Monday, October 21, 2013

That Really Long Post About Enjolras

"The processes of revolution have always been the same, and to lead men into them there have always been required, first, a cause or pretence to enlist adherents; second, an end, or something as a practical achievement. As a rule he fights well who has wrongs to redress; but vastly better fights he who, with wrongs as a spur, has also steadily before him a glorious result in prospect--a result in which he can discern balm for wounds, compensation for valour, remembrance and gratitude in the event of death."
~Lew Wallace, Ben-Hur

Enjolras is my favorite character in Les Miserables.  Completely.  Totally.  Hands down.  No question.

...Along with Gavroche and Eponine and Valjean and Marius and Combeferre, of course.  Let's get that straight right from the get-go.

Um, no, this picture isn't part of my computer screensaver...
I don't know what you're talking about.

Why, you might ask, am I focusing on Enjolras today?  I mean, he's a fascinating character and all that, but why today?  Why not do this back when I was reviewing the movie?  "I'll tell you-- I don't know."  Okay, kidding. The real reason is that today is October 21st (yes, thank you, Mary) and it is a truth universally acknowledged that the twenty-first of October, being the birth date of one Aaron Kyle Tveit, is officially known as the Tveiter-tots' Big Day of Celebration and Huzzah-ing.  Let's have a celebration the Fiyero way!

(In case you can't tell, a Tveiter-tot is an Aaron Tveit fangirl.  NO IT IS NOT A STUPID NAME.  And yes, I am indeed a proud member of the club.  What clued you in?)

So instead of writing a squealy fangirly post about all the reasons Aaron Tveit is amazing (though I'm quite capable of doing so), I decided to be a LEETLE more mature (after all, this blog is about books and movies and fictional characters, not real-life performers whom I happen to think are practically perfect) and write a post about the best and greatest role Aaron's ever played: Enjolras in Les Miserables.  Because, y'know, he's far and away the best Enjolras that ever was.  

Let us begin, let us begin, let us begin.

You should know right off the bat that I love, love, LOVE Ramin Karimloo, Jason Forbach and Michael Maguire's performances as Enjo (in that order).  But Aaron Tveit's is far and away the best.  His singing voice isn't quite as powerful as Ramin's, true, but the amount of passion he puts into the role and the way he totally inhabits it shoots him to the top of the list in my book.   Seriously, the guy gets about twenty minutes of screen time in a nearly-three-hour movie, and yet he's the one the fangirls swoon over.  Why?

(Hint: it's not just the looks.  Yes, the looks have something to do with it, but I like to think I'm not THAT shallow.)

We could start with the "Look Down" reprise and Enjolras' first appearance in the movie, but though I squeal every single time it happens, it's really not his finest moment.  I mean, we see him yelling and gesturing and handing out pamphlets, but that scene is really Marius' (AND GAVROCHE'S), so let's skip ahead to "Red and Black."  Because "Red and Black" is just amazing.  I never thought the film version would be outstanding, really-- it was contending against Ramin Karimloo on one hand and Michael Ball on the other.  I mean, come on.  And though Eddie Redmayne isn't particularly impressive in that song, Aaron Tveit just steals it.  It's Enjolras' big moment, after all.  Tell the spotlight man to turn up his light.

I am always floored by how well Aaron plays this scene.  There are actual legitimate tears in his eyes after Gavroche announces Lamarque's death-- this guy can go from excited and exuberant to pensive and puppy-dog-like in the blink of an eye.  (Don't believe me? Clearly you've never seen Along the Way.)  The way he delivers the spoken lines is just exactly the way I imagined Enjolras talking when I read the book, and for me that's a HUGE deal.  "His speech was roughly inspired, and had the tremor of a hymn." It was like the book had come to life, that the Group Which Almost Became Historic were moving and breathing before my eyes.  Seriously.  Take a look.

What I really, really love about Aaron's portrayal, though, is how he delved into the role and made sure it was as accurate as possible.  The reason it's so spot-on is that he worked hard to make it that way.  Not just reading the book (though that in itself is admirable and commendable and delightful and wonderful and exemplary to other actors in book adaptations who should sit up and TAKE NOTICE) but taking the time to explore the character as deeply as he could and think about the motivations driving him.  (Oh, and the way he stayed in character more than anyone else at the Oscar performance was THE BEST.)  This quote, I gotta say, is one of my absolute favorites.

In light of that, take a look at this section from the brick in which Enjolras has just killed Claquesous for his murder of an innocent porter.

Enjolras had remained thoughtful. Shadow, mysterious and grand, was slowly spreading across his fearful serenity. He suddenly raised his voice. There was a silence.
"Citizens," said Enjolras, "what that man did is horrible, and what I have done is terrible. He killed, that is why I killed him. I was forced to do it, for the insurrection must have its discipline. Assassination is still a greater crime here than elsewhere; we are under the eyes of the Revolution, we are priests of the Republic, we are the sacramental host of duty, and no one can defame our combat. As for myself, compelled to do what I have done, but abhorring it, I have judged myself also, and you shall soon see to what I have sentenced myself."

