The things they do to their novels. I mean, why do people want to do movies about Dumas stories and then change the whole story? If they did not like the originals, why won’t they just leave Dumas out of it and swash and buckle on their own? It is not like I don’t realize that telling stories in print and in moving pictures is a totally different deal, and that an adaptation has to make choices what to keep and what to leave out, but when Dumas is being filmed, the results are just beyond pale. Not only are they nauseating molestation of original material, they don’t even stand up as independent works. Except, of course, for “D'Artacan y los tres Mosqueperros”, which is brilliant.
The work that I think has suffered most has to be Le Comte de Monte Cristo, the grand moral melodrama of betrayal, revenge and redemption of Edmond Dantes. Monte Cristo was one of my favourite novels when I was eleven or twelve, and still remains a firm favourite. Which of course is why the film adaptations drive me to total distraction. Monte Cristo has been adapted over a dozen times beginning with a silent 8-minute short from 1908 and currently ending with Kevin Reynold’s Hollywood treatment from 2002. (I am not counting transplanted versions like Gankutsuou.)
The two biggest issues I have with many an adaptation is firstly, the treatment of the relationship between Mercedes and Dantes. Many, if not most of the adaptations end up with the two of them living happily ever after. Which is just… no. Really. No. She betrayed him too:
- J'aime Edmond Dantès, dit froidement la jeune fille, et nul autre qu'Edmond ne sera mon époux.
- Et vous l'aimerez toujours?
- Tant que je vivrai."
Monte Cristo does not love Mercedes anymore, what is left in the end is regret, forgiveness and faded fondness. And Mercedes, she knows well she did not keep her (youthfull, impetuous) word. She can’t forgive herself, and she can’t wholly regret breaking her word because there is Albert, the one good thing left in her life. This acknowledgement that love does not conquer all is one of the more interesting things in the books and I hate see it negated on screen. I have some feminist problems with book’s ending also: loyal slave girl rewarded by his master and all that, but at least I can see that possibly unhealthy relationship happening unlike Mercedes and Edmond bridging effortlessly the years of betrayal and stepping over corpses to mutual happiness.
Another big, big problem I have is with the way most adaptations make Dantes an active avenger. He goes around buckling his swash and killing the traitors, and that being done, goes living happily ever after, usually with Mercedes. In the novel the Count investigates, insinuates, lays traps and lets his enemies walk into his mines. He sees himself as an instrument of God, above and apart from humanity, rewarding people who helped Edmond Dantes, and raining down justice on those who left him to rot in jail. And in order to prove himself that he really is “on a mission from God” to quote Blues Brothers, he has to let the actions of his enemies ruin themselves. In the end, of course, he realizes he is wrong. He is still part of humanity, he has no special insight to God’s workings, all he like the rest of us can do is “attendre et espérer”. But do we see this on the screen? Any of it? Nah.
What brought this on, was YLE Teema marathoning the 1998 miniseries with Gerard Depardieu, and while Depardieu does not swash and buckle the adaptation gets the Mercedes question wrong, makes Bertucchio into a sidekick (Monte Cristo with a Sideckick!!!) and is way off the mark with the hubris question also. Not to mention it reduces Haydee into a bit part and introduces a totally useless new female character to the story. And lets face it, Depardieu is physically as far as possible from Dantes as it is possible to get. Dantes is, slight, pale, dark, straight-nosed and handsome. Depardieu is bulky, ruddy, blond, potato-nosed and decidedly not handsome. He can’t, of course, do anything about his looks, but his totally unsuitable habitus just underlines his really hammy acting. It is like watchin the Count played by William Shatner. My hatred of this production is surpassed only by my hatred of Reynold’s movie, the DVD of which has found new gainful employment as a coaster.
Wouldn’t it be great if someone would make a decent Monte-Christo, just once?