Review: The Count of Monte Cristo

WARNING: SPOILERS FOR BOOK AND MOVIE.

Yesterday, I finished reading The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. I’ve owned the book for years and was excited to finally crack it open. It took me eight days to read it, and at the end I watched the movie with my husband.

To say the book and movie are completely different is to say the sky is cloudy when it rains. The first third of the book was actually very close to the movie (or should I say it the other way around?), except for a few minor changes. Such as the fact that Edmund Dantes and Fernand Mondego are not friends in the book as it implies in the movie.

Fernand is a Spaniard, as is Mercedes, and they are close friends, but Edmund has little to no interaction with Fernand in the beginning of the book, before the infamous detention in Chateau d’If.

In the movie, Edmund Dantes is named captain of the Pharaon right away, but in the book, he is only going to be appointed as such. It holds true that Danglars is extremely upset and jealous of Edmund and he instigates the treasonous act of sending the condemning letter to Monsieur Villefort, however, with the help of Fernand, who is blinded by his love for Mercedes, which she does not return, and his jealousy and hatred of Edmund.

Villefort does intend on letting Edmund free in the book and movie alike, when he realizes that the illiterate Dantes could not have known the weight of the letter he carried away from Elba and consequently, Napoleon Bonaparte. He burns the letter and then Edmund is taken away to the dreaded Chateau d’If, to spend 14 years in the deepest dungeon (13 in the book), in forced isolation.

The Abbe (Priest) does give Edmund an education in the prison, and tells him of the immeasurable treasure of Sparta, but his death is caused by apoplexy, and not a cave-in. Dantes escapes, sewn up in the death sack of the Abbe, and is able to swim away from the Chateau. He does not, however take the life of the prison warden with him, as he does in the movie.

This is where the book and the movie take completely different paths. Dantes is not forced to join the smugglers, and he does not save the life of Jacobo, as in the movie. He does join them for a time, of his own volition, before embarking on his journey–alone–to the Isle of Monte Cristo to seek and find his fortune.

The book is so rich in detail and so full of different characters, for instance the family members of Edmund’s enemies, that it would be impossible to fit it all in a movie, I am sure. But there are so many different things the Count (Dantes) learns about life, love, and the folly of revenge in the book that are not present in the movie.

Albert is not the son of Edmund Dantes in the book. He is the true son of Fernand, who has changed his name due to many indiscretions, and is the Viscount Morcerf, son to Mercedes.

In the movie, Dantes weaves a simple and quick plot to ensnare all of his enemies, and the movie ends.

In the book, the Count of Monte Cristo weaves himself into his enemies lives and families so deeply, he gains their complete trust and is able to bring their wealth and empires down around their heads, just as he is able to save most of the innocent family members of his enemies from the downfall of their houses.

There is much too much for me to write down in a simple review, but I applaud the book, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to enjoy the movie as much as I used to, now that I know how dumbed down the plot is.

The one thing that bothers me about the book (more than the movie) is that Edmund and Mercedes do not end up together, as they do in the movie. Albert leaves to join the army so he can support his mother, and Mercedes moves back to Marsailles to be alone in her grief from her ruined and treacherous husband, and absence of her beloved son.

The Count is able to bequeath his large fortune to the sweet and innocent daughter of Villefort, who marries the son of his old friend and manager Morrel. It’s really quite sweet.

The book ends with the Count sailing away into the sunset, alone except for a young slave woman he has saved, named Haydee. We don’t know what’s become of him or his happiness, but one can assume he was able to find peace in those he helped, instead of those he ruined from vengeance.

I think it’s a rare thing for anyone to say, “Oh the movie was far better than the book,” and I agree completely. I have yet to find a book/movie combination where the version on screen outshone the one on written on pages. The Count of Monte Cristo is no exception. The book was far richer in detail, intrigue, characters and history than the movie.

However, the movie has one benefit that the book doesn’t. And that is the extremely handsome face and acting talents of Jim Caviezel.

Oh yeah. Yum.

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