Saturday Salon ~ Historical Inspiration: The Count of Monte Cristo

One of the great advantages of writing historical romance fiction is that it tends to age better than contemporary-set stories. The historical tales, I think, have a longer shelf life because they don’t have all the contemporary-world cues like current fashions, buzzwords, and the passing tech fads of the day, that eventually make a story feel dated.

If The Count of Monte Cristo, (Touchstone Pictures, 2002) is any example, this is clearly just as true of movies as it is of books. This film is now ten years old and is as fresh and beautiful a movie as ever. (As one wit online quipped: “Dumbledore teaches Jesus swordfighting.” Who could resist that??)

I was lucky enough to catch it on the Ovation Channel the other day when I was worn out from my book deadline, and the Regency-era scenes gave me all the writing mojo I needed to get going on the final push to finish my book. Check out the trailer:


1. It has a happy ending. (I don’t know about you, but I run from tragic endings like the plague.)

2. It starts in a wonderfully rendered world of 1814 with Napoleon on Elba. (Although those cliffs are apparently County Wicklow, as it was filmed in Ireland!)

3. The gorgeous Jim Cavaziel. Of course, you may feel a little weird as I did, admiring his hotness as Edmond Dantes after seeing him as Jesus in the Passion of the Christ–! But as the Count, this is a guy who knows how to make an entrance. You fall in love with his vulnerability as he’s trying to wrap his mind about being unjustly imprisoned through the treachery of his so-called friend. Later, when he’s turned into a rich badass, I love his luxurious greatcoat thing that he wears throughout the second half of the movie. I gotta say he would fit right into the Inferno Club.

4. Wonderful historical details throughout… the carriages, the furniture, the weapons, THE CLOTHES… speaking of which, check out this Six Degrees of Separation about the costumes used in this movie. I had no idea these Regency costumes got passed around so much in the entertainment world. Who knew??

5. Swordplay, fight scenes, derring-do… what you always wished you could see Mr. Darcy do to Wickham, but of course, The Jane would never show such a thing. Alexandre Dumas pere does. Huzzah!

6. One of the things I love about this story (which BTW was said to be Mark Twain’s favorite book) is the spiritual dimension it goes into as a counterpoint to its physical vigor. God comes up a lot as Edmond Dantes tries to understand why this injustice has befallen him and what he’s going to do about it. Spiritual ideas are further explored when he befriends an elderly priest in prison. Played by the great Richard Harris, Abbe Faria is a true Rennaissance man, a priest, scholar and former soldier, who gives the illiterate Dantes an education worthy of a gentleman while in prison. It is also the Abbe who clues Dantes in to the location of the treasure that will allow him to transform himself into the Count of Monte Cristo.

I really appreciate this movie because it is such an inspiration to me personally in the kinds of stories I like to write. We are fortunate that Hollywood saw fit to make so many beautiful Jane Austen movies in recent years, but my personal hankering in Regency tales involves more action/adventure and danger/derring-do than the kinds of stories Austen was interested in telling ~ throw in an earnest spiritual search ~ crashing highs and lows of emotion ~ and I’m in heaven. The Jane movies (Colin Firth et al) strike me more like soft, gentle watercolors full of charm and subtle wit, whereas the Count of Monte Cristo comes at us with bold colors and strong contrasts of dark and light. That’s the kind of story that helps to put me in touch with what I want to achieve in my own small way as a writer.

What movies inspire you? Whether period movies or writer-themed movies…is there a go-to film that you watch when you need to remember the “mood” or “feel” of what you’re doing as a writer? Or just inspire you about life?

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