Currently, the Argentine network Telefe is rebroadcasting on its satellite channel one of its most popular recent telenovelas, “Montecristo,” a modern take on the classic Dumas tale. [Note: This version is now available on Dramafever.]
As it aired in 2006, the producers sold the script to several other network producers, from Mexico and Chile. In fact, the resulting productions are close carbon copies of more than the script: the staging, set decor, even soundtrack, are inspired by the original. The version produced in Mexico by TV Azteca was a highly successful retelling of the story – I had the opportunity to see it first and was impressed by many of the production details, particularly as fully realized, rich storytelling has suffered lately in the telenovela industry. With the airing of the original, I can compare the two productions and both clearly have made their mark.
The scene below is one example of the intense connection between the protagonists Laura (played by Paola Krum) and Santiago (played by Pablo Echarri). Their characters have been separated for over ten years, she has believed him dead, and they meet face-to-face for the first time. He runs (for reasons to complex to detail here) and she follows.
The Chilean version, from what I’ve seen, suffers in comparison. Here Laura is played by Ingrid Isensee and Santiago by Gonzalo Valenzuela.
But the Mexican version, starring Silvia Navarro and Diego Olivera offers a very satisfying comparison: whereas Paola and Pablo created a more fragile, wounded pair finding their way back to each other, Silvia and Diego are fiercer, more engaged in the battle of righting wrongs. Both productions pack a lot of emotional impact. Here’s a direct comparison of the Telefe scene.
The best part of the different interpretations is that, while the stories are almost identical on so many levels, the distinctive interpretations of the actors allows both productions to feel fresh. This is an instance where a remake successfully competes with the original.