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The 2006 film about rival magicians desperately trying to learn the secrets of each others tricks.

3 Magicians, a child, and the 2 magic tricks the film is...

Posts: 179
Truly About...(Yes it's long, but it's worth it)

The Prestige is undoubtedly Nolan's most underrated film. Because of the hard to root for, and increasingly cold, leads, many had trouble appreciating this movie for all it is. But as you dig deeper you see a movie every bit as fascinating as Inception or Memento. Many have theorized that Inception is truly about film-making, but they're off by a little bit, it's The Prestige that has Nolan directly exploring his identity as an artist, the role of artists in society, and ultimately how to find balance, to be a good artist and a good person/parent.

Similarities between Magic and Film run deep. In the film magician's are perhaps the most influential artists. As the century turns and technology progresses rapidly, the world is faced with the fear of a new world they don't understand. Magic serves as an escape for the people, a place where people can be mystified by artists while comfortably knowing that the world in fact is safe. Both (or all three) the main character's respond to that importance and have an ambition to be the greatest magicians the world has seen. The difference? (i'll cover this quickly since it's been discussed before) One is a true artist, Borden (and Freddie), doing it purely out of love for the form, Borden and Freddie live and breathe magic. It's not about the accolades, it's about the accomplishment, Borden and Freddie would have been most proud if no one ever found out what they really are.

The other? a showman. Where Borden wants to live magic, make it real at all costs, Angier wants to make the audience believe it's real, even at the cost of making it not at all real, hallow. For him, it's all in the connection with the audience, its all in giving them a treasured experience, one separate from the cold reality of life. The downside is his magic sways towards having less substance, less creation.

Film is similar to all of this, and like magicians then movies have become our modern mythology (BATMAN), and Nolan has spent his career trying to become a better and better balance of the traits above. He also was a borden at first, with following and memento and even insomnia, bleak films that were glad to hang their hat on the artistry, albeit ending in ultimately dark places. They intimidated some audiences, and even those who appreciated them came out feeling a bit bleak or cynical, the ending themes were consistently dark. But, right around when he made this film, he was settling into a point where he combined his inner artist's artist, like Freddie, and developed a sense of showmanship so that his skill could reach large audiences, like Angier. He found the middle ground and has, since this movie was made, released 2 (about to be 3) of the most artistic pop films ever.

Here's where it gets complicated, the film isn't about 2 magicians, but in fact about 3. The filmmakers go out of their way to give one twin a new name, Freddie, a self proclaimed name, for this very reason. There are a few ways to keep track of Freddie if you look close. For starters, how warm bale acts toward each female character says a lot, but also Freddie likes to disguise himself and such, he has a penchant for using fake facial hair, even when he's looking normal (obviously, they both use facial hair for borden).

The 3 magicians cover the spectrum of different types of great artists.

On the left, we have Angier, or as we later find out, Lord Caldwell. We peace together that Angier was raised proper and English (he talks to his first wife about taking a name and a persona to not embarrass the family with his theatrics), but he wasn't satisfied. As he says, the world is solid, miserable. Angier dedicated his life to creating something new, to give audiences an experience so strong it takes them out of reality, to just for a second make them believe in something bigger. For it is in that moment of them believing, that he becomes bigger then life, they believe in him, he becomes the GREAT Angier. Angier's entire life has been, in our exposure, one long journey towards creating a new life for himself, a life completely aside from his true origins. A life where he has an adoring wife whom has equal interest in the impossible. Only it gets taken away from him in one horrible accident, and Angier's path changes forever. His attempt to control and create his own new world has failed because his wife was robbed from him, and his only solace now comes in obsession and rivalry with the man he blames. What starts as vengeance becomes bigger because Freddie is simply more talented then Angier, larger then life even. Bourden stole Angier's wife he can't let him steal his legend to, so the rivalry starts up.

