Les Misérables: Highlights from the Motion Picture Soundtrack
(January 2013, Polydor Group)
Based on the most successful stage musical of all time, it was always feared that Tom Hooper risked destroying a classic, loved by so many around the World. Instead he has created a brilliant film and wonderful soundtrack alongside it. The album Les Misérables: Highlights from the Motion Picture Soundtrack has climbed to the top of the UK chart this week. This is the first film-cast recording to do so since Madonna’s Evita in 1997. The recording features highlights from the movie performed by Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman and the rest of the cast.
The movie had some of its songs cut down, in order to create a better feeling for the film. After all, the atmosphere of the theatre is completely different to that of a film. A vast majority of the ‘highlights’ are featured on the soundtrack with Samantha Bark’s ‘On My Own’, Hugh Jackman’s ‘Bring Him Home’ and possibly the most famous song from the score, Anne Hathaway’s ‘I Dreamed a Dream’. All of these are just as heart wrenching and emotionally hard hitting as in the musical, even without seeing the distraught faces of the actors as they sing.
Anne Hathaway’s version of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ adds a new level of meaning to this song for me personally. Having seen the stage show in London I thought the song was wonderful but felt no emotional connection to it. However, with this recording I struggle to hold back the tears as you are made to realise this woman has lost everything, with no hope left in her life for it to improve. Samantha Bark’s version of ‘On My Own’ is a personal favourite that I have had on repeat since watching the film last week.
Not all of the songs are of misery and woe however, as Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter’s ‘Master of the House’ offers some light relief, being performed with comic brilliance.
Much has been said of Russell Crowe’s singing skills in comparison with the rest of the cast. Many will have seen Adam Lambert’s rant on twitter that he for him Javert’s lack of singing ability ruined the film. Russell Crowe responded admirably and had the last say by posting a studio version of his recording, proving there was little wrong with his renditions. I thought that Crowe played an excellent Javert bringing grit and gruffness to his character. For me he is the villain and should sound this way. If you go back and watch Disney films from when I was a child, a vast majority of the villains sang to a lesser standard than that of the rest of the cast and that just added to the story telling.
With all of the pluses of this soundtrack that make it so wonderful to listen to, there are also some real let downs that I struggle to accept. I can understand that this is the ‘highlights’ of the motion picture but that does not explain why they have chosen to take out some of the key songs that help shape the story. *spoiler* An integral piece to the destruction of Fantine’s life is captured in the song ‘Lovely Ladies’ which demonstrates what she has gone through before she reaches the bottom for ‘I Dreamed a Dream’. Other unbelievable removals being ‘Do You Hear The People Sing’, ‘Who Am I?’, the brilliantly acted Gavroche’s ‘Look Down’ and one of my favourite part of the film, the highly emotional ‘A Little Fall of Rain’. Without these there is no clear linear story.
The omissions may have been done on purpose so as not to ruin the story for anyone who purchases the soundtrack before they have gone to see the film, or it may have been done to ensure more people do pay to see the film. However disappointing, this may be remedied by the release of a deluxe version of the soundtrack to accompany the DVD, but I wanted to be able to listen to all of the songs now. For me this soundtrack would have been perfect had they not made this decision.