[originally published on an old blog, April 27, 2007]
Spoilers abound! There, you’ve been warned.
I finally got to see a movie I’ve wanted to see for months now – The Prestige. It took me a couple of days to watch the entire thing; now I need to rewatch it all at once, to get the full effect. The entire movie was just filled with tension, not unlike the tension I feel watching a good illusionist. You spend the entire movie not really knowing what to expect, what will happen next.
Rather than rehash the entire plot of the movie (look it up on TheMovieSpoiler.com if you like), suffice to say the story is basically two dueling magicians. One inadvertently causes the death of the other’s wife, which sets the feud into motion. Two insatiable needs come into play–the first, the search for the perfect illusion; the second, the need to destroy the reputation, if not life, of the perceived enemy.
The story takes a very unpredictable course, while jumping around from present to past in various points of view. I found my mind whirling trying to imagine the many possible ways the plot could have gone. When one magician hires a drunkard to serve as his double for an illusion, I thought I had the plot wrapped up. I was wrong. When the same magician hires Nikolai Tesla to build him a machine that ends up cloning rather than tranporting, again I thought I had the plot wrapped up. Wrong again! The revelation of the twin brother…now that shocked me!
At first when the entire plot finally made sense, it seemed a bit contrived. How did the masterful magician (Borden) transport himself across the stage if he didn’t use a double? Oh of course, it was a twin brother! Boring! But that’s beside the point. Further contemplation leads to the “half-lives” each brother was living – each man loving only one woman, each sharing the glory of the stage and the work behind the scenes, living a shared existence for who knows how long. Just how much forethought and preparation went into the shared life of the Professor? I thought it was astounding when both of the diaries/journals proved to be plants, fakes, deliberately provided in order to distract. Distraction can truly be an art, as I have seen.
My last source of confusion was when I realized that the warring magician (Angier) was cloning himself in order to achieve the transportation illusion. The nagging question in my mind was, did the real man die or did the clone? When the cloning took place, which one was transported? As usual, I was overthinking this. The assumption to make is that each clone was identical to the magician in every single way–the same memories, the same plans, the same thoughts and feelings. Which means that, in a sense, Angier died every day in an attempt to achieve the greatest illusion. And at the same time, he lived his greatest illusion. Two men sharing one life; one man living two lives.
The bird in the cage had to die in order to achieve the illusion.
Nobody cares about the man in the box.
I wonder what thoughts went through the mind of the Angier who drowned in Borden’s presence, as Borden fought like mad to save him. Did he feel remorse? And the final remaining Angier would never know the torturous end “he” experienced a hundred times.
A fascinating movie, and one I will definitely rewatch. Then, it’s on to The Illusionist. Yes, they are completely different movies, but I’m working on a theme here.