Phantom of the Opera Mask

Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel, The Phantom of the Opera, has actually been filmed at least a fifty percent a dozen times, turned into a very successful Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, and used as incentive for one of the the majority of common halloween masks. Behind masks, we hide our true selves. Carl Jung would say those are masks of the persona: the ego adapting to its scenarios. But the physicial mask that hides the horrible, or a challenge to be pitied (or both)? That’s distinctive to Romantic fiction. Especially to the horror genre. And definitely to Phantom of the Opera.

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THE NOVEL (1910)

For Leroux, the mask as symbol is rather complex; in enhancement to having his phantom, Erik, hide a hideous visage, Leroux writes that “none will ever be a true Parisian that has actually not learned to wear a mask of gaiety over his sorrows and among sadness, boredom, or indistinction over his inward joy.” We are tested to challenge that we all wear masks — not simply the ghold of the Opera house that longs for the beautiful Christine. In the gothic heritage to which Leroux’s novel belongs (along with all the adaptations that come later), the masked face is certainly romanticized.

The tale is familiar (well, to human being like me it is): Erik hears Christine sing, and also is captivated. But he knows himself to be so dedeveloped that Christine will certainly be repulsed by him. So he waits, covertly aiding Christine is her career. Minor personalities are literally disposed of, and also the primary characters ultimately find themselves at a pivotal moment when the mask will come off. Hideous boy will certainly stand also prior to beautiful girl, and all will be revealed.

But all what? Disgust? Pity? Overwhelming love?

Here’s wright here the novel and its many adaptations differ.

In the novel, as soon as Erik is alone with Christine — ameans from her suitor, Raoul (whom Erik has actually imprisoned) — he lifts his mask, revealing his deformity, and also kisses her on the forehead. She retransforms his kiss. Erik then reveals that he has never before obtained a kiss — not also from his mommy — and also is fairly overwhelmed through equal components sadness and joy. He tells Christine that he has never before felt so cshed to an additional humale being, and also turns from wicked means — releasing Raoul. Why? The novel makes it clear: he has been conserved by love. Indeed, Leroux has actually him dying bereason of love at the end of the novel. Christine buries him, then takes off via the handsome Raoul.

Lon Chaney, The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

Fifteenager years later, in 1925, Universal would certainly adapt the novel to the silent silver screen. Its producer Carl Laemmle (that would certainly later on go on to produce both Dracula (1931) and also Frankenstein (1931) for Universal), determined Lon Chaney — the guy of a thousand also deals with — for the main role. And in a post World War I people wright here the horrors of war left mutilated men, it is not beyond reason to assume that Chaney based at leastern some of his makeup on the negative damaged souls who had returned from Europe through deals with torn acomponent by German shrapnel.

Noseless and also lipless, through a sunken-eyed confront that looks more choose a skull than that of a man, Chaney’s phantom goes way beyond the novel with the level of Erik’s deformity, and also it transforms the whole tone of the story. Regardless of Christine still obtaining the attention from the phantom that leads to he success at the Opera home, her are afraid — our fear — is actual. This phantom illicits horror — or at the very finest, our pity. And instead of Erik lifting his mask in an act of love, Chaney’s phantom is considerably unmasked, by Christine, in among cinema’s the majority of written-about reveals.


Erik’s unmasking is not his own decision. It is sudden. It is terrifying. And it leaves Christine horrified on the floor. A caught Raoul — aacquire, Christine’s suitor — have the right to only be freed if Christine renders an option of two levers. A obstacle is made by Erik. One lever will certainly complimentary Raoul. One will certainly blow up the Opera Housage. But there’s a catch: totally free Raoul, and also agree to marry Erik.

The tension is palpable. The audience sees Erik as a true monster, and desires so exceptionally much for Christine and Raoul to be together. And that is what they gain, in a sacrifice made by Erik. He tricks Christine. His intention was apparently to free Raoul all alengthy, and escape the Opera House via Christine. Only he is thwarted by an angry mob that attacks him and also throws him right into the Seine. Christine and also Raoul? They are seen on honeymoon at picture’s finish.

Still, the filmdevices initially intfinished to maintain the original ending of the novel. They filmed scenes in which Erik dies of a broken heart at his body organ after Christine leaves him. But the ptestimonial audience apparently hated this ending. They wanted the monster punished, and also the lovers to be reunited.


Throughout the many adaptions — from Claude Rains in 1943, to Herbert Lom in Hamer’s version of 1962, to Brian de Palma’s bizarre Phantom of the Paradise (1974) — the stories adjust.

Music becomes the true love of the phantom in some. Disfigurement at brith because a tragic encounter via acid in another. But the central design template beneath all is this push and pull between the beautiful chanteuse and also the disfigured musician. Sometimes repulsion. Sometimes attractivity. Almeans Romantic in the Gothic novel feeling of the term. Except, perhaps, in DePalma’s job-related, wbelow the Gothic provides method to Glam.

THE MUSICAL (1986 — present day)
Phantom of the Opera musical

But external of the novel, no version is more romanticized than the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical — which manperiods to fusage so many kind of aspects of the tale told over the last a century. In the blfinishing of outcomes, the best and worst instance scenarios for poor Erik co-exist. Yes, he is hideous. But he is romantic. And despite Christine’s love for Raoul, tright here is a bond between her and also the phantom — one that frequently finds its way, as with many musicals, right into song — and also a gift of a ring to Christine.

The unmasking has actually combined reactivity — at initially fear, but it quickly becomes pity. This pity leads to tenderness. And tenderness, to love. At the finish, Erik realizes that despite his love for Christine, he need to release her to Raoul. The rightful couple begin to escape Erik’s subterranean lair, however not prior to Christine decides to rerevolve the ring that Erik had actually provided her as a token of his love. She finds instead a mob that has descended right into the lair to kill the phantom. But as she lifts aside the cloak where she believes Erik to be, she finds only… a mask.


Masks play a main duty in all adaptations of the Phantom of the Opera. Some are there for sudden horror (kill the monster!). And some are there for romantic imaginings (wright here did the bad tortured artist go?).

Masque of the Red Death

Some masks are also tright here to even more hide the true persona — or probably remind us all that despite love or terror, death awaits us all. In many adaptations, In Lon Chaney’s silent film, Erik athas a tendency a round dressed as Poe’s Red Death. His mask is a skull. Memento Mori. The reminder that life is fleeting, and also that we all have to die.

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In the finish, it is the use of the mask — and also the unmasking — that addresses our very own extremes of attraction and also repulsion. And that moment of revelation in the unmasking is truly the the majority of dramatic occasion in The Phantom of the Opera — be it novel, film, or musical.