The second magician is Bourden, he is the more human of the two twins and the most decent, relatable magician by far.. He wants a wife (and finds one in Sarah), he wants a kid, he's kinder, he's less gohung, ect. Nonetheless, he sacrifices greatly for the trick, sharing his family with Freddie, which falls apart later.. He does this because he believes that greatness lies in sacrifice, and to do something truly special he has to let go of his humanity. While Bourden himself is a good father, he's a bad one for constantly subjecting his family to a non loving father, Freddy. At this point, he's choosing magic over family.

Freddie is the artist's artist, nothing else means a thing, even his romantic involvements are born of a chance for an artistic gain. He's more selfish and more arrogant, where Bourden wants to find the balance of living a real life and pulling off the trick, the trick is everything to Freddie, he wants to be free from normal society. It is Freddie who gohungly uses the advanced knot, which is why Bourden's confusion is real, he truly doesn't know (this is my educated guess but I can't claim to be sure of it). Freddie is the most talented and commited magician there is, so talented in fact that he's incapable of understanding the audience, he's such a true magician that the idea of propping something up doesn't compute. That is, until he meets his perfect mate, Olivia, a dedicated magician's hand (she sleeps in the workshop) who, whoever she's with, sees herself as a member of and asset to the team. He meets her when Angier, unappreciative of her, practically gives her away, and disgusted she falls for the true magician, Freddie. Immediately, Freddie begins to become an even greater magician, as with Olivia's help he becomes a showman and gains quite a bit of swagger. It's here that Freddie makes a big, bold mistake. He wears his goatee and calls himself Freddie, refusing to put up an act for Sarah. This mistake has huge reprocussions as sarah never sees them the same again and very possibly figures what they actually are.

Sarah's whole life is recked, she doesn't know what's what, she's sharing her life with a man who doesn't like her and is openly having an affair with Olivia. She can't handle living life that way, so she symbolically hangs herself among the birds, harkening back to the bird trick Borden did when they first met, when for the trick to work one of the two birds had to die. She's extending the concept to the women the men attached themselves to, and she's making clear that her death is a result of being forced into a magic trick she never asked to be in. Her location said loud and clear, "You did this, you tried to do the trick with real people, and I'm the one who suffered for it, I'm the dead bird"

After all of this, Angier returns, having sold himself to the devil of the unknown, perverting the incredible yet too dangerous science of Tesla, all just to give himself the best trick of all, one that isn't a trick at all, what better way to win then do the real thing. However, his new trick is at the expense of one human life for every single show, an obscene evil lever of sacrifice all to simply win. To create life and give it an agonizing death every single show simply to win. In fact, Angier hints that the science of whether the clone or the cloney ends up in the water is inconsistent, so Angier is willing to give his own specific life any given night in order for the legend of Angier to prosper, he's lost himself entirely, all that matters is winning. He rather get Bourden locked up then actually celebrate his trick. To him, death is worth seeing the audience truly believe each night, because he then has the better trick, and that allows him to start his 3 part trick, his plan to present the trick (pledge), trick it so Freddie gets framed (The turn) and then return alive for The Prestige, where he would take Bourden's daughter, completing his revenge. For all the resources angier has gathered, he puts every last bit towards revenge over all else.

Angier has achieved the epitome of showmanship. becoming bigger then life and then even resurrecting as a different person, his all out commitment to playing the part reaches new levels. As he says at the end, Freddie might be the greater talent, but as long as Angier's secret is safe, he's the greater myth. And that's all that matters to him, love of the craft was just a means to an end for him, it was all about winning for him now.

Now for the first time, Freddie is the one down and confused. Seconds after he told Sarah the truth (HE doesn't love her), which led to her suicide, he can't convince Olivia that he does love her, (her belief that they're one person makes him disturbing, sociopath even, cuz he doesn't care about Sarah dying at all) resulting in him losing his own love and Bourden's. Worse, Borden goes to see Angier's act and sees the best act in history. He comes back and screams at Freddie, who's supposed to be the smartest magician of them all, "Why can't you out think him", they've never not been on top before. Freddie does some recon work and sees the blind men exporting that night's cargo (which we later know are tubs capable of holding dead angiers). Bourden immediately gets a sense that something bigger then they can't match is happening, and that they shouldn't get involved. Bourden seems to now what Angier has become, and he accepts the loss, he just wants to salvage his little girl. Freddie, however, doesn't listen, he can't sit with angier being the better magician, so he uses a disguise and sneaks down, only Angier is ready for it, and Angier is willing to die as that one self to beat Freddie once and for all. The drowning happens and Freddie goes to jail.

