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The Prestige

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Film analysis of the movie The Prestige

Published in: Entertainment & Humor, Sports

The Prestige

  1. 1. Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige Film Analysis “ Pay very close attention.”
  2. 2. Christopher Nolan’s film about rival Magicians looks beyond the magic tricks themselves and into the heart of the magician. The film explores what makes an illusionist tick, and to what inexplicable extremes such men will go to achieve their deceptive performance. Alfred Borden & Robert Angier "The Great Danton "
  3. 3. Its irony is ultimately in the fact that no matter how closely you pay attention, no matter how carefully you follow the subtleties of the story, you are still going to be fooled. Try as you may, The Prestige does not allow the option of realizing final twists prematurely, because these twists so literally come out of nowhere that you would have to read the minds of the characters to know their tactics. The film, we realize, isn’t about the “trick” at all, but rather our helplessness to it, and the obsession that such helplessness casts over both the film’s characters and us.
  4. 4. A magic trick consists of three stages : The Pledge , The Turn , and The Prestige A “prestige” is the magician’s definitive punch-line—it is final part of a trick in which the “magic” has already been performed, and the magician works backwards to restore whatever it is that he has altered (no magic trick is complete without reconnecting a woman who has been sawed in half, for example).
  5. 5. A good magic trick is secondary to the prestige, because in this final section, the magician reveals his ability to spin a tale beyond his simple performance. Every good magician creates a trick that ends with an impressive prestige; great magicians create illusions centered on the prestige that are so superior that even other magicians are stumped. The prestige therefore becomes a competition between magicians; if they are not careful, they can easily become obsessed with learning their adversary’s advanced tricks.
  6. 6. First, there is the setup, or the " pledge ," where the magician shows the audience something that appears ordinary but is probably not, making use of misdirection. Next is the performance, or the " turn ," where the magician makes the ordinary act extraordinary. Lastly, there is the " prestige ," where the effect of the illusion is produced. There are "twists and turns, where lives hang in the balance and you see something shocking you've never seen before.
  7. 7. The Prestige is like an irresistible puzzle box, a perfectly executed magic trick The film is split into three storylines, each resembling one of "the three stages of magic ".
  8. 8. The Prestige” is told through a fragmented timeline. It is constructed as a post-modern puzzle, framing stories within stories, flashbacks within flashbacks, and presenting us with at least two unreliable narrators - one of whom is the victim in the murder trial that opens the film.
  9. 9. MOTIFS T he audience routinely sees the same tricks performed at least twice, once by Borden (aka The Professor) and then again with Angier's more cultivated pizzazz. To pull off his most famous trick, The New Transported Man, Angier (aka The Great Danton) requires his own double. Fortunately an out of work thespian is on hand for the job. Unfortunately he's a drunk with an ego, so the act is always teetering on the edge of disaster.
  10. 10. Parallelism There are other sets of pairs as well. David Bowie has a pivotal cameo as the rogue genius, Nikolai Tesla, and his rivalry with the inventor (and moving picture pioneer) Thomas Edison mirrors the magicians' relationship. In the character of Tesla the film implies that 'magic' is simply science we haven't figured out yet.
  11. 11. Every single scene in the film has a meaning above and beyond the telling of the mainline. Each scene also gives clues to secrets of the film, and the main theme. Problems To Puzzle Over Who is the protagonist? At times, you'd think Angier, because he is the murder victim. At times, you'd think Borden.Who’s the Antagonist?
  12. 12. At one point in the film an astute child points out that for the disappearing bird trick to work, something has to be killed. Borden has no problems getting his hands dirty and kills the bird. He’s even willing to make the final sacrifice, the death of his own twin brother. Angier on the other hand, won’t kill the bird but ultimately has no problem disposing the replications of himself.
  13. 13. Borden figures out a Chinese magician's trick relies entirely on the man living his entire life as though he's a cripple. He's actually incredibly strong, but the only way his trick works is if he's physically unable to do it. Borden understands this, because of course, he's been doing the same thing for a very long time. Borden's wife understands implicitly, from the very beginning that there are two Bordens. But she can't verbalize it. To her, it's two Bordens in one body. Nolan gives us another clue when Borden tells Borden-as-Fallon to talk to her.
  14. 14. Ultimately,Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, play characters that are required to be very controlled in their ability to reveal as little as possible in as many exaggerated interactions as necessary. O bsession How much of what they do is really a façade is always difficult to ascertain, especially when they deal with one another and characters directly related to their occupations. Both men have questionable morals and limited capacities to experience life beyond their performances, so we cannot decisively determine which of them is the protagonist and which is the antagonist. By the end, perhaps both are victims, and both have basically one-upped each other so that it is too complicated to name the winner or estimate the final number of points on their scorecards.
  15. 15. ABRACADABRA
  16. 16. Colorado Springs Magnifying Transmitter Nikola Tesla (10 July 1856 - 7 January 1943) TESLA: MAN OUT OF TIME
  17. 17. Nikola Tesla was a world-renowned Serb-American inventor, physicist, mechanical engineer and electrical engineer. Tesla is regarded as one of the most important inventors in history. He is well known for his contributions to the discipline of electricity and magnetism in the late 19th and early 20th century. Much of his early work pioneered modern electrical engineering and many of his discoveries were of groundbreaking importance. Tesla's legacy can be seen across the modern world wherever electricity is used.
  18. 18. Aside from his work on electromagnetism and engineering, Tesla is said to have contributed in varying degrees to the fields of robotics, ballistics, computer science, nuclear physics, and theoretical physics.
  19. 19. In his later years, Tesla was regarded as a mad scientist and became noted for making bizarre claims about possible scientific developments. Many of his achievements have been used, with some controversy, to support various pseudosciences, UFO theories, and New Age occultism. Contemporary admirers of Tesla have deemed him "the man who invented the twentieth century.
  20. 20. In the Colorado Springs lab, he "recorded“ signals of what he believed were extraterrestrial radio signals, though these announcements and his data were rejected by the scientific community. Tesla spent the latter part of his life trying to signal Mars. In 1996 Corum and Corum published an analysis of Jovian plasma torus signals which indicate that there was a correspondence between the setting of Mars at Colorado Springs, and the cessation of signals from Jupiter in the summer of 1899 when Tesla was there.
  21. 21. General Questions to Ask Yourself as You Analyze a Film : What does the film establish about its setting, characters, and plot within the first few minutes? Plot/ Setting: Victorian Era / England & Colorado Springs Characters: When looking to the Main Character we want to find out who we empathize with most. Through who’s eyes do we witness the story? Are we looking at this character, or are we looking from within this character ?
  22. 22. What are the key scenes or sequences in the film, and where do they occur?
  23. 23. What was the pacing of the film like? Slow? Quick? Frenetic? Lyrical? How would you describe the acting performances—were they restrained, flamboyant, self-reflexive? Do the actors costumes add to their characters and make the film more plausible? How does the film open? How does the film end? Was the ending predictable, surprising, ambiguous?
  24. 24. Was the film composed mainly of stars or lesser-known actors, and how did this shape your response to the characters, if at all? How would you describe the cinematography? Was it a highly stylized film, or one aiming for a less intrusive and more “realistic” camera? What is the Point of View of the film, how is the story told? How does the director assemble the film, how is it edited together?
  25. 25. Did the film make interesting use of color or lighting? If so, where in particular? What was the soundtrack like, as well as the film’s use of sound and sound effects?   What about the dialogue? Was there anything noteworthy about how characters converse in the film?

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