ⓘ The Man in the Iron Mask (1998 film)

The Man in the Iron Mask (1998 film)

ⓘ The Man in the Iron Mask (1998 film)

The Man in the Iron Mask is a 1998 American action drama film directed, produced, and written by Randall Wallace, and starring Leonardo DiCaprio in a dual role as the title character and villain, Jeremy Irons as Aramis, John Malkovich as Athos, Gerard Depardieu as Porthos, and Gabriel Byrne as DArtagnan. The picture uses characters from Alexandre Dumass DArtagnan Romances and is very loosely adapted from some plot elements of The Vicomte de Bragelonne.

The film centers on the aging four musketeers, Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and DArtagnan, during the reign of King Louis XIV and attempts to explain the mystery of the Man in the Iron Mask, using a plot more closely related to the flamboyant 1929 version starring Douglas Fairbanks, The Iron Mask, and the 1939 version directed by James Whale, than to the original Dumas book. Like the 1998 version, the two aforementioned adaptations were also released through United Artists.


1. Plot

In 1662, the Kingdom of France faces bankruptcy from King Louis XIVs wars against the Dutch Republic, which has left the countrys agriculture impeded by a heavy tax burden and forced the citizens to live on rotten food. Though the country appears to be on the verge of a revolution, Louis continues to spend his time preparing for war and seducing countless women. The three musketeers have gone their separate ways; Aramis is now an aging priest, Porthos has become a philandering drunk, and Athos is retired and living with his only son, Raoul, who aspires to join the Musketeers. Only DArtagnan has remained with the Musketeers, now serving as their Captain.

At a festival, Aramis learns that the Jesuit order has declared Louiss wars unjust and the source of public hunger and outrage. Louis personally instructs Aramis to secretly hunt down and kill the Jesuit leader. Also in attendance are Raoul and Christine Bellefort, the girl Raoul is in love with and plans to propose to. Louis immediately sets his sights on Christine, but faithful to Raoul, she resists his affections. A Jesuit assassin attempts to kill Louis but is killed by DArtagnan instead. Louis immediately plots to seduce Christine by having Raoul sent to the battlefront. DArtagnan visits Athos to warn him of the danger Raoul faces. But then Raoul arrives and informs his father he has been recalled to his regiment because he believes Louis desires Christine. Raoul nevertheless resolves to go immediately because he will not risk making Christine a widow nor consider himself a coward. Athos angrily warns DArtagnan that if Raoul is harmed, then Louis will become his enemy. DArtagnan tells Athos he will personally speak to Louis about Raoul.

An angry crowd from Paris attacks the Musketeers when they are fed rotten food, but DArtagnan calms the crowd and says he will personally speak to Louis about public hunger. Louis assures DArtagnan he will deal with the matter, and that Raoul will return soon from the war. Instead, Louis orders his chief adviser Pierre executed for distributing the rotten food despite the fact that Louis earlier ordered him to do so, and orders that all rioters are to be shot from now on. Raoul joins the war and is killed at the battlefront by cannon fire. Upon learning of his sons death, Athos attempts to kill Louis but is stopped by DArtagnan, and goes into exile. Louis invites Christine to the royal palace and coerces her into sex by pretending to care for her mourning and by promising to have his personal doctor treat her sick mother and sister and has them sent to recover at his country estate.

Aramis summons Porthos, Athos and DArtagnan for a secret meeting in which he reveals that he himself is the Jesuits leader and has a plan to depose Louis. Athos and Porthos agree, but DArtagnan refuses to cooperate citing his oath of honor cannot be removed or betrayed. Athos angrily confronts DArtagnan over his devotion and loyalty to Louis, but DArtagnan still refuses to join their plot. Athos brands him a traitor and threatens him with death should they ever meet again.

The three musketeers enter a remote prison and smuggle out an unnamed prisoner in an iron mask, taking him to the countryside, where Aramis reveals that he is Philippe, Louiss identical twin brother. Aramis reveals that the night Louis was born, his mother, Queen Anne, gave birth to twins. Louis XIII, hoping to avoid dynastic warfare between his sons, sent Philippe away to live in the countryside with no knowledge of his true identity. On his deathbed, Louis XIII revealed Philippes existence to Anne and Louis. Anne, having been told by her priest that Philippe had died at birth, then wished to restore Philippes birthright. But Louis, now king and too superstitious to have his brother killed, had Philippe imprisoned instead in the iron mask to keep his identity secret, something Aramis reluctantly carried out. Aramiss plan is now to redeem himself and save France by replacing Louis with Philippe. The musketeers begin training Philippe to act and behave like Louis, while Athos develops fatherly feelings for him.

