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The Man in the Iron Mask (1998 film)

The Man in the Iron Mask
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Randall Wallace
Produced by Randall Wallace
Russell Smith
Screenplay by Randall Wallace
Based on The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later 
by Alexandre Dumas
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio
Jeremy Irons
John Malkovich
Gérard Depardieu
Gabriel Byrne
Music by Nick Glennie-Smith
Cinematography Peter Suschitzky
Edited by William Hoy
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • March 13, 1998 (1998-03-13) (United States)
  • March 20, 1998 (1998-03-20) (United Kingdom)
Running time
132 minutes
Country United States[1]
Language English
Budget $35 million
Box office $182,968,902

The Man in the Iron Mask is a 1998 adventure film[2] 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 D'Artagnan. The picture uses characters from Alexandre Dumas' D'Artagnan 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 D'Artagnan during the reign of King Louis XIV of France 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 the original Dumas book.


France is under the reign of a cruel and self-centered version of King Louis XIV, who spends his time declaring a war, distributing rotten food to the now-rioting citizens of Paris, and seducing women who hope to win his heart and become Queen.

Aramis is now an aging priest, and Porthos likes to spend his time drinking and hanging around with women half his age (who fancy him). But Athos is different: he has a son named Raoul (in his twenties) who is prepared to join the Musketeers and has just built up enough courage to propose to the girl he loves, Christine Bellefort. At the festival, the two loves are greeted by an older D'Artagnan and wished luck, but just before Raoul can propose, Louis' eyes fall on Christine from afar, and he immediately plots to have Raoul killed.

D'Artagnan informs Athos of this, and Athos swears that if Louis dares to harm Raoul, Louis will become his enemy and so will anyone else who interferes, even D'Artagnan. Unfortunately, Athos' friendship with D'Artagnan is shattered when Raoul is sent to war and killed by the cannons on the battlefront. Driven by revenge, Athos attempts to assassinate Louis, but he is stopped by the guards and spared when D'Artagnan orders them to let Athos go home, but Athos still refers to D'Artagnan as a traitor.

After hearing this, Aramis plots to overthrow Louis with Athos and Porthos' help (D'Artagnan refuses to aid them for unknown reasons) using a secret plan Aramis has formed. The three musketeers free a mysterious young man from the Bastille: a man in an Iron Mask. They take the man to a safe house in the village and unmask him, and he is revealed to be the identical twin of Louis: Phillipe. Although he looks the same as his cold-hearted brother, Phillipe is the polar opposite, and he accepts the truth behind his past.

Meanwhile, Louis succeeds in seducing Christine (Louis tells her that he ordered Raoul a place far away from the battlefront, but his orders were disobeyed by the general), and they eventually make love, but Christine later reveals that she was pretending to love him.

Athos, Porthos and Aramis teach Phillipe how to act like Louis so as to replace Louis with Phillipe, and they attempt to abduct Louis and take him to the Bastille during a fancy dress ball, replacing him with Phillipe and putting him in Phillipe's cell in the Bastille. They succeed at first, but Phillipe's good manners give it away a bit, especially after he helps a fallen woman to her feet and spares Christine's life after she calls him a lying murderer after having found out the truth about Raoul's death. Unfortunately, D'Artagnan asks Phillipe to escort him to the dungeons, and Phillipe can't refuse. They arrive at the dungeons just as Athos, Porthos and Aramis are about to sail to the Bastille. They make a trade for the brothers' lives, but during their escape, Phillipe is recaptured.

Phillipe and Louis talk, with their mother coming as well. Their mother as well as D'Artagnan beg for Phillipe's life to be spared. However, Phillipe begs to be killed instead of being sent back to the prison. Louis decides to send him back to the prison, where he will wear the mask until he loves it. That night Christine hangs herself.

D'Artagnan sends a message to Athos, Porthos, and Aramis that he will provide them with a window to save Phillipe. Thinking that it is a trap they wear their old Musketeer uniforms to enter the prison. Louis watches D'Artagnan and knows that they are trying to rescue Phillipe, Louis traps Athos, Porthos, Aramis, D'Artagnan, and Phillipe in the prison. D'Artagnan reveals that he is Phillipe and Louis' father.

