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dclary
10-27-2006, 11:22 PM
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* MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT *
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DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THIS MOVIE

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* MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT *
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The most beautiful thing about Christopher Nolan's newest film The Prestige is the amazing economy of story. Every single scene has a meaning above and beyond the telling of the mainline. Each scene also gives clues to secret of the film, and the main theme.

From the very opening scene, Nolan gives us a few problems to puzzle over. Who is the protagonist? At times, you'd think Jackman, because he is the murder victim. At times, you'd think Bale, because his career rises and tanks, often due to reasons beyond his control.

Trying to figure out who the antagonist is just as difficult, because Jackman and Bale take turns acting as antagonist to the other.

Even THIS points to the secret. The concept that each of these two men take turns changing roles makes the significance of the Bale/Bale act of changing roles that much more poignant.

An astute child points out that for the disappearing bird trick to work, a brother has to be killed. This is foreboding at its greatest. All we see is an intro of Bale to his future wife. Subconsciously, Nolan is adding weight to Bale's final sacrifice.

Bale 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 incredible strong, but the only way his trick works is if he's physically unable to do it. Bale understands this, because of course, he's been doing the same thing for as long as we know him in this film.

Bale's wife understands implicitly, from the very beginning that there are two Bales. But she can't verbalize it. To her, it's two Bales in one body. Nolan gives us another clue when Bale tells Bale-as-Fallon to talk to her. We never see this conversation. But we see Bale talk to her.

Caine tells us the secret point blank. But it's so obvious, it can't be believed, and the story actually shows us how unbelieveable it is, by having Jackman pursue that approach, not realizing Bale is using the Chinaman's secret already: he's been setting this trick up all his life.

This was a wonderful film, with such an intricate, clue-ridden story, beautiful sets and costumes, fantastic casting, and the secret.

I'm still trying to decide what the main theme of this story was, because I'm not good at decyphering themes often. What are your thoughts on this?

dclary
10-30-2006, 10:41 PM
So, no one at AW watched this film? Or no one discusses movies here?

CaroGirl
10-30-2006, 10:49 PM
Haven't seen it. (My children are of the small, dependent variety. In my neighbourhood, babysitters are of the unreliable, expensive variety.)

Will probably watch it someday. Hence my unwillingness to read your spoiler.

aghast
10-30-2006, 10:56 PM
should put spoiler alert in the subject too - the film is based on a novel but anyway its a very well constructed story and yes there are a lot of twists and a surprise ending but they are all related to the theme which is the title and lots of crumbs and foreshadows and actually my friends and i all figured it out (we are big sf fans) before the end but its still very well done and played - there is no clear villian in the story and thats how i like it - the bad guy i think is obsession and revenge - the two men are driven by these emotions and they lead to the bad things happening and people they loved getting hurt so i think the antagonist really is obsession and revenge - there are many themes of the film, obsession and revenge are the most obvious but there is also sacrifice, deceit, etc. there are certain things that bug me, being that they are mostly plot devices but its a really well done movie - the only thing i dont like is that people keep saying they didnt see the ending coming or they didnt underestand it or whater and i was like i knew it way before - the director left so many clues and hints its unbelievable, and that i think is weird because i feel the director is dumbing it down for the audeiince and meanwhile there are still so many people who get fooled - interesting but i actually would rather he didnt leave so many obvious clues and just go full out because people are going to be fooled anyway so why not fool those who are looking for clues too

dclary
10-31-2006, 12:04 AM
should put spoiler alert in the subject too - the film is based on a novel but anyway its a very well constructed story and yes there are a lot of twists and a surprise ending but they are all related to the theme which is the title and lots of crumbs and foreshadows and actually my friends and i all figured it out (we are big sf fans) before the end but its still very well done and played - there is no clear villian in the story and thats how i like it - the bad guy i think is obsession and revenge - the two men are driven by these emotions and they lead to the bad things happening and people they loved getting hurt so i think the antagonist really is obsession and revenge - there are many themes of the film, obsession and revenge are the most obvious but there is also sacrifice, deceit, etc. there are certain things that bug me, being that they are mostly plot devices but its a really well done movie - the only thing i dont like is that people keep saying they didnt see the ending coming or they didnt underestand it or whater and i was like i knew it way before - the director left so many clues and hints its unbelievable, and that i think is weird because i feel the director is dumbing it down for the audeiince and meanwhile there are still so many people who get fooled - interesting but i actually would rather he didnt leave so many obvious clues and just go full out because people are going to be fooled anyway so why not fool those who are looking for clues too

