The Man in the Iron Mask
- Louis XIV (DiCaprio) and Raoul's intended
This week's DVD is the 1998 version of The Man in the Iron Mask, starring Jeremy Irons (as Aramis), Gabriel Byrne (as D'Artagnan), John Malkovich (as Athos), Gérard Depardieu (as Porthos), and Leonardo DiCaprio (as King Louis XIV), and adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas.
What mde me think of the movie was a blog post somewhere about a murder mystery, which had a linkt to the poison affair, which in turn had a link to the real-life man in the iron mask of French history. I just thought I'd mention this, as sometimes truth can be stranger than fiction. But back to the movie ...
For those not familiar with the stroy, it picks up about twenty years after the events of The Three/Four Musketeers. Much has changed ... King Louis XIII has died, as has Cardinal Richelieu, and his son Louis XiV now reigns ... Athos has retired from the Musketeers and has raised a son, Raoul .... D'Artagnan is now the captain of the Musketeers ... Aramis has become (in secret) the Superior General of the Jesuits :-).
The basic plot - Louis is a corrupt king, the people of Paris are going hungry and rioting ... Louis falls for Raoul's true love, and so sends Raoul to the war front where he is killed ... and finally, Louis has also called for the assassination of the General of the Jesuits. All this prompts Aramis, Athos and Porthos to conspire to replace Louis with his twin brother, who had led his whole life as a prisoner, wearing an iron mask.
Here below is a bit of Roger Ebert's review of the movie ...
On the island of St. Marguerite, offshore from Cannes of all places, still stands the rude stone fortress where the Man in the Iron Mask spent his lonely days. I have sat below his window in a little Italian trattoria, while the owner assured me that the man in the mask was no less than the twin brother of Louis XIV, held there because the state could not tolerate another claimant to the throne.
No one knows who the man in the mask was, but his dangerous identity must have been the whole point of the mask, so the twin brother theory is as good as any ....
Louis XIV and his brother are played by Leonardo DiCaprio in a dual role, his first since "Titanic". He looks well-fed as the despotic ruler and not particularly gaunt, for that matter, as the man in the mask. As the film opens, he presides over a court that lives in decadent luxury, while street mobs riot for bread in the streets. The beautiful Christine (Judith Godreche) catches his eye, and since she's engaged to the young Raoul (Peter Sarsgaard), the king sends Raoul off to war and makes sure he gets killed there.
The death of Raoul enrages his father, Athos (John Malkovich), one of the original musketeers, who enlists his comrades, Aramis (Jeremy Irons) and Porthos (Gerard Depardieu), in a plan for revenge. Also involved, on the other side, is the original fourth musketeer, D'Artagnan (Gabriel Byrne), who remains loyal to Louis XIV and the twins' mother, Queen Anne (Anne Parillaud) ...
Leonardo DiCaprio is the star of the story without being its hero, although his first emergence from the mask is an effective shot. The three musketeers are cast with big names (Irons, Malkovich, Depardieu) but to my surprise the picture is stolen by Gabriel Byrne, who has the most charisma and is the most convincing. His scenes with Parillaud (from "La Femme Nikita") are some of the best in the movie. Once all the pieces of the plot were in place, I was at least interested, if not overwhelmed ...
The one thing I disliked about the movie was that the screenplay deviated from the stroyline of the novel, but aside from that, I enjoyed it enough to buy it ... but then, I'm a fan of this period of French history, of Dumas, and of Irons and Byrne.
- Athos, Porthos and Aramis