Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo

by Jess

I used to like the film version of The Count of Monte Cristo.  It seemed a pretty good action-adventure flick, with just enough comedy and intrigue thrown in for a good mix.

Then I read the book.

I wish they had left Dumas’ name off the title of the film version, as I have a feeling that Dumas would be appalled at how his story has been changed and chopped and deus ex machinaed to death.

In the book, Dantes is a god among men.  He’s as rich as sin, for one thing, and he spends years crafting and exacting the most horrific punishments he can imagine on those who betrayed him — as well as unimaginable beneficence on the kind-hearted.  He views himself as the hand of God in meting out divine justice, and it’s fascinating to watch how he moves the other characters deftly about like pawns on a chessboard.  It’s also important in the novel that in many cases, Dantes simply sets up the opportunity for the fall, and it is Caderousse’s and Danglars’ greed or Villefort’s cowardice or Morcerf’s betrayal that actually propel them over the edge.  They all end up mad or abandoned or dead.

In the movie, which has a great many fewer characters to be manipulated, Dantes’ vengeance seems rather slapdash.  It all takes place quickly and quietly, with none of the extravagant and publicly embarrassing downfalls from the book.  Danglars and Villefort are simply arrested — boring — and Mondego is stabbed, of all pedestrian things.  The characters fall flat; their evil or goodness is exaggerated until they are caricatures instead of living beings.  The ending seems so juvenile after reading the  book’s elaborate unwinding of events — none of this mad rush of all the remaining main characters mise-en-scene and everyone lives happily ever after.  That sort of ending is for the birds.

I guess what I’m trying to get at is this shocking new idea that you should probably read the book and leave Hollywood alone to go destroy someone else’s masterpiece.

Next stop: The Three Musketeers.