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Friday, June 07, 2013

Barricade Boys Week - Guest Post By Sierra

Sierra's blog - I Dreamed A Dream

We’ve all seen the supposed onstage ‘friendship’ between Enjolras and Marius, or in the case of Ramin and Nick, an annoyed older brother.  Of course, this ‘friendship’ isn’t a bad thing, but because of it another friendship - one that’s been around much longer - is often overlooked.  Now, if you’ve read the brick then you will know what I’m talking about, and if not you’re missing out. Don’t worry though; I’m here to introduce you to the timeless brilliance of Combeferre and Enjolras and key moments within the book, as well as subtle signs that made its way into the film.  

So, first of all we have the wonderful brick to which we owe everything.  And what better way to start than with what I believe is one of the most popular chapters among the fan-girls?  Yep, ‘The Group that Nearly Missed Becoming Historic’ (Aren’t all the boys just amazing?).  Right off, Hugo tells us that ‘At the side of Enjolras, who represented the logic of revolution, was Combeferre, representing its philosophy…Combeferre supplemented and restrained Enjolras.”  Can’t you just see the passionate and driven Enjolras getting a bit out of control with his revolution? Who was there to keep the ideas and actions within the will of the people? Combeferre, the gentler yet equally passionate revolutionist, who wanted a revolution without hurting the people. Because of this he became Enjolras right hand man; Combeferre was able to offer advice on how to handle the students, explain examples of other rebellions throughout history, introduce new ideas through his extensive reading, but most importantly Combeferre became someone Enjolras shared his dreams and fears with because he understood what the Les Amis were about to face. 

Sadly, I don’t think Hugo realized that his novel would become the target of teenage girls’ hearts during the 21st century. If he had, maybe (and I say this loosely) he would have written more about the daily lives of the boys, who they loved (although we do hear a bit of that from Joly and Laigle), and how they felt during the years before that fateful day in early June.  The first time we see Enjolras and Combeferre teaming up is after Marius has shown up at the Café Musain. Marius, of course, is embarrassing himself by lecturing the students on France and the empire. Let’s face it, in the book, Marius needs to figure out which side of the fence he’s on. Anyhow, Marius is kind of sitting there all smug, but then Combeferre answers a ‘what is greater than’ question with three simple words - “to be free.”  The statement then and now is so profound and meaningful that it makes us stop and think, what is better than being free? Clearly the answer had the same effect on Marius. A few moments later, we find the room empty except for Enjolras and Marius, and the fading notes of Combeferre’s song, ‘I love my mother more than silver and gold.’ Enjolras explains to the puzzled Marius that their mother is France, that they love their country more than life itself. Without knowing it, Combeferre and Enjolras lay out the whole reasoning behind the barricade in that single scene. 
                
Another one of my favorite little bits is right before the first attack after the barricade has been built and Enjolras has just shot a murderer. He gives a speech about how those who kill without cause must be killed, that those that give up their lives for the greater good will be rewarded, that they are about to face death. You can just feel Enjolras starting to falter and wonder if he made the right choice. Combeferre walks up, places his hand on Enjolras shoulder, and bravely says that, “We will share your fate!” In a way it gives Enjolras the assurance to move forward, since he now knows his friends will follow him through fire, so he talks about love and how, “love is the future, I have had to resort to death, but I hate it. In the future, citizens, there will be no more darkness!” This is an epic part where you stop and ask, ‘who’s talking, Enjolras or Combeferre?’ because you see these softer tendencies hinted at in Enjolras’ words and you realize that Combeferre has impacted Enjolras, and has shown him what it is like to see beyond the fight and beyond the horizon to a world where there is no more pain. Enjolras stopped looking at their cause as only for France, but for the whole world of mankind. 

                 
Now, what kind of Les Miserables fan would I be if I didn’t add one of the last recorded conversations between Enjolras and Combeferre?  The barricade is being weakened by continued grapeshot, so Enjolras takes aim at a young sergeant who’s controlling the guns. Combeferre, who seems to be continually at Enjolras’ side notices, that Enjolras doesn’t look at the young man’s face. The following conversation takes place.

“What a shame….you’re aiming at that sergeant, but Enjolras you don’t look at him. He looks like a charming young man, and he is certainly brave…these young men are educated. No doubt he has a family to provide for, a father and mother. He is probably in love. He cannot be more than twenty-five! He could be your brother.” 
“He is.”
“Yes, and mine too. Please, let’s not kill him.” 
“We must. It must be done.” 

A tear rolls down Enjolras cheek as he pulls the trigger. The chief is crying and I’m sure Combeferre comforted Enjolras with a word and a sad smile.

