I saw Les Miserables this weekend with my roommates. It was my second time seeing the film. I think I liked it better the second time because I knew what to expect from the film, so I could focus more on the beautiful cinematography, the areas of the musical they chose to highlight, Enjolras, etc. One of the things that stuck with me from this viewing was the “heaven” Jean Valjean (and many of our other notable heroes from the film) finds after his death. Spoiler alert, I guess.
Heaven is the barricade. But its not the sad, lonely barricade of the ill-fated revolution. It is rebellion the way it was supposed to be. The city has risen to its feet and joined our heroes behind the wall, singing the music of a people who will not be slaves again. This is what the revolutionaries of the ABC cafe had hoped for. They intended their barricade to be a spark that would set Paris ablaze. It was to be a call to arms, a sign, a rallying point that would wake the people of France from their slumber to hear the cries of the poor, the oppressed, the enslaved.
It didn’t happen that night, but in Valjean’s sleep we see that dream become real. We see the city on its feet, the city at the barricade. We see the road of injustice barred and we hear a people shouting for freedom, for love, for hope. At first it seems jarringly violent, to see heaven as the site of a rebellion, a place of battle and death and war. It seems at odds with the words they sing that we will walk behind the plowshare, we will put away the sword.
And then you notice…no one at the barricade has a weapon. No one has a gun. No one has ammunition. They stand in peace, a powerful force simply because of their numbers. There is no army in the world that could have overcome that barricade. It was too strong. There were too many people who believed in it, too many standing behind the barricade having given their lives to the cause of justice and love. This is how we overcome; this is how we triumph. We stand together. We become a light in the darkness, a spark that sets weary hearts ablaze and we stand. No weapons, no war. Just love and faith that the world could be made righteous.
Heaven is a rebellion. It is a revolution. It is light coming into a dark world, a world that would do anything to snuff it out. Heaven says that the poor will sit at the right hand of God. Heaven says that love is always right and hope will never disappoint. This revolution started small and for a moment, it may have seemed like all has failed. But if we open our eyes, if we stand together, I know we’ll find that heaven is a barricade and that we will hear our voices raised in song.
Damn their warnings, damn their lies
They will see the people rise.