You'll notice, in the prison scenes throughout the film, that Freddie feels horribly about what he's done. He knows that, with him in jail, Bourden is unallowed to father his own child without blowing everything and revealing to the girl that she's had two fathers al along. Making up for his sins, Freddie gives away his tricks for Jess's sake, done under the threat of Jess being a workshop child. Only, when her new guardian reveals himself, it's Lord Caldlow, Angier's true self, the prestige of Angier's trick. Can Freddie escape? he did it in the prison rec yard, but he now sees that the right thing to do is to actually hang whether he could have escaped or not, but not before setting up his final magic trick. He promises Jess that he'll see her again and then he puts on a show about how he'll get out in front of her, this all for Jess's benefit, now Bourden can appear and Jess will see it as him coming through on his promise. It's Freddie's way of atoning for his mistakes, Freddie dies to complete the most important magic trick in the film, the trick pulled on Jess so that she believes she has one father and that he's alive and well, abra kadabra. This is Freddie's arc, throughout the film he sacrificed anything for magic, but in the end he sacrificed himself to give Bourden to Jess.

Note: After Borden's mentor kills the bird early in the film, the clever nephew figures out what happened, when borden tries to lie to him, he says "what happened to his brother". A moment later, Borden, intrigued by this sharp kid, says to him "are you watching closely" then shows him a coin that is heads on both sides, he spins it slowly, showing the kid it's a trick coin, then instructs him to keep it secret no matter what, the secret impresses no one, THE TRICK YOU USE IT FOR IS EVERYTHING.

As Bourden kills Angier, we get the most poignant moment of the film. Bourden speaks of sacrifice being the key to a great trick, of course this is the extent of his magic skill, but Angier explains to Bourden what he doesn't understand, showmanship for the audiences sake, to make them believe in something more, if only for a second. You'll notice Angier actually gets the last word here, because he's right, magic is nothing if not for the sake of the audience. So Borden, taking this in, looks around and sees what Angier has done, all that sacrifice but, at the end of the day, THE TRICK HE ULTIMATELY USED IT FOR was to send Freddie to prison. While Angier was right that getting the audience to believe is everything, his great moment was making the audience believe he died. Bourden just now has to use some showmanship, the red ball, to complete the trick for his daughter, he's become a full magician.

After this, we see Bourden go to get his daughter. Back in the basement Bourden looked around and saw what using twins/duplicates for magic gets you, death and distrust with those around you. So Bourden, looking at the cloning machine with every opportunity to clone himself and be able to be the only trick in town going forward, instead makes the right decision, he decides THE TRICK TO ULTIMATELY USE THE TWINS SECRET on was to convince Jess that her one and only father in fact survived, thus ending the ongoing lifetime trick in the face of a chance to keep it up, this prestige was ultimately worth it.

And there in lies the rub. Angier grew to be a monster really, and even his legend status is sullied by his not doing real magic, not to mention purposely failing his final trick. Angier was poisoned deep down, and for all the opportunity, he decided to use all of his power purely on death and deceit. His own legend didn't even compare in importance to getting revenge on Bourden, he arced to being a bad person, the worst person of the 3. And he almost wins, his grand trick works all the way down to taking jess to attone for the loss of his wife. Meanwhile, Bourden, who long has been the best actual person of the 3, uses the final prestige, the end prestige of their lifetime trick, for his daughter. He was the only one to escape the rivalry, he lost the battle to Angier on stage, but he won personally, all because their trick was so secret that Angier stil could never account for it. Bourden becomes the only character of the 3 to finally choose family over magic, while Freddie finally usis his magic skill for family, both grow in the film positively, and it's on that note that they get the final word, their grand pledge turn prestige outlasts Angier's by one step, they win.

