La descent de l'abîme". As the fontain was also named "Fontaine de l'abîme", there is no doubts that Cosette went on that way, which is called now "Vieux chemin de l'abîme":
Just for your pleasure, here's a general view of Montfermeil in 1910.
Then, to come back to your subject ILoveJavert, I think this shows well how those precise description can link the action into reality. Then the political and historical digressions can also link the characters to something real.
||Thanks for all the info/help, guys! I am finding this all really useful. I might have some more questions as I get further into the Brick. But one (random) thing I've been wondering is why everyone on MdN hates the '98 movie... I saw it awhile ago and didn't think much of it, but thinking of it I can recall a couple things... are there major things they got wrong or is it just a long list of wrong details? ... forgive my randomness... just curious|
Never seen that movie... My favorite "Misérables" movies are the old 1933 movie by Raymond Bernard with Harry Baur as Jean Valjean. It is the most complete version, the most accurate to the book. But it's very very long, and quite difficult to find...
The other one, very different one I love is the strange 1994 Claude Lelouch movie with Jean Paul belmondo. It is not exactly "les Misérables", but other persons whose life echoes those of Hugo's characters. The main character tells the real Hugo's story of Les Misérables to someone else as the parallel "real life" Misérables occurs without them realizing how similar it is from Hugo's novel. Quite strange, but I loved it...
Then I realize that we haven't answered your first question about the night Valjean decide to go to Arras.
My personal opinion is that the dream is the reflection of his conscience. He starts as a kid, with his brother. When he was innocent. Then the brother disappear and he becomes the man he is today. Each silent man he sees is his conscience. Nobody sees him, except his conscience. He cannot escape it. It is like Cain after he killed Abel in Hugo's poem. Even in his tomb, the eye was still looking at him.
That's when the car arrive. That car waiting for him to go to Arras is the only way to escape those man, and his conscience.
Well that's my opinion on it. Maybe someone else could have another opinion on it and still be right too...
Hope that helps!
PS: That long chapter is one of my favorite...
I just realized your username is Gargamel. If it's the Gargamel I'm thinking of, he was my childhood herooooo, lol.
Anyway, carry on. Carry on.
Not anymore! They re-released it as part of a collection of Bernard's work. I am not sure if it's still difficult to get a Zone 2 DVD of it, but Americans should have no problem getting a subtitled version off the internet.
And I agree that after all these years and all these different film versions, the 1933 one is still the best of them all--as an adaptation, and as a film. If nothing else, their Gillenormand is FABULOUS and deserves a whole movie to himself.
I haven't seen the Belmondo one (I want to, though!), but I'm quite fond of the 1958 version with Jean Gabin, the 1982 one by Robert Hossein with Lino Ventura as Valjean, and the first half of that 1978 one with Anthony Perkins as Javert.
The 1998 one with Neeson and Rush had the potential to be awesome, but they missed the point in so many places and made up bizarre crap in so many other places. It's good as a movie if you forget it's supposed to be based on anything, but it sucks as an adaptation. Valjean falling in love with Fantine? Javert being an outright cruel bastard? Cosette being a brat? Valjean slapping her? And the whole Marjolras thing, and the way Javert's suicide is handled, and the way the movie ends immediately afterwards... it's bizarre.
Gargamel, I love those pictures. I recognize the church as looking just like the one in Shoujo Cosette.
I'm guessing the team behind Shoujo Cosette did their research.
EDIT: Orestes, you wouldn't happen to know if it is possible to get the 1933 film in English subs? It's probablyvery unlikely but given that my French is awful it would be fantastic if I knew what everyone was saying.
At least, it shows they tried to be accurate!
@Orestes: Yes, I also like the 1982 one by Robert Hossein and the 1958 version with Jean Gabin. I hated the 2000 version for TV.
And I loved Gavroche too!
Every fan of the Musical "Les Misérables" should see the 1982 version, as it is by Robert Hossein, who did the staging for the first production in 1980. He made it just after finishing the musical.
The 2000 version is fun, though. It's like... like... like this Twilight Zone version of Les Mis done by people who know the material, but who said to themselves, "Okay, there are already half a dozen faithful adaptations of Les Misérables but that's boring. Let's make it hip and youthful and change it around in the most bizarre ways we can think of!" So everyone is a complete sketchball creeper, John Malkovitch skulks around in a leather trenchcoat, Marius is ugly, the Thénardiers are hot, Fantine's haircut makes her look like an extra from Velvet Goldmine, logic and continuity are thrown out the window, and everything is so ridiculous it's funny.
At least, that's how I watch it. Like a gigantic joke by people playing around with the material. If I think of it that way when I'm watching it, I can content myself with throwing popcorn at the screen just like with any other bad movie, instead of wanting to punch the screen.
Those pictures are so neat!
It's on youtube, only type in 1934.
Why did he have to be so old (for the character) and ugly?? Whyyyyyyyyyyyyy. Whose idea was that?? The dude who picked Courfeyrac should have been Marius! Anyone but Fugly. I'm so shallow.
For the Bernard 1933 film, currently, if you're Region 2 you can either watch the subtitled version on youtube or buy a non-subtitled version from Europe, but they are pretty rare nowadays. I ended up shelling out a bit for the Region 1 import (about £20) from CDWow, so I could have the subtitles!
I agree that the Bernard is the best. My 2nd favourite is the 1958 Gabin version. Although it is very faithful, the storytelling is less powerful and the film is less affecting than the 1933 version. 1982 and 1978 are also good, though have their flaws. I also like the Belmondo, even though it isn't an adaptation. My only problem with that one is that I find it quite hard to follow without subtitles!