Count the Changes

Today, I finished listening to The Count of Monte Cristo which was written by Alexandre Dumas in 1844 and narrated by Richard Matthews in 2002.
All 35-CDs worth. That’s a lot of hours. Probably, that’s about as many CDs as it takes to record the 464,000 words, give or take, that make up the story. Still, it’s a long trek. But, as I thoroughly enjoyed the material, it was time well spent and I am happy to have done it.

comcThe Count of Monte Cristo
By: Alexandre Dumas
Narrator: Richard Matthews
Imprint: Books on Tape
Genre: Fiction – Classics
Release Date: June 13, 2006
ISBN: 9781415932001
Set against the tumultuous years of the post-Napoleonic era, The Count of Monte Cristo recounts the swashbuckling adventures of Edmond Dantes, a dashing young sailor falsely accused of treason. The story of his long imprisonment, dramatic escape, and carefully wrought revenge offers up a vision of France that has become immortal.

The 2002 film, The Count of Monte Cristo, starring Jim Caviezel as the count, is one of my favorite films. But, it is a mere 131 minutes long and is a thoroughly shortened and Hollywood-ized version of the story. Something dumbed down, simplified, and tailored to the modern viewing audience. Still, one of my favorites.
I was interested in reading the novel, but stumbled upon the audio book at my local library. So I gave it a try.
The story is simply this; a young man, in love and with a promising future before him, is betrayed by three jealous rivals and then further mistreated by a corrupt judge, finds himself locked away in a dungeon for fourteen years. At which point he makes his escape and using a tremendous treasure trove revealed to him by a fellow inmate, executes his vengence on those same men.
Pretty simple stuff. You can find better summaries all over the internet if that one does not suffice.
But what I want to touch on here, are the things that changed between the book and the movie, and perhaps why they changed.
In the book, Villefort has a daughter named Valentine.
In the movie, his wife is named Valentine. And the entire story arc of the love between Valentine and Maximilien is dropped.
Probably, this was because it could be a whole movie on it’s own.
In the book, Fernand and Mercedes Mondego have a son named Albert.
In the movie, Albert turns out to be Edmond Dantes’ son with Mercedes.
Because in our modern age, it is inconceivable that Edmond and Mercedes could have been chaste before marriage and because it makes for a far more cliche ending doing it this way.
In the book, Mondego is the cousin of Mercedes and he is only an acquaintance of Edmond.
In the movie, Edmond and Mondego are best friends.
Because only your best friend would send you away to prison forever to get with your girl. And because in Hollywood, you’re not allowed to have such obstructed sight-lines in your relationships.
In the book, Dantes slowly seeks his revenge on the people who put him in prison by using his intelligence, planning and patience.
In the movie, He seeks revenge by having sword fights and violence.
It is billed as an action film, after all.
In the book, Dantes finds a new love, Haydee.
In the movie, The character of Haydee doesn’t appear.
Probably, because this ex-convict has to get back with his baby-mama to make things right, Hollywood style.
In the book, Villefort is driven insane by the murder suicide of his wife and child.
In the movie, Villefort is charged with murder and goes to prison.
And we skip whole parts about his first wife, his affair, his second wife being a greedy poisoner and killing his son.
In the book, Dantes ruins Danglars using financial manipulation.
In the movie, Dantes fights Danglars and he is sent to prison.
By this point you realize he’s going to fight everyone… action movie style!
In the book, Edmond and Mercedes never have sex.
In the movie, They had premarital sex resulting in the birth of Albert.
Again, because in our modern age, it is inconceivable that a couple in the 1800’s would remain chaste before marriage and because it makes for a far more cliche ending doing it this way.
In the book, Dantes believes his is doing God’s work in carrying out his vengeance.
In the movie, He has doubts about the morality of his quest for revenge.
Dantes, is a firm believer in god and his divine power, but religion is so passe let us do without it and ignore it’s influence on the people of that time.
In the book, Edmond’s dad, Louis Dantes starves to death.
In the movie, Louis Dantes hangs himself.
And the reasons he hangs himself are different in every way from why he starves to death. But probably that’s not important to the story.
In the book, Edmond Dantes is first arrested at his betrothal feast
In the movie, Edmond is arrested when he is celebrating his captain-ship with Mercedes and his dad
In the book, Edmond reveals Mondego’s betrayals during the war and the sale of Pasha’s daughter into slavery. Mondego commits suicide.
In the movie, Edmond tricks Mondego into taking chests he thought contained gold, but really contained dirt. He then finds out that Mercedes still loves Edmond and that Albert is not his son. He fights Edmond and is stabbed through the heart.
Action Movie!
In the book, Edmond realizes that vengeance hurts everyone, including himself and those he loves.
In the movie, Edmond has a happy ending. His vengeance was a worthwhile endeavor that got his old life back and punished his enemies.
Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl back. And gets a son in the bargain. And everybody is happy ever after.
In the book, Edmond leaves Mercedes alone after he gets his revenge on Mondego.
In the movie, Edmond and Mercedes reunite.
Poor Haydee, she’s supposed to be super-hot and she’s not even in the movie. After all that work, shouldn’t the count get to sail off with this super hot babe that’s half his age…. so sad. Must be Hollywood.
Anyway, the book was great. The movie was great. But they each tell a very different story.