They charge the other musketeers and because of their legend the soldiers are afraid to shoot them. The other musketeers shoot at them, missing, they then stand down because of D'Artagnan and the others bravery. Louis tries to kill Phillipe himself, ending up killing D'Artagnan. Phillipe and Louis switch places and Louis is placed in the mask, taken to a prison, where he is to feed well by a deaf, mute.



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. Vaux-le-Vicomte, Seine-et-Marne, France 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 built for the real finance minister of Louis XlV, Nicolas Fouquet. 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 château. Attended by Louis XlV at which the king's own palace was seen to be inferior to the new château of his non royal finance minister. The famous fête led to the downfall of Fouquet and the building of Versailles.

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 - and the Musketeers themselves are split, Aramis (with assistance from Porthos) siding with the prisoner, D'Artagnan with King Louis, and Athos retired from politics entirely. In the 1929 silent version, The Iron Mask starring Douglas Fairbanks as D'Artagnan, 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 Philippe 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 born.
  • The fact that Louis XIV, after being replaced by his twin brother, was remembered as France's most generous king, is generally viewed as a huge historical error by French audiences.[3] Louis XIV is considered by the general public in France as an authoritarian and heartless king, if not a political genius.
  • D'Artagnan's death is inconsistent with the actual character's biography: the real d'Artagnan died in battle at the siege of Maastricht, more than ten years later, as depicted in The Vicomte de Bragelonne. His death is consistent with the most important filmed versions of the tale though, including the 1929 and 1939 versions.
  • Louis XIV had, in real life, a brother called Philippe, Philippe d'Orléans, who is not depicted in the film. He 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
  • Although the original section of the Palace of Versailles serves as a setting for part of the film (set in 1662), construction was did not commence until 1664.
  • Notwithstanding the peace and prosperity alluded to at the film's conclusion, Louis XIV spent most of the remainder of his reign at war.

The film is also inconsistent in its treatment of Alexandre Dumas' fictional universe: the plot reveals that d'Artagnan was Anne of Austria's lover (and hence the father of Louis XIV and 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.

Critical Reception

Despite receiving a rather mixed to negative critical response, it was successful financially, benefiting greatly from Leonardo DiCaprio's post-Titanic boost in popularity.

The film currently holds a 33% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 36 reviews. It holds a 48% rating on Metacritic, based on 18 reviews.

Leonardo DiCaprio won a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Screen Couple for his interactions as twins in the film.


The Man in the Iron Mask (Original Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by Nick Glennie-Smith
Released March 10, 1998 (1998-03-10)
Genre Soundtrack
Length 50:34
Label Milan Records
Nick Glennie-Smith chronology

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Source Rating

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.[4]

  1. "Surrounded"
  2. "Heart of a King"
  3. "The Pig Chase"
  4. "The Ascension"
  5. "King for a King"
  6. "The Moon Beckons"
  7. "The Masked Ball"
  8. "A Taste of Something"
  9. "Kissy Kissie"
  10. "Training to Be King"
  11. "The Rose"
  12. "All Will Be Well"
  13. "All for One"
  14. "Greatest Mystery of Life"
  15. "Raoul and Christine"
  16. "It is a Trap"
  17. "Angry Athos"
  18. "Raoul's Letter"
  19. "The Palace"
  20. "Raoul's Death"
  21. "Queen Approaches"


  1. ^ "The Man in the Iron Mask". British Film Institute. London. Retrieved November 10, 2012. 
  2. ^ Olthuis, Andrew. "The Man in the Iron Mask". Allmovie. Retrieved November 10, 2012. 
  3. ^ Définition de Swashbuckler dans le glossaire Nanarland
  4. ^ See his costume for this program at

4. Box Office Mojo Weekend Charts for 1998, weekend 1 to 52. Retrieved 2007-09-04

External links

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