Les Misérables – the movie

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Les Misérables is the title of the newest by Ladj Ly’s film. The director shows the daily life of the underprivileged young people living in Parisian suburbs known as les banlieues.

What is it like to live in a banlieue as a French teenager?
What can you do there?
What future do you have?
What is the situation with the authorities, especially with the police?

Les Misérables – the movie

A screenshot of the reality

To begin with we would like to share a brief overview of the French situation.
In France, Paris is the capital and it’s playing a central role in French social and cultural life.
On one side there are privileged urban areas like Neuilly-sur-Seine, Levallois-Perret, Vincennes, etc. On the other hand, there are many underprivileged cities, which are also very multicultural. There, daily life is not easy for either parents or younger people. Despite the efforts of the inhabitants, the misery is very strong and the relationship with the police underlines the tensions.

On 27.10.2005 Zyed Benna and Bouna Traoré, who were two teenagers from Clichy-sous-Bois, fled from the police and hid in a power station where they died. This was the drop that makes the barrel overflow. The inhabitants of the underprivileged French banlieues – Les Banlieusards – were tired of it. That is why intense revolts erupted throughout France, lasting until mid-November 2005. This event has shown everyone the reality and plight of underprivileged cities. Unfortunately, nothing has changed so much since then. It is also why Les Misérables – the movie is interesting as it captures this feeling.


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Les Misérables – the roman

Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them to the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose. Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier, and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds. Les Misérables gave Victor Hugo a canvas upon which he portrayed his criticism of the French political and judicial systems, but the portrait that resulted is larger than life, epic in scope—an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart.” from the book cover – published by Mass Market Paperback

Victor Hugo was very committed against injustice, poverty and the death penalty. Therefore he is presented as a humanist writer and politician.
However, Victor Hugo had also written a humiliating text about Africa and African people. About it, we must also consider the colonial context and propaganda taking place at this time.

3 tips to enjoy even more the movie

The boy with the drone (Al-Hassan Ly) – he is Ladj Ly’s son. The director has previously filmed his city and police brutality arrests.

The Music – the famous title “Assasin de la police” by NTM.

The TV show/ interview with Vincent Cassel – the scene is very short and not so easy to notice, but you can still see it.
Why Vincent Cassel then? Don’t you remember? He played in La Haine, another well-known movie focusing on French banlieues.

We really liked that movie. Step by step, the tension rises. If you ask yourself what happens in French suburbs, you will get part of the answer in this film.
You can rent or buy it on YouTube. At the moment Les Misérables is also being shown in various open-air cinemas in Berlin.

5 movies to go further on

365 jours à Clichy-Montfermeil by Ladj ly
Banlieusards by Kery James
La Haine by Mathieu Kassovitz
La Marche by Nabil Ben Yadir
La Cité Rose by Julien Abraham