"Les Miserables" movie relies on close-ups for emotional punch

Fri Dec 21, 2012 12:07pm EST
 

By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - For British director Tom Hooper, the key to turning "Les Miserables" from the wildly popular stage musical to a cinematic experience both sweeping and intimate, was all in the close-up.

The stage musical has left audiences around the world wiping away tears with its themes of justice, redemption and romantic and familial love. So bringing it to life on screen for fans and filmgoers was "hugely daunting," Hooper says.

Still, the Oscar-winning director of "The King's Speech," was ambitious, wanting to offer even more of the "intense emotional experience" that has kept fans returning to various stage productions since "Les Miserables" made its English language debut 27 years ago.

"I felt very aware of the fact that so many millions of people hold this close to their hearts and would probably sit in the cinemas in complete fear," Hooper told reporters about his big screen take on the tale of French revolutionaries rising up against powerful forces.

Movie stars Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway were all put through an intense audition and rehearsal process, to make sure they could sing take after take, live, with cameras positioned right in their face.

It also features a large ensemble including Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne, as well as Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter who lead the comic relief song, "Master of the House."

"I thought the great weapon in my arsenal was the close up, because the one thing on stage that you can't enjoy is the detail of what is going on in people's faces as they are singing," Hooper said. "I felt (that) having to do a meditation on the human face was by far the best way to bring out the emotion of the songs."

That tactic may or may not have paid off for a movie that is seen as one of the front runners for Oscar awards in February. Early screenings of the film that opens on Christmas Day have moved some audiences. Critics have praised the performances, but given the movie as a whole less than top marks.   Continued...

 
Actors Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Amanda Seyfried and director Tom Hooper (L-R) pose for photographers as they arrive for the world premiere of "Les Miserables" in London December 5, 2012. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett