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