I agree. I got the sense that many of the final clues (and much of the jackman/bale conversation for the last reveal) was added for American (i.e. DUMB) audiences.

aghast
10-31-2006, 09:05 AM
teslas machine is hardly a secret, right from the begining with all the hats and broden saying are you watching closely you already know what the machine does then all the other stuff just fit in places - the 100 performances etc its all a ploy but what makes bordens secret potent isnt that we find out his secret - its actually very obvious - fallons makeup was bad but its about the irony - who makes the most sacrifice - was it angier who commit the awful act every day or was it borden who lives a lie - and that i think is the actual prestige, but i did hear an audience saying too much, too much, too many twists at the end so i know what you mean - for me and my friends we all figure everything out so its nice to see how they all wrap up at the nd

Sophia
07-04-2009, 02:11 AM
I wanted to start a thread to analyse this script, and found this one here - I hope it's okay to resurrect it.

There is a downloadable version of the script (contains typos, and isn't exactly the final script, but close to it), here (http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/Prestige.pdf).

I haven't been able to stop thinking about the way this was written since watching it yesterday. I find the different interpretations and reactions in this thread to be really interesting. Here are some of my thoughts on it.

Regarding the theme: I'm not certain what it was. "Nobody cares about the man in the box" is one possibility.

Another is that of transportation. I think Angier wanted to be remembered, to stand out in a world that he felt was dismal and perhaps hopeless. He wanted to get away from the mundane. Doing magic tricks, astounding an audience and getting the gratification of "the look on their faces" is one way to get close to that. Anything that could take him away from that attracted him. Having the trick be called "The Transported Man" I think was important; Angier wanted to both be transported, and to transport the audience.

"Man's reach exceeds his imagination" I think played to this, too. Angier and Tesla were alike, both searching for something beyond what existed, but being held back in their own ways by limits imposed upon them. Tesla's research was too much for the scientific establishment; Angier had to "give them reason to doubt it" when he displayed the Transported Man for the theatre owner who described it as "real magic". There was a danger in pushing the limits as they were. Tesla recognised that the dangers in using the machine were perhaps too much, and urged its destruction - and yet, he couldn't bring himself to destroy it himself, but instead gifted it to someone who was also obsessed, knowing that Angier would likely use it. So perhaps obsession, and the temptation of obsession, is also a theme. Borden and Angier's acts towards each other are a more obvious portrayal of it. To follow any of these obsessions requires sacrifice, and it's never a good one. It's always another person that suffers. Improving the water tank trick requires tying a different knot, and even though death is the danger, Borden and Angier's wife go ahead; to live their trick, Fallon needs to lose fingers, too; Borden's wife doesn't get the life she would normally have; Angier's clones have to die.

That Borden and Angier aren't completely unfeeling about the sacrifices of those others saves them from being complete villains, in my eyes. Angier doesn't have the tanks buried after each of the 100 shows, he has them stored. Is that so he can see them himself?

Regarding the foreshadowing and misdirection: I loved that I completely bought into the idea that Borden had used Tesla's machine and that Fallon was his clone. When Cutter says straight out that Borden must have used a double, but at that point, I was thinking that Cutter didn't know what I knew, and that of course he was wrong. I think it's a genius bit of misdirection. I'd forgotten about the Chinese magician (I watched the movie in two sittings, about a month apart) and how Cutter describes him as someone who is prepared to do what it takes to do real magic. He accepts that Borden's idea for a trick that will leave other magicians guessing really is one that only he can do, because only he is prepared to do it. The same with Angier's trick at the end - he's the only one who can do it, because he's the only one prepared to do it. They were both doing it for "the look on their faces", except that their lives diverged. Angier lost his wife, and the life he expected to have with her. