Media Centre

Watch Les Miserables to learn of God’s grace and redemption, says priest who saw Jean Valjean transformed

Watching three times Academy Award-winner Les Miserables is an ideal way to learn of God's grace, redemption and mercy, says the priest-in-charge of St Mary the Virgin, Ewelme, in Oxfordshire, where one of the film's most important scenes was filmed.

The Revd Jonathan Meyer, who is running a Lent course based on the film's powerful themes, said: "It was almost a year ago that I was approached and asked about filming part of Les Miserables in the church at Ewelme. Filming took place on March 21st towards the end of Lent. Permission had to be granted by the Diocese and it was the nature of the film the Victor Hugo's powerful narrative that attracted me and made me feel it would be highly appropriate in the days leading up to Passion Sunday. It is perhaps the most significant part of the story that was to be represented at Ewelme. The south porch was transformed into the residence of the Bishop of Digne. The convict Jean Valjean emerges from that very door, singing the words 'and now let the story begin'. We saw this on a crisp March day repeated over and over again with numerous cameras, film crews, lights, gantries and a churchyard full of sound technicians lurking in temporary shelters. On screen we saw the contorted face of Valjean rushing forward and the camera showing us our church digitised on to a promontory in Provence. What we saw was transformed, just as the story itself is about transformation.

"Most important to me was the knowledge that this is the nub of the film. The Bishop's act of kindness like the grace of God is poured out, in such a way that Valjean's life is transformed and transforms others.

"We have been inspired to run our Lent meetings on Les Miserables reflecting on different characters: The Bishop of Digne, Jean Valjean, Cosette and Fantine, played by award-winner Anne Hathaway, and of course Javert. There is so much richness, themes of grace and redemption and how that can be truly gained, themes of social justice and the overarching and apparent conflict between the justice and mercy of God. I await with interest to find out whether people feel that Javert is irredeemable or bound to be damned. 

"Here is a tale that tells of the great challenges of life, that speaks of God, infinite and personal, that encourages us to ponder on our lives and to wonder how to offer ourselves in the way that Jean Valjean does. And much of the media would have us believe that such thoughts are meaningless in the modern world."


Notes

The Church House Publishing Confirmation course Moving Images, Changing Lives uses popular films to engage young people creatively with the themes and ideas associated with Confirmation and discipleship. It focuses on suggested clips from more than 30 films, including Star Wars: A New Hope, Bruce Almighty, The Matrix, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and The Passion of the Christ. For more details, visit http://www.chpublishing.co.uk/product.asp?id=2396569.