FOUR STARS - POWERFUL
The power of evil to destroy innocent people did not begin with the attacks on the World Trade Center towers in 2001. Evil has been destroying innocent people for millennia. Often beginning with envy and quickly evolving into murderous rage, evil’s destruction not only turns strangers into enemies, but also can turn brother against brother and friend against friend.
Reminiscent of the murder of Abel by his brother Cain, the classic tale of “The Count of Monte Cristo” allows us to experience the venom of envy within the heart and soul of Fernand Mondego (Guy Pearce) toward his life-long friend, Edmund Dantes (James Caviezel).
The privileged son of a Count, Fernand is consumed with envy toward Edmund. Rejecting Edmund’s spirituality that makes his life blessed and gives him the edge over Fernand in winning the heart of his fiancé Mercedes (Dagmara Dominezyk), Fernand seeks to destroy Edmund and steal his beautiful lover.
This is the nature of evil. Evil does not seek mutual blessing by sharing God’s love, but rather, evil seeks to take away whatever joy and love the innocent person has achieved.
Using Edmund’s illiteracy and naiveté against him, Fernand betrays him and, in concert with the evil of others, imprisons him in a place where his faith in God is attacked along with his body and soul.
But after five years and complete loss of faith in God, Edmund is secretly befriended by a kind old priest (Richard Harris). The priest not only teaches him to read and fight but more importantly plants the seed of faith once again in his soul.
In a very powerful scene where the priest is dying and giving him the map to a fortune on the island of Monte Cristo, Edmund tells the priest that he doesn’t believe in God anymore. The priest responds, “That doesn’t matter, God still believes in you.”
But when Edmund finally escapes and finds the treasure, it is not love that has captured his soul, but vengeance. Like the evil whose attack caused the wound and its vengeful infection, vengeance is consumed with destruction. Choosing not to free oneself from evil but to repay evil with evil, the vengeful person has joined the ranks of the evil-doers.
The final redemption of Edmund does not come from the treasure of Monte Cristo or his attempts at vengeance, but from the love modeled to him by Mercedes. Although the film alters the historic ending of the book, the success of love’s transformation is the story’s clear message.