The Man in the Iron Mask
) is a film directed by Randall Wallace
. It uses characters from
' D'Artagnan Romances
, and is very loosely
adapted from some plot elements of The Vicomte de Bragelonne
also bears several similarities with the 1939 film version
movie centers on the aging Musketeers Athos, Porthos, Aramis and
D'Artagnan and the reign of King Louis XIV of France
attempts to explain the mystery of the Man in the Iron Mask
, using a plot most
similar to the 1939
. Although a critical failure, scoring a 31% "Rotten"
rating on Rotten Tomatoes
it was successful financially, and is notable for ending
) four month stay
at the summit of the U.S. box
France is under the
reign of the militaristic King Louis XIV (Leonardo DiCaprio), who is bankrupting the country with his
unpopular wars. When starving peasants in Paris start to
riot for food, he responds by ordering his chief advisor, Pierre
(Hugh Laurie), to send them rotten food
- although he later unjustly orders Pierre executed for
Meanwhile, the King wallows in hedonistic luxury and
seduces a parade of women. The legendary three musketeers have
retired from their posts: Aramis
) is now a priest
of the Jesuit
) is a frequent
visitor to Parisian brothels
) has a son named Raoul
who is just back from the war and ready to marry the girl he loves,
Christine Bellefort (Judith
). At a festival, the two lovers are greeted by an
) and wished luck, but just
before Raoul can propose, the King's eyes fall on Christine. He
arranges for Raoul to be returned to combat and killed in a
In the wake of Raoul's death, Louis invites Christine to the palace
where she sleeps with him, grateful for the medical assistance his
doctors have given to her mother and sister. When Louis orders the
death of the secret leader of the Jesuit order, Aramis initiates a
plot to overthrow the King with the help of his old comrades for he
is the secret leader of the order of Jesuits. Only Athos and
Porthos agree to the plan; D'Artangan refuses to betray his oath of
allegiance. The three musketeers sneak into an island prison and
arrange the escape of a mysterious prisoner: a man in an iron mask.
They replace him with a corpse in a matching iron mask so the
guards will not know. They take the young man to a safe house in
the countryside and unmask him: he is Philippe (Leonardo DiCaprio
), the identical twin
of King Louis. While he is
identical to his brother, Philippe is compassionate and gentle.
Aramis reveals that he was sent away by his father, King Louis XIII
, to save France from dynastic warfare.
Later, Louis XIV was too superstitious to have his brother
murdered; instead, he devised a way to keep him hidden: the iron
mask. Aramis was the one who took Philippe away to prison, an act
which has haunted him ever since.
Meanwhile, King Louis succeeds in seducing Christine completely,
claiming that he ordered Raoul to be placed far from the
battlefront. Later, Christine receives a letter from Raoul,
predicting his death and saying that he forgives her for becoming
the King's mistress.
Athos, Porthos and Aramis teach Philippe how to act like royalty,
so he may replace Louis as King. Together they abduct Louis during
a fancy dress ball, telling him that Judgment Day
has come. Before his absence is
revealed, Philippe takes his place. Unfortunately, Philippe's good
nature gives him away (when he helps a lady up from the floor when
she falls over) and spares Christine's life when she storms in and
accuses him of murdering Raoul, promising to make amends for
wronging her. D'Artagnan realizes something is amiss and forcibly
escorts Philippe outside. They arrive at the docks just as Athos,
Porthos and Aramis are about to sail for the Bastille with Louis.
The men collectively decide to make a trade for the brothers'
lives; however, Philippe is re-captured in the ensuing
However, D'Artagnan is stunned to learn that Philippe is Louis's
brother and pleads with Louis to spare his life. Louis at first
refuses, but Philippe, knowing his friends will come for him,
bluffs that he is more terrified of the iron mask than death
itself. Therefore, Louis orders him returned to it and placed
within the Bastille. In the meantime, a distraught Christine is
found hanging from her bedroom window.
Athos, Porthos and Aramis brush off their old uniforms from their
days of glory and (with D'Artagnan's help) break into the Bastille
and escape with Philippe. Louis, however, has prepared an ambush.
However, the narrowness of the corridor (and the guards' respect
for D'Artagnan, their captain) prevents them from overwhelming the
four musketeers with their numbers. Determined to save his friends,
Philippe offers to give himself up in exchange for their lives.
D'Artagnan refuses, saying that he could never give up his son. He
explains that he is the twins' father from having an affair with
Queen Anne (Anne Parillaud
), and that
it was out of fatherly devotion that he served Louis, not loyalty.
He adds that Philippe has made him feel pride as a father for the
The four musketeers and Philippe then charge at Louis's front line.
The soldiers are so amazed by their "magnificent valour" that they
close their eyes before firing their muskets. The smoke clears to
reveal the five men still standing; all the shots, barring a few
flesh wounds, missed.