At a masquerade ball, the musketeers lure Louis to his quarters and subdue him, dressing Philippe in his clothes while taking Louis to the dungeons. DArtagnan uncovers the ruse, after Christine accuses Philippe with evidence of Louiss role in Raouls death He had him placed on the frontline and is not rebuffed. He forcibly escorts Philippe to the dungeons and they confront the musketeers before they can take Louis to the Bastille. They trade twins, but Philippe is captured before the musketeers escape. DArtagnan is shocked to learn who Philippe is and begs Louis not to kill him, as does Anne. Louis refuses, but after Philippe pleads with Louis to kill him rather than put him back in the mask, Louis decides to send Philippe to the Bastille and have the mask placed on him again, cynically stating Philippe will "wear the mask until it.and die in it". He orders DArtagnan to bring him the severed heads of Athos, Porthos and Aramis or Louis will have his head. Meanwhile, Christine commits suicide by hanging herself outside Louiss bedroom window out of grief and remorse.

DArtagnan contacts his friends for help in rescuing Philippe from the Bastille. Louis, who suspected DArtagnan would help his friends, ambushes them at the prison. Though he offers DArtagnan clemency in exchange for surrender, DArtagnan refuses, privately revealing to Philippe and his friends that Louis and Philippe are actually his sons from an affair with the Queen. He also reveals he never knew Philippe existed, and never felt pride as a father until now. They charge one final time at Louis and his men and are fired upon; their bravery compels the soldiers to close their eyes before firing and all miss. Louis attempts to stab Philippe but wounds DArtagnan fatally. Philippe attacks Louis but stops when DArtagnan reminds him that Louis his brother. Athos asks DArtagnans forgiveness, realizing his loyalty to Louis was out of fatherly devotion to his son, the same fatherly devotion Athos had to his son Raoul. DArtagnan dies in his friends arms.

DArtagnans top lieutenant, Andre, angered by his mentors death, swears his men to secrecy and orders them out of the prison, siding with Philippe. He and the Musketeers switch the twins places again. Philippe orders Louis locked away and fed by a deaf mute, placing him in the iron mask, but to be treated well, and then names Athos, Porthos and Aramis as his royal counsel. A small funeral is held for DArtagnan, where Philippe admits to Athos that he has come to love him like a father, which Athos reciprocates. Philippe later issues Louis a royal pardon and sends him to live peacefully in the countryside visited often by Anne, and goes on to become one of Frances greatest kings. The tombstone of DArtagnan has an iron mask imprint chiseled upon it by his friends Philippe saying earlier that due to his secret, DArtagnan was the real man in the iron mask.


2. Cast

  • Leonardo DiCaprio as Philippe Bourbon/King Louis XIV
  • John Malkovich as Athos
  • David Lowe as Advisor to King Louis XIV
  • Edward Atterton as Lieutenant Andre
  • Jeremy Irons as Aramis
  • Anne Parillaud as Queen Anne of Austria
  • Hugh Laurie as Pierre, Advisor to King Louis XIV
  • Gerard Depardieu as Porthos
  • Gabriel Byrne as DArtagnan
  • Peter Sarsgaard as Raoul, son of Athos
  • Judith Godreche as Christine Bellefort

3. Production

In this version, the "man in the iron mask" is introduced as prisoner number 64389000 based on the number related to his namesake found at the Bastille. Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte is the stand in for all the scenes that are supposed to be Versailles, although in the book, the switch between Louis and Philippe happens at Vaux-le-Vicomte. Vaux-le-Vicomte, the prototype for Versailles, was historically built for Nicolas Fouquet, Superintendent of Finances for Louis XlV.

In some versions, the switch takes place at a real and actual event the "fête de Vaux" 17 August 1661, a famous party for the unveiling of the new chateau. The party was attended by Louis XlV, who realized that the kings own palace was seen as inferior to the new chateau of his non-royal finance minister. The famous fête led to the downfall of Fouquet and the building of Versailles.


4. Differences between versions

The novel and the filmed versions of the tale have some differences in how they portray the royal twins and the plot to switch them.

In Alexandre Dumass The Vicomte de Bragelonne, although the plot to replace King Louis XIV with his twin brother is foiled, the twin is initially depicted as a much more sympathetic character than the King. However, in the last part of the novel, the King is portrayed as an intelligent, more mature, and slightly misunderstood man who in fact deserves the throne - and the Musketeers themselves are split, Aramis with assistance from Porthos, who is ignorant and easily duped siding with the prisoner, DArtagnan with King Louis, and Athos retiring from politics entirely. DArtagnan, foiling the plot of the others, is tasked with capturing his friends, who have taken refuge in a fortress in Bretony: he resigns his command, knowing that he will be arrested and his subordinate will open fire anyway. Without DArtagnans command and his tactical knowledge of his friends-turned-foes, Aramiss fortress refuge is taken by the kings men but at great loss of life, while Porthos dies in a heroic last stand and Aramis escapes to take political asylum in Spain and later return as a member of the Spanish embassage, to ensure their neutrality should France and Holland come to blows. DArtagnan explains himself to the King, and is pardoned and restored to his position, and told that if he wants the final promotion he was on the point of earning, he had better go and win it on a foreign field: in the later war against Holland, he is finally awarded promotion to the supreme command, only to be killed while reading the notice of his promotion at the siege of Maastricht.

