What could be better than reading a classic? …

Cover… Watching the film!

As part of my classics education growing up, I read Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. It was an interesting enough story, but very old-fashioned and very French. That is to say, it was long, complicated and had an entirely unsatisfactory ending. Not my favourite story.

But then, I discovered the 2002 movie  (directed by Kevin Reynolds). Suddenly it wasn’t boring anymore. The movie is gripping and has a good plot without being confusing. Loose ends that used to bother me are tied together nicely to form a ‘proper’ ending.

Don’t get me wrong, the start of the book holds great promise. The hero, Edmond Dantes, is a personable but naively loyal young man, who is preyed upon by evil people and ends up imprisoned unjustly. Many years later, he escapes from prison with only one thought – revenge. Then begins an elaborate cat-and-mouse game of wills as Dantes works his way into the powerful circles of his enemies under the elusive title of the Count of Monte Cristo.

I don’t wish to downplay the art that went into writing it, but there are several points on which, in my opinion, it falls flat. One is the sheer number of sub-plots. I know who Edmond is, but who was the guy, who told the story about a band of ruffians, who abducted the sweetheart of a young man, who did something we can’t remember because it wasn’t actually part of the main plot in the first place?

However, it is the disappointing ending that is most unforgiveable. After exacting suitable revenge, the protagonist ends up being an older guy married to a beautiful young princess, whom he prefers to the ‘true love’ of his youth. He never quite recovers from the wrongs done to him, and finally just runs away from it all. His once true love is left widowed and miserable during the final scenes, which leaves a rather bad taste in the mouth.

Conversely, the movie – of course employing some artistic licence – takes all the grand schemes and themes of the book and cleverly ties them together. It also includes a well deserved happy ending. Jim Caviezel plays an excellent naive-then-vengeful Dantes, who in the end lets go of his bitterness, is redeemed and reunited with his true love. The baddies are varied and convincing, with Guy Pearce as the charismatic but treacherous Fernand Mondego. There is a good amount of action, epic themes, tasteful humour and a touch of romance. What more could one want in a film?

Willing to give Monte Cristo a chance? Find a copy of the book or movie in our library catalogue.

Seen a movie that knocks the socks off the book? Tell us about your favourite book-to-movie adaptations! Need inspiration? Check out the library’s page on Books into film & television. More film stuff on our Film webpage and Read the Book — then see the film.

2 thoughts on “What could be better than reading a classic? …

  1. Joycee 26 July 2010 / 1:00 pm

    I’ve always wanted to see the 1930s movie version of The Count of Monte Cristo starring Robert Donat, but I did enjoy Jim Caviezel!
    I capture the castle is about the only movie adaptation I’ve really adored, although I kinda liked Mansfield Park(1999)with Alessandro Nivola and Frances o’Connor, despite the fact it made no effort whatsoever to stick to the original plot.

  2. Simone 26 July 2010 / 3:31 pm

    In a similar vein there is yet another movie adaptation of the Three Musketeers coming out. I have to admit that while I’ve slogged through several versions of Beowulf (of which all movies have been terrible), Canterbury tales and the Nieleunglied (sp?) I’ve never brought myself to reading the later adventures. Actually really enjoyed Tristan & Isolde movie (2006) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0375154/

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