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Count of Monte Cristo and CS Lewis

One of the first questions I ask someone when they recommend a movie is “What’s your favorite movie?” I actually think this is a good and fair question because it gives me insight to the type of movies this person prefers and allows me to grade their opinion to some kind of standard. If the person says their favorite movie is “Sister Act 2” then this would tell they either don’t get out much or their exposure to some of the renowned films in the last several decades have managed to meet millions minus one.

The second thing I do is keeping tabs on movies the person recommends. This becomes helpful over time of course. My father in Texas is currently at 3 stars in movies he’s recommended. Some were great others well…that’s why he has 3 instead 4. But again, this one takes time. If someone recommends a movie and they are willing to put their “rep” on the line, then they know what is at stake. Thus, to give a movie your highest recommendation could potentially reflect well or poorly on your taste in the cinema.

About a month ago, my bride and I met for dinner with my in-laws. A small pizzeria that interestingly was championed as having the finest pizza in San Diego but it was empty (Perhaps the polling sample was small). In the course of the meal my father in-law spoke of a movie, “The Count of Monte Cristo”. I simply replied “never seen it…” and continued eating. It brought a reaction from all present company almost as if I had said “my favorite movie is Sister Act 2”. My father in-law insisted that the movie was worth watching and though I had obviously heard of it I had no interest in seeing it. I briefly gave him my criteria for taking movie recommendations and he remained persistent to his claim. A few weeks later, the netflix shows up in the mail “What is it?” “Count of Monte Cristo” to which I sighed and in all honesty, I wasn’t too thrilled. I’m one of those types who doesn’t mind going to the restaurant and ordering the same meal I like every time. That way I know I’ll like it. I don’t care what the specials are, I’m not interested in deals or values. Every once in awhile however, I break and try the special. So here’s my review of the special (“The Count of Monte Cristo”).

The movie starts out in the setting of France in the time of Napoleon. Now as for me, I’m not a big fan of France. So movies about France are even less interesting. But I stuck it out. Two friends Edmond and Fernand have grown up with each other. They work on a ship and the captain falls ill. In an emergency act they land on the one island that is being used as the island of exile of Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon trusts Edmond with a letter back to Paris. Edmond is true to his word but shortly upon his arrival in Paris he is accused of treason for carrying a message from Napoleon. Edmond (who is illiterate) pleads ignorance and all is excused till a wicked twist occurs and he is sentenced to a prison located on a remote island.

While Edmond is imprisoned he falls into deep despair and the audience can’t help but feel insanity setting in and taking its rightful place. From his imprisonment Edmond meets with a priest who helps him get into a position to avenge his false imprisonment of 13 years and the theft of his fiancee Mercedes.

The movie is one of those “has it all” films with parts that will make you laugh, cry, cringe and make you thankful for the comfy couch your sitting on. It did well in its focus on character development but I think a fair critique would be of the lack of development of Mercedes. I am told the movie isn’t true to the book (I wouldn’t know, because if I didn’t want to see the movie to begin with it is pretty obvious I hadn’t read the book). However, in all fairness the writer of the movie claims he was tasked to make a movie and the book wouldn’t have been a good movie.

So in the end, I liked the movie and frankly speaking, I’m glad I did. I would have hated to have wasted my time. Instead I was able to add another movie to the list of movies I like and Dad kept his movie rep.

One part in particular left me intrigued. I have reflected on it and I think I can share with you without spoiling the movie. When Edmond is brought to the prison he pleads that he is innocent. He claims to have been falsely arrested though knowing the warden has heard this from every prisoner prior to Edmond’s arrival. To Edmond’s amazement, the warden confirms Edmond’s claims but continues to process him as an inmate. Edmond stood bewildered that this man knew Edmond was innocent yet was going through with this act of injustice.

My point? As we watch this we know that justice is deserved. Yet we are seeing the opposite and arrive at a conclusion somewhat saying “that isn’t right!” Where does this sense of justice come from? You see, the fact that the writers of the movie know they can play to our sense of justice tells us there is a common thread among humans. We have an innate sense of justice that doesn’t escape us and in the end points to a transcendental quality that can only be rationally grounded in a supernatural being. God. C.S. Lewis recognized this and it was one of the reasons he cast down his atheism and eventually converted to Christianity.

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course, I could have given up my idea of justice by saying that it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too–for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist–in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless–I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality–namely my idea of justice–was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.” -C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

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