An enraged Louis lunges toward Philippe and tries to stab him.
However, D'Artagnan jumps between them, and is fatally wounded. A
devastated Philippe knocks Louis down and begins to strangle him.
D'Artagnan, with his dying breaths, reminds Philippe that Louis is
his brother. Philippe embraces his father as he dies, commenting
that D'Artagnan was the one wearing a mask. D'Artagnan's right-hand
man, Lieutenant Andre (Edward
), furious at Louis for killing his mentor (he notes,
"All my life, all I ever wanted to be was HIM."), is stunned to
learn that Philippe is Louis's brother. He orders his men to leave
and swears them to secrecy. By the time another battalion breaks
into via another door, the three musketeers and Lieutenant Andre
have made Louis and Philippe swap clothes and locked Louis in the
iron mask. Philippe introduces Athos, Porthos, Aramis as his royal
council and truest friends. Posing as the King, Philippe orders the
guards to take Louis away to a place where no one can hear his
insane rantings but to feed him well; a fitting punishment for a
man who has hurt so many without compassion or remorse.
The next day, Philippe, Athos, Porthos, Aramis and Queen Anne
attend D'Artagnan's funeral, in which the three musketeers are
finally redeemed. With Louis (whom Philippe, for the sake of their
blood relation, granted a royal pardon) now living peacefully in a
country house, France is now at peace under the reign of
Music for this film was written by English composer Nick Glennie-Smith
. Figure skater Alexei
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
- Heart Of A King
- The Pig Chase
- The Ascension
- King For A King
- The Moon Beckons
- The Masked Ball
- A Taste Of Something
- Kissy Kissie
- Training To Be King
- The Rose
- All Will Be Well
- All For One
- Greatest Mystery Of Life
- Raoul And Christine
- It Is A Trap
- Angry Athos
- Raoul's Letter
- The Palace
- Raoul's Death
- Queen Approaches
Differences between versions
The novel and the filmed versions of the tale have some differences
in how they portray the Royal Twins and in how they present the
plot to switch them.
In Dumas' The Vicomte de Bragelonne
, although the plot to
replace King Louis XIV with his twin brother is foiled, the twin
brother 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. In the 1929 silent version,
The Iron Mask
the King is depicted favorably and the twin brother is depicted as
a pawn in an evil plot, so the plot being foiled by d'Artagnan and
his Three Musketeer friends seems more appropriate.
But in the 1998 version, the King is depicted very negatively while
his twin brother is portrayed with considerable sympathy, with the
plot to switch the two brothers being presented as an attempt to
save France from a bad king by replacing him with the one man in
France who has an equal claim. d'Artagnan finds himself torn
between loyalty to his King and loyalty to his Three Musketeer
friends; the way in which this conflict is resolved provides much
of the dramatic tension in this version.
Furthermore, it is revealed that d'Artagnan himself is the actual
father of the twins, as well as being dedicated to the interests of
France. His paternal feelings therefore complicate his dilemma, as
he hopes that his son will one day prove himself worthy of his role
in life, admitting at the end that it is only when meeting
Phillippe that he felt true pride as a father.
Historical and literary inaccuracies
All historical persons and events depicted in the film are heavily
fictionalized (as mentioned in an opening narration with the voice
of Jeremy Irons), even more than in Dumas' original works.
Historical blunders also abound:
- A portrait of Louis XV can be
seen in Louis XIV's apartments: the film takes place about half a
century before Louis XIV's great-grandson and successor was even
- The fact that Louis XIV, after being replaced by his own twin
brother, was remembered as France's most generous king, is
generally viewed as a huge historical error by French audiences.
Louis XIV is considered by the general public in France as an
authoritarian, heartless king, if a political genius.
- D'Artagnan's death is inconsistent with the actual character's
biography: the real d'Artagnan
died in battle more than ten years later, as depicted in The
Vicomte de Bragelonne.
- Louis XIV had, in real life, a brother called Philippe: the
d'Orléans, who is not depicted in the film, was not,
however, the King's twin.
- Set in 1662, the film implies that the king is unmarried; by
then he had been married for some two years to Infanta María Teresa of Spain
The film is also inconsistent in its treatment of Alexandre Dumas
' fictional universe: the
plot reveals that d'Artagnan was Anne of
's lover (and hence the father of Louis XIV and of his
twin brother), while none of Dumas's works even remotely implied
such a relationship.
The character of Christine is comparable to the historical Louise de la Vallière
, a mistress
of Louis XIV's who, in Dumas's novel, is also loved by both the
young king and Raoul. Her name change may have been so as not to
create confusion between 'Louise' and 'Louis'.
- 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.
- The Man in the Iron Mask at
- 1998 Boxoffice
- See his costume for this program at www.olympic.org
- Définition de Swashbuckler dans le glossaire
4. Box Office Mojo Weekend Charts for 1998, weekend 1
. Retrieved 2007-09-04