How do modern films portray revolutions? What are some of the things regularly included - and just as regularly left out? In the first of this special pair of episodes Elizabeth and Christine step away from their scripts and join Gil and Rutger of Pod Academy for a Summer Special conversation about 2000’s The Patriot and 2012’s Les Miserables.
Podcasters: Elizabeth, Christine, Pod Academy’s Gil and Rutger
The Patriot, (2000) showcases Mel Gibson as Benjamin Martin, a widower living in 1770s South Carolina, who must decide where his loyalties lie: his family or to independence. Martin, a veteran of the French and Indian War, swears off war due to his own barbaric behavior in the conflict and decides to stay home. Son Gabriel Martin, played by Heath Ledger, is not so easily deterred and signs up to fight on the side of the colonists. Benjamin stays mainly on the sideline until Colonel William Tavington (Jason Isaacs) kills his second oldest son Thomas. From there the action begins and we learn why Benjamin has the reputation he does from the French and Indian War as his weapons of choice includes a hatchet for close hand to hand combat. Over the course of the movie, colonists are urged to fight, die fighting against the British, Gabriel is married, his wife and her family and community are murdered at the hands of Tavington, Gabriel dies while seeking revenge, and Benjamin ultimately becomes a hero of a war he never wanted to join. The movie ends with his plantation being rebuilt by his comrades in arms.
Les Miserables, (2012). is an adaptation of the stage musical of the same name, which is itself an adaptation of Victor Hugo's 1862 novel. Set in France between 1815 and 1832, it follows the story of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a formerly-imprisoned man who abandons his parole and creates a better life for himself under an assumed name. Valjean must continually evade a police officer named Javert (Russell Crowe), who knows his true identity and seeks to have him punished for breaking his parole. As the 1830s dawn, Valjean and his adopted daughter Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) are in Paris, where Cosette falls in love with a student named Marius (Eddie Redmayne) who is heavily involved in plans for a revolution with his peers. The revolution fails, taking the lives of almost everyone involved - except for Marius, who is saved only due to Valjean's intervention. Valjean has a final confrontation with Javert, who chooses to let Valjean escape with the wounded young man. After grappling with this decision - and realizing that life is not what he thought it was - Javert commits suicide. Valjean reunites Marius with Cosette, they marry, and then learn the true story of Valjean's life shortly before he passes away.
Jill Harsin, Barricades: The War of the Streets in Revolutionary Paris, 1830-1848, Palgrave Macmillan, (2002).
Victor Hugo, Les Miserables, Signet Classics Edition. (English translation of the 1862 original).
Mark Traugott, The Insurgent Barricade, University of California Press, (2010).
Revolutionary Movies, Part II: Dr. Zhivago and The Last Emperor
Hear more from Pod Academy.
Les Miserables, 10th Anniversary Concert Recording.
Bonapartes in America: Jerome and Elizabeth
The Easter Rising
Evacuating the Loyalists
Slavery and the Colony of Georgia
Music: "Evening Melodrama" by Kevin Macleod (www.incompetech.com)