The Man in the Iron Mask
starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jeremy Irons, Michael Byrne, John Malkovich and Gerard Depardieu
directed by Randall Wallace
This film was Leonardo DiCaprio’s first, and so far only big project after James Cameron’s 1998 Titanic blockbuster in which he starred with Kate Winslet. Rumor has it that DiCapiro is slow to commit himself to film projects and that this is a source of some speculation in Hollywood about his career. In Hollywood, hesitation can be fatal to a career,
as Kevin Kline can tell.
Based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas, who also authored The Three Musketeers, the story is a great tale pregnant with drama.
However, I am not a Leonardo DiCaprio fan, and I think that his face, his voice, and his acting manner all detract from the greatness of the story here. Teenage girls really love Leonardo, especially Japanese girls. He has a sweet, almost effeminate face which, for me, is a major drag. But it makes him look non-threatening and therefore more appealing to females.
One of his next film will be Bret Easton Ellis’s novel American Psycho [a role that eventually wnt to Christian Bale], and I find it difficult to imagine DiCaprio as the protagonist of that story. Still, who can understand Hollywood? Who wants to?
The supporting actors in Iron Mask are all men of considerable talent. But they have to take a back seat to DiCaprio’s lesser talent because he has the lead role. He is the great star of the moment. The effect is disappointing.
The lead role in this case is the French monarch Louis XIV (1638-1715), the Sun King, who reigned over the height of French court culture during the Age of the Enlightenment when modern national states were forming and the notion of the divine right of kings was approaching its end in European history.
The story is an implausible one. Set in 1662, the young Louis is a poor king, enjoying the life of depraved indulgence while his people starve and he lavishes money on the army and dabbling in foreign wars. The musketeers from The Three Musketeers story - Porthos, Athos, Aramis and D’Artangnan - are still alive, but are much older now. D’Artangnan is captain of the king’s guards, while his fighting companions of younger years are retired and leading different lives.
Outraged by the shortcomings of their king, the Musketeers plan to abduct him and secretly replace him with his identical twin brother. Knowledge of the existence of the brother is strictly secret, and to safeguard him his face is hidden behind an iron mask locked around his head. No one , not even the prison guards, knows the identity of the man in the iron mask. That knowledge is reserved only for a few palace inmates.
It’s a fabulous story, but hardly likely in the real world. What is unquestionably true, however, is that in 1789, when Parisians stormed The Bastille prison during the French Revolution, they discovered prison documents recording a prisoner known only as“the Man in the Iron Mask.” This is the food of conspiracy theories and historical intrigue. Most authorities dismiss the idea as implausible. But it is a story filled with human drama, suffering and pathos. I don’t think Leonardo DiCapiro does the story justice.