In the 1929 silent version, The Iron Mask starring Douglas Fairbanks as DArtagnan, the King is depicted favorably and the twin brother as a pawn in an evil plot whose thwarting by DArtagnan and his companions seems more appropriate.

In the 1998 film, the King is depicted negatively while his twin brother is sympathetically portrayed. DArtagnans loyalties are torn between his King and his three Musketeer friends. He is also revealed as the father of the twins, as well as being dedicated to the interests of France.

Finally the 1998 film shows a clear inspiration from the biblical story of King David and Uriah in dealing with Raouls fate, which lacks in the novel.


5. Historical inaccuracies

Many historical persons and events depicted in the film are heavily fictionalized, as declared in an opening narration.

  • Louis XIV had a real-life brother, Philippe I, Duke of Orleans, who is not depicted in the film and was not the Kings twin. Louis XIV was born in 1638. Philippe I was his younger brother, born in 1640. Philippe was the founder of the House of Orleans, a cadet branch of the House of Bourbon. He appears in the original Dumas novels - as a foppish, probably homosexual dandy - but is not involved in the Iron Mask plot on either side, getting little more than a reference that he is the only brother Louis is prepared to acknowledge.
  • Notwithstanding the peace and prosperity alluded to at the films conclusion, Louis XIV spent most of the remainder of his reign at war.
  • DArtagnans death is inconsistent with biographic fact. The character is based on Charles de Batz-Castelmore dArtagnan, a captain of the Musketeers of the Guard, who was killed in battle during the Siege of Maastricht 1673 - an event that concludes the Dumas novels, in which DArtagnan is killed while reading the long-awaited notice of his promotion to the supreme command.
  • Set in 1662, the film portrays the king as unmarried. The historical Louis XIV married his first wife Maria Theresa of Spain in 1660. They remained married until her death in 1683.
  • A portrait of Louis XV can be seen in Louis XIVs apartments. Louis XV was the great-grandson and successor of Louis XIV. He was born in 1710, and the events of the film take place about half a century before his birth.

6. Reception

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 33% based on 40 reviews. The sites critical consensus states: "Leonardo DiCaprio plays dual roles with diminishing returns in The Man in the Iron Mask, a cheesy rendition of the Musketeers epilogue that bears all the pageantry of Alexandre Dumas text, but none of its romantic panache." On Metacritic it has a score of 48% based on 18 reviews.


The film was nominated for the Best Original Score for an Adventure Film by the International Film Music Critics Award IFMCA.

Depardieu was nominated for the European Film Academy Achievement in World Cinema Award for his role as Porthos. DiCaprio won a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Screen Couple for his interactions as twins in the film.


7. Soundtrack

Music for this film was written by English composer Nick Glennie-Smith. Figure skater Alexei Yagudin became a gold medalist skating to this music in the 2002 Winter Olympics. He won with the program The Man in the Iron Mask, based on the movie soundtrack.

  • "King for a King"
  • "The Masked Ball"
  • "Heart of a King"
  • "Training to Be King"
  • "Greatest Mystery of Life"
  • "All for One"
  • "Kissy Kissie"
  • "Surrounded"
  • "Raouls Death"
  • "Raoul and Christine"
  • "The Moon Beckons"
  • "The Ascension"
  • "All Will Be Well"
  • "The Palace"
  • "Angry Athos"
  • "Queen Approaches"
  • "The Rose"
  • "It is a Trap"
  • "Raouls Letter"
  • "The Pig Chase"
  • "A Taste of Something"
  • Moonlight Mask 月光仮面, Gekkō Kamen a.k.a. The Moonbeam Man is a fictional superhero that has appeared in Japanese tokusatsu and anime television shows
  • depicts a young boy in a child s Iron Man mask standing bravely in front of one of Justin Hammer s drones which aims at him. Just in time, the boy is rescued
  • Damon The Man in the Iron Mask 1998 film Philippe King Louis XIV Leonardo DiCaprio Blood Diamond Daniel Danny Archer Leonardo DiCaprio The Departed
  • alluded in Iron Man Armored Adventures. Her image was used in the episode Iron Monger Lives by Madame Masque s mask to impersonate in order to mess
  • 1994 Rex Ryon, in an early 1998 film of The Man in the Iron Mask Gerard Depardieu, in The Man in the Iron Mask 1998 Steve Speirs, in The Musketeer 2001
  • William Richert, in an early 1998 film of The Man in the Iron Mask Jeremy Irons, in The Man in the Iron Mask 1998 Thomas Beckett, in Three Musketeers
  • Fulvia Film. He is also notable as the designer of the mask used in the film The Man in the Iron Mask 1998 film De Rossi continued creating FX for
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  • attributed the band s name to a film adaptation of The Man in the Iron Mask from the novel by Alexandre Dumas, the title of which reminded him of the iron maiden

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