It was able to prevail even against the critics’ favorite “Portrait of a Young Woman in Flames” and is now entering the Oscar race for France for the award for the best foreign language film: Ladj Lys Les Miserables is an extraordinarily intense film project that has absolutely nothing to do with the musical. We reveal more about this in our review.
The residents of Montfermeil are at war with the police.
The plot summary
There’s a fire in the suburbs. Already on his first mission, police officer Stéphane (Damien Bonnard), the newcomer to the crime-fighting unit in Montfermeil, feels the tension in the district, where there are always heated clashes between gangs and the police. His experienced colleagues Chris (Alexis Manenti) and Gwada (Djibril Zonga), with whom he patrols, have adapted their methods to the laws of the street. There are our own rules here, the colleagues exceed the limits of what is legal, but always see themselves as being in the right. When a lion cub, the living mascot of a clan boss, is stolen in the neighborhood, the situation threatens to escalate. During the attempted arrest of a young suspect, the police officers are filmed with the help of a drone. Their questionable actions threaten to become public, and the law enforcement officers suddenly become hunted…
Les Misérables Movie Meaning
Victor Hugo wrote in Les Misérables about the state of French society during the reign of Napoleon up to that of King Louis Philippe, who came to power in 1830. His novel covers a total period of 17 years, from 1815 to 1832. The best-known adaptation of the drama to date is the musical, which Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil first performed in Paris on September 17, 1980. There are numerous adaptations of it to this day; The last big one from “The King’s Speech” director Tom Hooper once again became a popular success and a critical darling. Ladj Ly’s social drama “Les Misérables”, originally titled “Les Misérables”, has nothing to do with any of this. The only connection to Victor Hugo’s work is the geographical location: the Paris district of Montfermeil was already the setting of “The Miserables” and is now the setting for “Les Misérables”. A local school therefore also bears the author’s name. And again it’s about an uprising of the people against those in power. Here the residents of the ghetto-like banlieues fight against the arbitrariness and power of the police officers, who move in constant gray areas and who, this time, exploit their position as cops who ensure discipline and order once too often, which ultimately causes the symbolic barrel to overflow.
There are more families in the high-rise buildings of Montfermeil than there are available apartments.
“Les Misérables” begins with scenes from the European Football Championship that took place in France four years ago. We see some of the characters who later become relevant in a huge group of people; waving the blue-white-red flag, euphorically cheering on the French team and enjoying life to the fullest in these two hours. The precarious living conditions to which many of them later have to return, but above all their exclusion from French society as a result of their deportation to the banlieues, are neither mentioned nor mentioned here. Here, big, small, old, young, poor and rich cheer together. These scenes, precisely because of their staging similarity to the rest, stand in stark contrast to everything that you see afterwards. The people in the banlieues still have a special connection to their country, flags also fly from time to time and the people living together in such a small space form, from the outside, a very similar crowd to the crowd from the prologue celebrating a big sports festival together. But the gradually boiling emotions are no longer positively directed towards a specific goal. They are the result of the sometimes inhumane living situation here, of entrenched aggression and lack of prospects. A mixture that is repeatedly pushed to the brink of escalation when the residents of Montfermeil meet their supposed guardians.
Author and director Ladj Ly, who shot his feature film debut (!) based on his own experiences at original locations and partly with amateur actors in order to capture the authenticity of the local atmosphere as intensively as possible, lets us see the story(s) of “Les Misérables” from the perspective of a so-called anti-crime brigade. Stéphane is brand new to this district. His hardened colleagues Chris and Gwada, who always represent the law in its gray areas, have long since become stuck in their habits. They use harsh methods, both psychological and physical, to get their way; Knowing that this is the only way they can keep the already high crime rate in check – and also, they claim, to protect themselves. But Ladj Ly doesn’t apologize, he just tries to show how messy the situation already is for everyone involved. In “The Angry” there are no good guys and no bad guys. Nobody follows the laws here. Instead, Montfermeil operates according to its own rules. The egos of the police officers and the egos of the banlieue residents constantly clash. Nobody understands nobody. Prejudices, personal experiences, fears and the titular anger whip each other up. “The Angry” is often frustrating because it doesn’t even pretend to look for answers, but is simply an illustration of how gears have been meshing here for many years, many of which are very dilapidated.
In this description of the condition, the specific content plays a minor role. If “Les Misérables” wasn’t so intense and close to the action, this fact would be much more important. As it is, the form supports the sometimes uncoordinated, here and there badly constructed content, which the author does not always seem interested in completing 100%. Ladj Ly opens up several narrative threads. About a stolen lion that a traveling circus desperately wants back. About a boy who is shot by one of the police officers in the heat of the moment. And about the pangs of conscience of the new police officer who tries to keep his distance and yet from day one he is in the middle of this powder keg that finally bursts in the last twenty minutes of the film. Ladj Ly consciously chooses an open ending. One that captures the endless spiral of hate, violence and anger so perfectly precisely because it shows that everyone here has long since blocked their ability to escape. Even the youngest are confronted with the lawlessness of Montfermeil and are born into a lack of prospects from which there is no escape. This also applies to the police officers, who after so many years of heavy handing, a change of direction would no longer help them to earn respect in the banlieues and not just spread fear. In the end, the only thing that helps is rebellion – and then “Les Misérables” is again very close to Victor Hugo’s “The Miserables”, only without singing, of course.
Conclusion: Anger in its purest form – Ladj Lys “Les Misérables” is the description of the state of a witch’s cauldron. Close, brutal, raw and so frustrating precisely because over the course of 102 intense minutes all hopes of a good ending are nipped in the bud.
“Les Misérables” can be seen in selected USA cinemas from January 23rd.