Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Les Miserables

I attended a workshop at UNM a number of years ago on the Vikings. One of the speakers was writing a book on the Viking Sagas. He noted that many of the Sagas were of legal proceedings and that Germanic law is unique in being treated as entertainment. That all other legal systems: Civil Code, Islamic, Mongol, don't inspire drama mainly because they are so cut and dried. You get arrested, you are tried, you are condemned and sentenced. No extenuating circumstances, miranda rights, innocent until proven guilty, judicial review and a lot of other nice things like that.
He made a good point. Look at the books and movies of Scott Turrow, John Grisham or check your tv schedules of all the shows that in some way deal with the law. Go to the other countries and there's nothing even close.
German or Viking law evolved into what's today known as English Common Law. It's the predominant legal system in all the countries that at one time or another were part of the Empire that the Sun never sat on.
I took issue to the premise that there are no novels or movies that deal with other legal systems becasue there is one glaring exception: Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. It's not a true crime drama or courtroom drama. It's about the legal brick wall Napolean created which is now Civil Code. Police inspector Jabert hounds Jean Valjean for over twenty years because he violated parole once released from prison where he had served twenty years for stealing a loaf of bread.
The story has been made into two or three movies. The latest has Liam Neeson as Valjean and is well done. The broadway musical is what everyone thinks of should you mention it. Maybe they don't know of the musical just that Susan Boyle sang the song I Dreamed a Dream, which happens to be one of the songs from this musical.
It has been translated into just about every major language in the world. I just got a copy of the tenth anniversary concert. It has only the songs sung by the original cast and it is fantastic. At the end Valjeans from all over the world join in on stage and it raises the hair on the back of your head.
I've had a CD with of the musical for years and have never tired of listening to it. Now it's nice to see the performance.


swordfish1543 said...

"two or three movies"?????
try "two or three DOZEN"!!!

P M Prescott said...

I thought Anthony Perkins made an excellent Jabert, but can't remember when that one was made.