Les MisÚrables: Directing D Day



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Many years after his sad childhood, Fortin returns to the Guillaumes' inn as an adult, accompanied by three criminal accomplices, known as Addition, Blame and Bonnard (TICKY HOLGADO, ANTOINE DULERY and JACQUES BONNOT). Fortin is pained by the memories of the treatment that sent his mother to her death, and determined to confront the brutal innkeepers who were responsible. But once he arrives he learns that the Guillaumes have died and their son and grandson, a much kinder duo, now run the inn.

After spending the night at the inn, Fortin's group awakes to discover Allied ships lining the horizon. Though they are thrilled by this development, their happiness quickly turns to terror as they find themselves the target of a vicious shelling. Fortin once again demonstrates heroism in, ironically, defending the inn.

Lelouch was aided in the immense undertaking of filming this sequence by real life: the actual 50th anniversary commemoration of D-Day was being assembled, and it included many period warships anchored on the coast. However, the film's shelling sequence, which involved setting numerous explosive charges, could only be filmed once -- it had to come off perfectly.

After many rehearsals, the cast embarked on what felt like an actual re-enactment of D-Day, including Fortin's brave rescue of the innkeeper's young son. Miraculously, the sequence went almost without a hitch.

Then, to Lelouch's dismay, only days later, a mysterious fire burned the inn, a huge and complex set containing innumerable props and pieces of technical materials, to the ground. In the midst of his shock, though, the director managed to film the destruction and, ultimately, to use it in the movie.

Initially, Belmondo's character takes revenge on his past by buying, 50 years later, the inn where he and his mother suffered so many years before. But after the fire destroyed his set, Lelouch thought further about the scene. He realized that no man would choose to live where he had endured such a cruel childhood, and that he had to look elsewhere for an ending to "Les Miserables."

He reflects, "Everything is cruel before becoming simple. I told myself that if the inn burned after everything to that point had been filmed, it's because it was time to change the set. In other words, the end of the film could not take place there.

"It was at that moment that the beach of Adam Isle came to my memory, where I had learned to swim as a child, where my parents had sent me to summer camp. I remembered that beach, its bathing huts, its pedal boats, and I said to myself, 'If only it still exists! ' So I left in the middle of the night, arrived early in the morning, and jumped for joy upon seeing that it had not changed. Everything was exactly as I had remembered it!"

Lelouch re-wrote the ending of the movie so that Fortin, at the end of the war, is able to buy and run the inn at Adam Isle, establishing a safe place for the Ziman family to re-unite and for the surviving "Miserables" to complete their story, with the now-grown Salome marrying Marius and the family happily celebrating.

"Today," says Lelouch, "I think that this ending in Adam Isle was destined, because it makes the story swing to another level. I feel that the hero swept his past aside to live something else, without regret.

"And at the same time, I am closer to Hugo's novel because, at the end of the book, Valjean also finds peace, although it is at his deathbed. Hugo's Valjean forgot his anger, and my Fortin dances to the happiness of his proteges, and it's good. "After thirty-four films, I am dedicated to filming hope."

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