Thus, their trick is THE PRESTIGE Like in Inception, the title refers to several examples, but one is the core of the film because it makes the film come together thematically. In Inception that's Cobb's Inception and final moment, in this film it is the final trick of Bourden and Freddie, the greatest trick of the entire film, and it was all to give the little girl an ordinary healthy situation. While the other two die, Bourden comes out the other end the complete magician, he had the sacrifice and form to pull of the real trick, but the showmanship to make his daughter believe just enough that she will be glad to accept it. Meanwhile, the hats in the forest are one with the bodies in the tanks, a warning shot followed by the aftermath of that warning, a visualization of the great waste and sacrifice that goes into a true masterpiece trick.

So the official magic trick of the film"

The Pledge: Show something ordinary, like a man, it passes the inspection to be ordinary, but truthfully it isn't (She in fact has two people playing her father, she is not aware).
The Turn: The ordinary something does something extraordinary: her father dies, and worse is replaced my a man who's supposed to be dead, who her father was arrested for murdering. Angier's revenge completed, but just the turn for...
The Prestige: The final turn that brings the disappeared thing back and everything back to normal. The vast death and waste of it all is hidden for the Prestige's sake, Bourden's return to his daughter.

That, right there, is THE PRESTIGE. The final montage wraps up the film thematically, that true sacrifice to craft is a dirty, dark game, and that the audience doesn't truly want to know it. They say they do, but they're much happier just being fooled, the prestige leaves us comforted and at ease, and that's how we want it to stay deep down.

Anyway, I've seen many people speak about the film itself being one 3 act trick, but their examples are all over the film, so I wanted to give my interpretation of the two true 3 act tricks going on, competing tricks, and which one the film is nodding to when it cuts to black. The 2 different grant magic tricks are also the character's arcs by and large, as angier gives into darkness and the twins grow to use their magic for a good purpose. It's things like that where the genius of the Nolan brothers is simply striking.
Posts: 88
The Prestige is my second favourite Nolan film (after TDK), it is one of the best films about two friends turned enemies I have ever watched. It also has a huge ammount of twists (and several you will never see coming). Definatly worth a watch, and I personally think it will go down (in the long run) and one of Nolan's very best.
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Location: SUH-waaaaannn-SEA
Don't forget the source novellist: Christopher Priest, whose book the film was based off, in your praise.
Posts: 179
MikaHaeli8 wrote:Don't forget the source novellist: Christopher Priest, whose book the film was based off, in your praise.


You're right, I just haven't read the book so it's hard to know what's what.
Posts: 889
Location: Australia
dustbust5 wrote:Can Freddie escape? he did it in the prison rec yard, but he now sees that the right thing to do is to actually hang whether he could have escaped or not, but not before setting up his final magic trick. He promises Jess that he'll see her again and then he puts on a show about how he'll get out in front of her, this all for Jess's benefit, now Bourden can appear and Jess will see it as him coming through on his promise. It's Freddie's way of atoning for his mistakes, Freddie dies to complete the most important magic trick in the film, the trick pulled on Jess so that she believes she has one father and that he's alive and well, abra kadabra. This is Freddie's arc, throughout the film he sacrificed anything for magic, but in the end he sacrificed himself to give Bourden to Jess.

Note: After Borden's mentor kills the bird early in the film, the clever nephew figures out what happened, when borden tries to lie to him, he says "what happened to his brother".


While this was just an extensive plot revisit, I found out another brilliant bit of foreshadowing thanks to you.
9 views and I'm still learning.
Brilliant.
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Location: Munich, Germany
dustbust5 wrote:
MikaHaeli8 wrote:Don't forget the source novellist: Christopher Priest, whose book the film was based off, in your praise.


You're right, I just haven't read the book so it's hard to know what's what.


The book was very different and not really good, IMHO.
Posts: 123
Dustbuster5
Glad you enjoyed the film so much.
The analysis is not deep enough. What's more, the movie is not about film-making. Inception is much, much closer.
Jess knew all along that her father had a secret identity.
If Borden had told his wife, she would not have committed suicide.
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