Two interesting musings about The Prestige

Jodi and I love to pick movies apart after watching them, especially if the movies themselves are thought-provoking. This is spoiler-heavy, though, so only join me below the fold if you’ve seen The Prestige, with Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman. If you haven’t yet, it’s only two bucks to get it from Blockbuster for the night. It’s about stage magicians trying to outdo one another and climaxes in an utterly mindbending way.

Have you seen it yet? Still with me? Good.

That utterly mindbending climax, I suspect, hides a real trick. Angier (Jackman) dies a hundred and one times to exact revenge on Borden (Bale), never realizing that Borden’s been living a double life the whole time himself and ends up losing by only managing to have one of the two Bordens put to death for Angier’s frame-up murder case.

The pledge is the movie itself, showing you a tale of one-upsmanship. The turn is the use of Tesla to suggest a scientific impossibility, which you’ll ignore if you want to suspend disbelief. The prestige, as hinted by Michael Caine’s character’s narrating at the end of the movie, is the credits themselves, when the credits roll the people responsible for putting together the movie are out taking their bow. And you’re not willing to see the truth because you’ve intentionally suspended disbelief on the Tesla cloning device hook.

We went back and forth about this, and there’s another little bit of an issue with what Angier says at the end — that he didn’t know whether he’d be the man in the box or the prestige every time he did the trick. Well, the very first time they tested it out, the one that stayed in Tesla’s machine shot the other, “transported”, guy. Every time they did the trick, the one that stayed in Tesla’s machine ended up drowning in the box. Either way, the “real” Angier died when he got transported then got shot (yelling “No!” because he knew he was the real one), or the “real” Angier died the very first time they performed the trick. In the first case, the second clone took over the entire show and they killed the clones nightly. In the second case, the first clone died in the tank, then the next night the second clone died in the tank, and so on.

So, what do you folks think about both these wild and crazy ideas?

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Two interesting musings about The Prestige
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2 thoughts on “Two interesting musings about The Prestige

  1. 1

    IMHO…. it didn’t matter who was the copy and who was the ‘real.’ I think of a clone as something that is grown from a zygote into a creature with the same physical properties as the original specimen. The clone has no memory of the original’s experiences but makes their own (unless they are waiting to go to the island, but that’s a different story…)

    The copies that were made using the Transported Man device were exact copies of the original, complete with memories and a sense of self. If asked, both would claim to be the original, and that the other must be the copy. Angiers had to kill himself every night in order to claim the title of ‘greatest.’ The Borden’s had to sacrifice their individual lives to create the persona that could make the same claim.

    In the end the story tells us that Hubris kills. Truth be told, it is the same lesson as that of good old Achilles back in the Illiad… some stories are worth repeating over and over again.

  2. 2

    Yeah, this is more like a quantum-level “split”. That’s one big thing about this — you can’t tell the difference between this being a “cloning machine” that throws the clone elsewhere, or a “teleportation machine” that accidentally also leaves a copy behind in the original spot. Either way, yes, a hundred suicides in order to frame Borden up for murder, and he failed because he didn’t realize Borden’s own deception.

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