*****

Goodness, if you’ve made it down that far….we'll take a quick look at all the little epic Enjolras and Combeferre moments that Killian and Aaron perfected during the movie. I just wish Tom Hooper would have put a bit more focus on their friendship, but I guess we fangirls will make the most of what we have! :)

See 'Ferre in the background? :)
First off we have the epic scene in the Café Musain, the boys are talking loudly, Courfeyrac’s carrying up more rifles, and if you listen closely you can actually hear Combeferre saying “Enjolras…” and so I’m sure we can take that as “Enjolras said/says –insert whatever was cut off-“  since he was talking to the other boys. Maybe he’s defending Enjolras love for Patria or making sure the boys are carrying out an order?  Combeferre also seems to be keeping some of the students in the background on track with their work as Enjolras starts in on ‘the time is near, so near its stirring the blood in their veins.’  It’s definitely an echo of Ferre being Enjolras’ right hand man instead of Marius. You can also see him and Enjolras talking over a paper before Marius interrupts them with his ‘ghost’ story.  Just watch how Combeferre hangs on Enjolras’ every word after it’s announced that Lamarque is dead. Combeferre already knows they’re walking to their grave, but he’s awed by Enjolras’ courage. Which is why as Marius and even Enjolras are momentarily distracted by Eponine, (yes, I ship Enjonine) you see Combeferre referring to sites for the barricade.
Next we have a few brief moments in ‘One Day More’ where Enjolras and Combeferre are preparing their pistols and other weapons.  It seems that Combeferre, although he’s been pushed into the background on stage and in the movie, won’t give up on being Enjolras’ best friend. 


Then we’re at the funeral, the boys for the moment are being backed by the people. We see Combeferre shouting and Enjolras taking the lead. The Friends of the ABC proceed through the streets until faced for the first time with opposition. Who is it down there standing on the streets trying to protect and save ‘an innocent woman?’ Yep, our wonderful and brave Combeferre. Actually he’s the first you see following Enjolras’ cry ‘to the barricades!’ since we get a glimpse of his super awesome coat before Marius over takes him on his horse (silly Marius). Then is that Combeferre helping to pull a wagon? I think so. Clearly he and Enjolras had the barricade planned out to perfection.  Combeferre also shows up again to give Javert a pistol after he tells Enjolras that he’ll spy on the National Guard. I’m thinking Combeferre and Enjolras can read each other’s minds.

Another super epic moment is when Enjolras and Combeferre are first on the barricade after it has been build. What is more awesome then Enjolras looking down the sights of his rifle and Combeferre brandishing his two pistols? I’m sure not much can compare.

When Javert returns and is uncovered as an enemy spy Combeferre is one of the first to help wrestle him down. After they chase Javert into the café, notice that Combeferre flinches and looks at Enjolras when he knocks Javert out. It’s a parallel from the book. Enjolras was capable of being terrifying whereas Combeferre knew the softer side of revolution. We also see Enjolras looking to Combeferre after Eponine has died, as they both lift her, and realize that she’s the ‘first to fall’. 

Of course, the best echo from their brick friendship is when Enjolras has just given Valjean the spy, Javert. Combeferre’s “No, no Enjolras…” and I’m sure by now we can all see that that sentence was finished by a “I though the people where to decide his fate” Because wasn’t that what they had been fighting for all this time; the right of the people? Which is why you see Combeferre sadly watching Valjean lead Javert away, and in contrast you see Enjolras look a bit hardened when the gun shot rings out. In a way I think there was a bit of regret that he hadn’t listened to Combeferre. 

By now night had come and it’s a new morning, but the day will not last. Before the day is over they will have all died and as Enjolras puts it, “We’re the only ones left.” This is when Combeferre shows his loyalty to Enjolras when they sing one final reprise of ‘Do You Hear the People Sing?’ which I think is a great parallel to the brick's, “we share your fate!” 

Indeed, they do. The barricade falls and we see the boys torn apart until only a few of them are left standing in the upper rooms of the Café Musain. In these few seconds we see the Chief and Guide together in a final attempt to save their friends. Shots ring out and then Enjolras is the only one left to stand, his best friends lying at his feet. It is the bravery of Combeferre, Courfeyrac, Jehan, Jolly and all the others that give him the courage to defy the National Guard in a final act. Alongside Grantaire, the flag is raised in a silence cry of rebellion before falling back to join their friends in a ‘world beyond the barricade.’ 

Thankfully, Tom Hooper knew the amount of fangirls that would be obsessing over this movie, so he gave us plenty of shots of our favorite boys, once again together, something Hugo didn’t think was needed apparently. In those few minutes we see the obvious friendship that all the boys are surrounded by. We are faced with the truth that they did bring the future and I can imagine Combeferre and Enjolras feeling a sense of pride and brotherhood after all they’d been through together.  

Overall, despite countless translations, on-stage productions, and films, the novelty of Enjolras and his right-hand-man will always linger on. Without that friendship the barricade would have fallen much sooner, and in fact it may never have been built. So, what can this teach us? No matter what we need to remember that a true friendship will last through good times, bad times, and even death.

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