April 2013 Club

Les Misérables


Set in 19th century post-Revolutionary France, after the fall of the First Empire, Les Misérables is an epic melodramatic musical film, based on the novel by Victor Hugo, which examines the strength of the human spirit even when faced with the worst possible circumstances.

It explores such intense themes as destitution, revolution, judgement of character, suffering, broken dreams, redemption, separation of family – which perhaps goes some way to explaining its enduring success on stage, running for almost 30 years.

The main thread of the story focuses on Jean Valjean, otherwise known as Prisoner 24601, who is fundamentally a good man, but has been imprisoned for 17 years for stealing a loaf of bread for his starving sister and her family. He breaks parole and is pursued by duty-bound Inspector Javert for ten years.

Having become mayor of Montreuil, Valjean swears to help an ex-employee of his factory, Fantine who has become a “lovely lady” of the night in order to support her young daughter, Cosette who is in the “care” of the con-artist innkeeper and his wife. The Thénardiers use Cosette as not much more than a slave, only interested in the money they’re sent for her keep and value their daughter, Eponine, over Cosette, often calling her Colette in error.

Subsequent scenes focus on Cosette and Eponine as young women, both in love with the earnest revolutionary, Marius, who only has eyes for Cosette.

In order to love this film, I think you have to let yourself get caught up in the emotion of it, suspend your disbelief that they’re singing every line and enter into this intense world of human emotion. I appreciate it doesn’t appeal to everyone, but one thing is for certain, you’re going to have those lyrics going round your head for many weeks after seeing it. Personally, I think Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter, as the innkeeper and his wife, steal the show. And I challenge you to get the Master of the ‘Ouse lyrics out of your head after listening to it just once!

 Colourway inspiration

Firstly, on the yarn choice, I opted for the luxurious Oasis Grande camel/silk. Although the cast of characters were poor in monetary terms, they were rich in spirit and so deserved the best.

I have to admit to struggling with the semi-solid choice. The main options, I felt, were blue and red – the colours of the French flag. But I was in a quandary, as club members had already received red AND blue Oasis Grande in previous installments. So I came up with idea of mixing the colours together to produce a rich, muted aubergine purple to represent the aristocracy.

And for the variegated colourway, I wanted to reproduce the gorgeous muted shades of the film sets. Of course, they vary from skein to skein, but the main colours are:

  • red for the French flag, the flag of the rebels, the blood of angry men, and the red lipstick of the lovely ladies
  • blue for the French flag and the soldiers’ uniforms
  • teal for Fantine’s dress
  • olive for Valjean’s overcoat
  • deep yellow for a dress in the lovely ladies scene and a yellow feather in the innkeeper scene
  • with muted shades of brown and aubergine purple to tie the colours together.