Les Misérables (1934 film)

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Les Misérables
Les Miserables 1934.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Raymond Bernard
Produced by Raymond Borderie
Bernard Natan
Written by Raymond Bernard
André Lang
Starring Harry Baur
Charles Vanel
Music by Arthur Honegger
Cinematography Jules Kruger
Distributed by Pathé-Natan
Release date
February 9, 1934 (1934-02-09)
Running time
289 minutes (approx.)
Country France
Language French

Les Misérables is a 1934 film adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel of the same name. It was written and directed by Raymond Bernard and stars Harry Baur as Jean Valjean and Charles Vanel as Javert. The film lasts four and a half hours and is considered by critics to be the greatest adaptation of the novel, due to its in-depth development of the themes and characters in comparison with most shorter adaptations.[1][2][3]

It was released as three films that premiered over a period of three weeks.[citation needed]

  • Part One: Une tempête sous un crâne (Tempest in a Skull)
  • Part Two: Les Thénardier (The Thenardiers)
  • Part Three: Liberté, liberté chérie (Freedom, dear Freedom)


Jean Valjean is an ex-convict struggling to redeem himself, but his attempts are continually ruined by the intrusion of Javert into his life. Javert is a cruel, ruthless police inspector who has dedicated his life to pursuing Valjean, whose only crime was stealing a loaf of bread, for which he gets 5 years in jail. And then he serves an additional 14 years for a handful of escape attempts.

The film, like the novel, features numerous other characters and plots, such as Fantine, a woman forced into prostitution to help pay two cruel innkeepers, the Thénardiers, who are looking after her daughter Cosette, and the story of the revolutionaries, including Marius, a young man who falls in love later on in the film with the now-adult Cosette.


Differences from the novel[edit]

The film is, for the most part, faithful to the original novel, however, there are some differences:

  • Javert is presented as considerably less sympathetic than in the book, largely portraying him as the pinnacle of the cruelty in 19th century France.
  • Valjean is released after having saved a house from caving in, not because his time is served.
  • Not Fantine's last, but her first evening with Tholomyès is shown.
  • Valjean's re-arrest after his escape from Montreuil's prison and escape from the "Orion" are left out.
  • Valjean and Cosette's stay at the Gorbeau House, their dodging of Javert and their arrival at the Petit-Picpus convent is entirely left out. After they leave the Thénardiers, the film jumps to Cosette's sixteenth birthday.
  • Cosette and Marius are already lovers before the attack on Valjean in the Gorbeau House.
  • Marius is already acquainted with Éponine and Gavroche before the attack at Gorbeau House.
  • When Marius notifies Javert of the Thénardiers' plans, he is also able to give Javert Valjean's address, at least one of them. Javert comes to this address after the robbery and recognises Valjean there. Valjean has to flee to his other house, where he finds Marius and Cosette. After Marius reveals what he has done, expecting gratitude, Valjean sends him away. Only Cosette's pleas make him change his mind, but only after Marius left.
  • Valjean does not meet Thénardier in the sewers.
  • Valjean presents himself to Gillenormand when taking Marius home. Gillenormand, Marius and Cosette have therefore always known the identity of Marius' saviour.
  • Valjean dies shortly after his confession to Marius, the day after the wedding, due to a wound which appeared to have become infected (probably due to the sewer water).

Critical reaction[edit]

The film has been referred to as "the most complete and well rounded adaptation of Victor Hugo's classic novel".[citation needed]

Raymond Bernard's version of Les Misérables was chosen by curator Robert Herbert as one of a number of films to support an exhibition of French drawings held in 2010 at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. The Exhibition was entitled David to Cézanne: master drawings from the Prat Collection, Paris. It ran from 22 September until 5 December 2010. The film was screened 30 October, 3 November and 7 November in the Gallery's Domain Theatre.

Restoration and home video[edit]

The Criterion Collection released a restored version of Les Misérables in their Eclipse DVD line. Its three parts appeared alongside Bernard's Wooden Crosses (1932) in the Eclipse Series 4: Raymond Bernard collection (2007). This version, totalling 281 minutes (109:52, 85:21 and 86:36), is shorter than the reported 305 minute total runtime of the original release, though it is possible that time may be inaccurate, or includes brief intermissions no longer present.[4] Criterion's DVD liner notes describe how the film was reissued at varying lengths over the following decades and was only restored to its approximate original length shortly before Bernard's death, minus some scenes that could not be recovered.

In 2013, Pathé carried out a brand new restoration of the film, totalling 189 minutes (115:39, 85:45 and 87:23), and released it on Blu-ray and DVD. Eureka Entertainment also released this version on Blu-ray and DVD in 2014, as part of their Masters of Cinema line.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Raymond Bernard - Eclipse Series 4 : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video". Dvdtalk.com. Retrieved 2011-05-26. 
  2. ^ "Review: Les Misérables (1934)". Matte Havoc. 2008-06-26. Retrieved 2011-05-26. 
  3. ^ "Raymond Bernard on DVD". Cineaste. Archived from the original on 2011-09-28. Retrieved 2011-05-26. 
  4. ^ DVDCompare.net: Les Misérables (1934) DVD
  5. ^ DVDCompare.net: Les Misérables (1934) Blu-ray

External links[edit]