Those who heard shuddered.

"We will share your fate," cried Combeferre.  [I love Combeferre.]

"So be it," added Enjolras.  "A word more. ... In the future no man shall slay his fellow, the earth shall be radiant, the human race shall love.  It will come, citizens, that day when all shall be concord, harmony, light, joy and life; it will come, and it is that it may come that we are going to die."

~Les Miserables, "Saint-Denis," Corinth, chapter eight

This was the first part in the book that made me cry when I first read it.  (I only felt sad when Enjolras actually got killed and barely squeezed out a tear at Eponine's death, but I've matured since then.  Don't worry.)  It struck me all of a sudden that they were all going to die, that they knew they were going to die, and that they weren't going to do anything about it.  (You have to understand that I had no idea what the outcome of the story was going to be when I first read it-- it was all totally new to me and any hypotheses I made about the plot were pure speculation.)  That this group of students and laborers, fathers and sons, teenagers and middle-aged men had followed one man into a revolution that might go nowhere, that might never see fruition, that would almost certainly lead to their deaths.   Because they all believed in liberty and freedom for all men, yes, but also because they trusted and followed and loved a charming young man who was capable of being terrible. A young man with that sort of charisma that would induce his little band to follow him into the fire no matter what.  I can't think who that reminds me of, but I'm sure it'll come to me someday...
It has often struck me how well Les Mis lyrics can fit more than just the people they were originally meant for.  (That was a confusing and convoluted sentence, but hopefully you get my drift.)  Obviously "Valjean's Soliloquy" and "Javert's Suicide" have a lot of the same words, but there are other songs that fit together so well.  "Bring Him Home" fits that little Javert/Gavroche moment in the post-barricade scene, "Suddenly" is appropriate at times for the Gav/Courf relationship and "I Dreamed a Dream" has parts that go so well with Enjolras' story.

Another song that frequently comes to mind when I think of Enjolras (other than Green Fields of France) is "The Impossible Dream" from Man of La Mancha.  Can't think what put that in my head... must be another charismatic hero thing.  Huh.  Funny.


(Don't get me started on the whole mashing-up-Les-Mis-with-other-musicals thing, by the way, because I'll never stop.  Next to Normal has some particularly killing connections.  "I am the one who held you, I am the one who cried... I am the one who watched while you died.")

Alllllll right, wrapping this up...  but I can't leave you guys in tears.  That wouldn't be nice.  So here.


And here.

And here.

(No, that one wasn't Enjolras, but it's the same actor, get over it.)

Also, if you need some more Enjolras in your day, just take a look at this loverly video.  Because it IS That Day, you know.

In conclusion, Aaron Tveit (as Enjolras or otherwise) is practically perfect in every way.  Like Mary Poppins, only with better hair.

Not that I have anything against Mary Poppins' hair, of course.  It's just.... eh, you get the idea.  Just go read the brick and watch Les Mis again and you'll see what I mean.


Alexandra said...

Giggle, giggle.

Giggle, giggle.

LOVE ALL THE AARON PICS!!!! (Like the Pinterest meme. You know.)

And to the TSP/Enjo references...SNORT. Snort, snort. Giggle, snort.

Incredible post, dearie, even without the Aaron pics. :P

In short...this is a good day. Happy Tveitertot Day, and God Bless Us, Everyone. :P

Melody said...

It is too a stupid name.

Couldn't resist.

The bit about the background on your lapue actually kind of MMFHI tootuz I remember seeing it IRL on my desk... haaa. ;) (I'd smirk every time it went by, too. Hahahahahaha. At least inwardly. :D The first few times, at least.)

You think his real-life self is practically perfect, eh? Besides for not being a Christian and probably quite worldy, I suppose.
...okay, okay, I will stop with the snark.
Well... I'll try.

Who is Jason Forbach?

Okay, sorry, that picture you linked to makes me laugh. (Hahahaha-ha!)

OOOOOHHHH this video is what you were telling me about at the waaater park when we were waiting in liiiine. You nevah sent it to me, though. And I thought you said you would. *glares*
(He acts rather ridiculous before he starts singing, though, IMExtremelyHO. Snooort. SORRY.)

*some time later*

Anyways. You may congratulate me for having read this, however, despite my snark. *accepts congratulations humbly* And for watching all the videos posted and linked to.
Um, well, not exactly, but most of them, and at least some of all of them besides the two TSP-related ones because I have seen those before and it's not like I have all night to sit here watching videos. Hahahaha.
And as for the last one... well, I decided to stop because
*mysteriously stops mid-sentence*

I feel rather amused that this is supposed to be an Enjolras post but is in reality more Aaron Tveit-ish.

I'm so entirely shocked.

Hannah said...

