Oscar winning musical brings Lent ideas into focus

The Rev Jonathan Meyer outside St Mary the Virgin Church, Ewelme

The Rev Jonathan Meyer outside St Mary the Virgin Church, Ewelme

First published in News Herald Series: Photograph of the Author by

A CHURCH which featured in the Oscar-winning musical Les Miserables is using the film’s themes and characters to get parishioners thinking about the bigger questions.

Three sequences for the Hollywood blockbuster were filmed at St Mary the Virgin Church in Ewelme, near Wallingford.

Now priest in charge, the Rev Jonathan Meyer, has decided to take the film as a springboard for this year’s Lent course.

He said: “It is perhaps the most significant part of the story that was to be represented at Ewelme.

“The south porch was transformed into the residence of the Bishop of Digne.

“The convict Jean Valjean emerges from that very door, singing the words ‘and now let the story begin’.”

The scenes were filmed at the church on March 21 last year, with filming going on until 2am.

Mr Meyer said: “We saw this on a crisp March day repeated over and over again with numerous cameras, film crews, lights, gantries and a churchyard full of sound technicians lurking in temporary shelters.

“On screen we saw the contorted face of Valjean rushing forward and the camera showing us our church digitised on to a promontory in Provence.

“What we saw was transformed, just as the story itself is about transformation.”

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Mr Meyer, who is currently re-reading the Victor Hugo novel on which the film and stageshow is based, said the story was essentially about God’s grace and the possibility of redemption – perfect messages for Lent.

The group, of about a dozen members, met for the first time last week to discuss the character of the Bishop of Digne.

Jean Valjean, Cosette, Fantine, and Javert – respectively a convict, an orphan, a prostitute and a police officer – will also come under the microscope.

Mr Meyer said: “There is so much richness, themes of grace and redemption and how that can be truly gained, themes of social justice and the overarching and apparent conflict between the justice and mercy of God.

“I await with interest to find out whether people feel that Javert is redeemable or bound to be damned.”

Mr Meyer, who went to see the film in Didcot, said he hoped the use of popular culture would attract more people than usual to the Lent course.

He believed all people who had seen it would feel touched in some way by the issues.

He added: “You don’t have to agree with them and might think they are just sentimental story, but there is no doubt they are there.

“I thnk it will attract people’s interest.”

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