The Prestige 2006. Starring Hugh Jackmen, Christian Bale, Michael Caine and Scarlett Johansson.
The film is introduced using a black background and white straight font for the opening titles these colours resemble the colours of a magician’s costume. As the opening credits begin there is no sound at all. Just silence, this creates a tense atmosphere which keeps the audience guessing as to what the film is about and what is going to happen. (Panning, Long shot, autumn) This then fades into a shot, which is exterior, in some sort of open space, which resembles a graveyard, and there are lots of black top hats, typically magician’s hats scattered randomly on the floor. It is a long shot, which slightly pans to the side. Then a voice over says ‘Are you watching closely’ This engages the audience immediately because it is almost directed at them and it gives some kind of direction to what will happen next in relation to the fairly strange shot of the scattered hats. Then it cuts to a tracking shot of birds in cages, it is quite a random switch. And then it follows the action of an older man selecting a budgie whilst the voice over continues (probably his own). The voice over explains the process of the magic act. Therefore the theme of the movie has been introduced quickly and more or less straight to the point. It then uses the cross-cutting technique to jump to a shot in a theatre when an actual magic act is going on with an audience watching. The cross-cutting continues and it creates an interesting string of diversions which keep cutting in and out of shots, this keeps the pace of the sequence quite fast, therefore not losing interest. The voice over continues explaining quite mysteriously and working on two different levels. The older man (the voiceover) explaining a magic trick to a little girl and a magician on stage doing the trick to hundreds of people. There are special effects when the magician on stage starts his act, to exaggerate his status and his effect on the audience, also there is a low angle shot of the Magician on stage, almost like we are the audience and we are watching him from their POV, or maybe to indicate the magician’s status. There is background music, non-diegetic sound, which is sinister and slow and increases in loudness to emphasis the dramatic moment when the magician begins his trick. The camera follows the other male audience member as he trespasses behind the stage. There are close-up and medium close-up shots used to indicate that the other male character, who appears to be a member of the audience, is significant. Therefore the two men are established. A few long shots of the theatre are used to convey the audiences reaction, to reinforce the setting (grand theatre) and to view the trick on stage. The mise-en-scene contrasts between the two settings using cross-cutting. The first setting is sunny and looks fairly normal, like in someone's house. However the second is in a great theatre, and involves a magician doing his act in front of a large audience, so there is more pressure here and the background music and dramatic lighting suggests that something may happen. It is almost like we have been given a back stage pass or a lesson into this trick, the disappearing trick, the third act that they refer to as the Prestige. We understand the process from the voice over. The voice over is indicated to have come from the older man because it almost explains the process as you would to a child and he is showing a little trick to a little girl. Two tricks are going on. We see how one happens. There are two different settings going on: an innocent one and a more sinister one. The magician disappears and he falls into a glass container under the stage, the other man from the audience is there. This is a dramatic scene, the magician is trapped in a glass container full of water. There is diegetic sound as the magician’s muffled cries for help are heard. Also there is non-diegetic sound as a sound effect is used when the magician seems to be drowning, the sound is nerving and quite strange, probably to evoke fear as the audience do not know what happens because straight after that, there is a cut to another different scene. It is almost like the voice over is telling the story, which seems to be in the past. The contrast is interesting and it definitely includes the enigma of ‘Is the magician in the tank dead?’ Everything the voice over says it almost prompts the real magic trick which is going on in the theatre. The end of the opening sequence is the close-ups of the magician thrashing around in the water container, the other man has his hand on the glass and there is an ambiguity to what he may be thinking, why isn’t he helping the trapped magician. I like the sense of confusion you get at the end of the opening, it is almost like you have seen the mechanics of the trick, you know the truth of how he disappears but still it doesn’t make sense because there is something more to that trick, or the storyline, that we as the audience don’t know. So it does leave on an enigma/cliff-hanger which makes you want to keep watching. The theme of a mystery, crime thriller is introduced by the background music and lighting shows this. Also by the use of comparison to the more innocent magic trick makes the other magic trick on stage seem much more serious and sinister.