I LOVE this post! I love what you've written and I love those pictures! My introduction to Les Mis was the 10th anniversary concert and Enjolras instantly became my favourite character (along with Jean Valjean and Eponine). I still really love Michael Maguire's Enjolras but my favourite Enjolras is Aaron Tveit with David Thaxton being my second :)

Like you I love the way Tveit plays the "Lamarque is dead" scene and I also really love the fact that he's a tenor. To me that really fits with the angelic purity of Victor Hugo's Enjolras.

Anonymous said...

Well. I approve. *nods*

And it was worth the (REEEEEALLY LONG!!!) wait. : P


Molly said...

Ohhh, Red and Black! I think I had shivers down my spine! And I was almost in tears by the end of the post. *sniff* I only watched part of the last video, though, because I wasn't sure how much it was going to show, and I didn't want the barricade scenes spoiled or me. :)

Molly said...


Caroline L. said...

My seal of approval upon this post. It is lovely.

Katie Wegner said...

ABC Cafe/Red and Black is one of the best songs in the movie! Hands down!!! Aaron Tveit's voice is awesome! And you really can get the type of person that Enjolras was in that song!!! And Do You Hear The people Sing, that one is also epically amazing!!! :) Again another one of Aaron Tveit's songs. :D

Beth Claire said...

Yet another excuse to post pictures of Aaron Tveit!
Jokes....that is what Pinterest is for...

Haha, I love Sir Percy I can see the similarties you pointed out. However I have a feeling him and Enjolras wouldn't get along if they met!

The best quote from this would have to be "Like Mary Poppins, only with better hair"
Victor would be so proud!

Anyway, I don't really think the character Enjolras is practically perfect in every way, but Aaron Tveit's portrayal is. And that's what we're celebrating right?

Beth xxx

Mal said...

I unashamedly made fangirling noises throughout this entire post :) Aaron Kyle Tveit is one of my favorite actors in the history of ever, second only to Tom Hiddleston :) I just got around listening to songs he sings even if they're from musicals I haven't heard of. Have you heard "Goodbye" and "Seven Wonders" from Catch Me If You Can? Ahhh amazing!!! And I refuse to watch/listen to any version of Wicked songs with a different Fieyro because no one plays the part as well as he does :) And he was far and away the most amazing performer in song at the Oscars...
Okay that turned into a "happy birthday Aaron you're so amazing" comment instead of one about Enjol, but I'm a Tveiter-tot too, (I hadn't heard that before, but I'm totally embracing it now :) so you understand ;)

Lizzie said...

I shudder to confess that I have yet to see Les Mis... we bought the DVD and just haven't watched it yet! Sadly, I have only seen Aaron Tveit in that terrible show, Graceland (I do NOT recommend it...). I really liked him even though the show was often inappropriate and annoying, though, so this just made me look forward to whenever I will FINALLY see Les Mis!!

Katelyn said...

Bravo! Encore! Brilliant post! Love the video at the end. Worth watching every bit of it for the Aaron/Enjo highlights.

Becca Anne said...

okay. so I have a confession... Despite following your blog for a while, and following/knowing several other avid Les Mis fans, and hearing about it as well from every single rooftop, I haven't joined the ranks of Les Mis fangirls, because, well, I'm old-fashioned, and decided to wait and read the book first.

and last night I finished it!!!! :) It was exciting and terrifying at the same time. I seriously sat there forever after reading the last sentence, unsure of what to do now.

Anyway, with all that said... I enjoyed this {rather long but wonderful} post, and am looking forward to the {hopefully} not to distant day I can fully appreciate the Les Mis play/movie. :) :) :)

Enjolras is such an amazing character.

Alicia Showalter said...

Okay.. so I am quickly becoming an Enjo fan now... I liked Marius a lot and now I am really starting to truly understand and admire Enjolras. I loved Red and Black too. :) I really want to read the book! I do like Enjo's voice too.

Miss Jane Bennet said...

Well. This is rahhhther late...but I just had to comment 'cause AARON TVEIT IS SO AWESOME.
...So is Enjolras. Obviously. :P
Anyway. Great, wonderful post!

Anonymous said...

Well I JUST finished watching Les Mis for the first time last night so I finally feel qualified enough to comment and admit that.... I didn't like Enjolras that much. *Ducks* I never did find it easy to sympathize with idealists. I am much more Team Marius :)

But Happy Birthday Aaron Tveit, I may not have completely sympathized with your character but I think you did a fantastic portrayal of him!

- The Elf

Freedomlover16 said...

Just reading this now (I'm a friend of Rachel Heffington's :) ) Beautiful post! Enjolras from the moment I read Les Mis was a special character for me, I have to say out of everybody in literature he was the character I could most relate to as a person. This is why I loved Enjolras, he was somebody I could understand and relate to well. Others like Marius or Eponine, they were cool beautiful characters but as a person I could not relate to them.

Freedomlover16 said...

I made a comment but have no clue if it submitted 0_O