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"Edmund seems to have a knowledge and awe of God's immense plan, and he is able eventually to move beyond revenge."

 

Raymond Teague is the author of Reel Spirit: A Guide to Movies That
Inspire, Explore and Empower
, from Unity House. 

He is an award-winning
journalist, an editor of spiritual publications, a popular New Thought
speaker, and a lifelong movie buff. 

His book is available by clicking the "Buy the Book" link above or by clicking here.

  Raymond Teague, 
"Reel Spirit" Movie Reviews

The Count of Monte Cristo
(2002, 118 minutes, PG-13) 

All the fascinating characters, swashbuckling, treasure, intrigue, revenge, and romance in this new version of the 1844 Alexandre Dumas novel can't obscure the major player of the story - God.

Events in the life of Edmund Dantes, superbly played by James Caviezel, always come back to the consideration of God - the nature of a supreme being and that power's involvement in life. The situations that turn Edmund into the Count of Monte Cristo provide a grand lesson in learning to accept a God that is always present and that has a divine plan in which all is working for the greatest good, despite appearances to the contrary.

After he is betrayed by his supposed friend Fernand Mondego (Guy Pearce), falsely accused of treason and sentenced to an island prison, Edmund discovers this statement carved into the wall of his cell: "God will give me justice."

A trusting, brave, faithful, honest and loyal man, Edmund believes in God and God's justice and he is shocked at the prison warden's declaration "God has nothing to do with it."

Edmund declares, "God has everything to do with it. He's everywhere. He sees everything."

But Edmund's faith is severely tested during solitary, tormenting years in prison. Edmund reaches a point when he says, "God has faded from my heart" and admits that all he wants is revenge. Edmund is a dramatic example of all of us when situations are not what we expect or want or what we would normally term good or happy, and when we feel abandoned by God. It takes time, as it often does for people going through trying circumstances, to realize that God does indeed work in mysterious ways.

For Edmund, the realization of the Big Picture of God's involvement begins to come when a priest named Faria, played by Richard Harris, accidentally digs through the floor of Edmund's prison cell. The priest helps Edmund first by giving him a different picture of his relationship with God and of God's methods.

"I don't believe in God," Edmund says.

"That doesn't matter," the priest replies. "He believes in you."

The priest probably rightly ascertains that Edmund's core faith in God runs deep, though understandably shadowed by years of suffering. But the priest assists Edmund in realizing that his thoughts of revenge could be having a loftier purpose. "Perhaps your thoughts of revenge were keeping you alive for God's purpose these seven years."

The Dumas story does indeed reveal that Edmund has more of the important God work of loving and helping others to do.

The priest tells Edmund that there is something more precious - and ultimately more liberating - than freedom, and that is knowledge. "Freedom can be taken away," he explains, and knowledge cannot. The priest assists Edmund in expanding his knowledge and abilities in a variety of ways, including swordplay and reading. Undoubtedly, the priest considers awareness of God to be the most liberating form of knowledge.

When physical freedom does come for Edmund, he remains committed to revenge, but it is a revenge tempered by the priest's teachings and example. The priest encourages Edmund to use his knowledge and abilities "for good, only good."

When circumstances reunite Edmund with his former fiancee, now the wife of the man who betrayed him, God's presence and purpose again come to the forefront.

"God has offered us a new beginning," Mercedes tells Edmund.

"Can I never escape Him?" Edmund asks.

"No, He is in everything," she replies.

Edmund has told Mercedes' son, "What makes you a man is what you do when the storm comes." Edmund has survived a big storm of his own and worked through much anger and grief; in so doing, he proves himself a man open to living from an awareness of God's presence.

Like most people, Edmund sometimes is his own worst enemy in coming to an understanding that life doesn't have to be so difficult if we, to use the popular phrase, "let go and let God," and if we center ourselves in knowing and expressing love and compassion.

The count's loyal assistant, Jacobo (Luis Guzman) tells Edmund, "I will protect you, even if it means I must protect you from yourself." It is sometimes good to have friends and family around who will do that for us.

As wrongs are righted and injustices are corrected or exposed during the film, there are occasions of cruelty and even murder, but there is also a sense that the human sufferings are part of a bigger unfoldment that have meaning beyond human perception.

Edmund seems to have a knowledge and awe of God's immense plan, and he is able eventually to move beyond revenge. "All that was used for vengeance will now be used for good," Edmund declares. With such an awareness of God's presence and purpose, Edmund has at last received justice.

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