I draw most of my inspiration for fiction writing from movies rather than books. And when I’m writing full-time, I watch love stories on film as a kind of comic relief from the stress of creative writing and editing. This worked well when I was recently rewriting my books for digital self-publication. That is, until I ran through my own DVD collection. No problem, I thought, there are plenty of features available on Netflix and pay-per-view. I was interested in love stories so I went out on the web and searched on lists of best love stories on film. Such a search produces scores of lists, most associated with IMDb. Sure enough, the lists did the trick. I found plenty of new titles, enough for months of fresh viewing. But I was also surprised by some of the films, and good ones too, that didn’t make any of the lists. So I thought I’d do a two part post on noteworthy love stories that are apparently not well known.
The first, and one of my all-time favorites is The Count of Monte Cristo, the 2002 version starring Jim Caviezel. We all know the story. Edmond Dantes is betrayed by friends and spends umpteen years unjustly imprisoned. His fiancée, Mercedes, marries his arch-betrayer within a month. Edmond eventually escapes, recovers a huge fortune, and uses it to exact revenge. The setting is post Napoleonic France.
The first bonus of this film is that its romance is far superior to that of the original story. So if you’ve read the novel, you’re in for a pleasant surprise the first time you see the movie.
The other bonus is that it features one of the most poignant moments of romantic drama you’ll find in any production. Let me try to set you up for this without acting the spoiler. Edmond has staged the rescue of his archenemy’s son and that gets him an invitation to the son’s birthday party, held in the family’s Paris mansion. The whole movie’s drama thus far has built up to the tension of this scene. Edmond enters the palatial home as the Count of Monte Cristo, is greeted warmly by the son, who then introduces him to his father, Edmond’s archenemy, Count Mondego, who of course doesn’t recognize him; no one does after his imprisonment. The two chat with amiable formality, Edmond speaking in coded, ironic phrases. The archenemy turns. “May I present the Countess Mondego.” Mercedes turns and…that’s as far as I can take you. What follows, as filmmaking goes, is exquisitely staged, with the players turning in peak performances. And in the scenes that follow, you have something different from typical romantic drama because of the clash between vengeful intent—an intent we sympathize with—and love struggling to revive despite all that should have killed it forever.
If you’re partial to love stories, I heartily recommend this film. In a future post, I’ll cover two more notable love stories on film that you’ll never find of any of the IMDb lists.