Continuing from part II of four posts...
(#5) Pride and Prejudice (2005). Keira Knightly gives a breathtaking performance to distinguish this version from the five or six (dating from 1940) we have to choose from. Plus she gets help from others. Matthew MacFadyen delivers the performance of a lifetime in portraying the enigmatic Mr. Darcy. And Joe Wright needs to be congratulated for his brilliant directing. Indeed, the scene creation, which is truly unforgettable, is one of the best aspects of this film. This version is unlikely to be surpassed for its artistic credits any time soon.
(#4) The Count of Monte Cristo (2002). This is another one you won’t find on any of the IMDb lists. Stars Jim Caviezel. We all know the story. Edmund Dantes is betrayed by “friends” and spends umpteen years unjustly imprisoned. His fiancée, Mercedes, marries his arch-betrayer within a month. Edmund 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 novel. So if you’ve read the book, you’re in for a pleasant surprise the first time you see this 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. Edmund 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. Edmund enters the palatial home as the Count of Monte Cristo, is greeted warmly by the son, who then introduces him to his father, Edmund’s archenemy, Count Mondego, who of course doesn’t recognize him; no one does after his imprisonment. The two chat with amiable formality, Edmund 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. Needless to say, what follows, as filmmaking goes, is the perfect cinematic moment, with the players and the director turning in peak performances. And in the scenes that follow, you have something romantically unique 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.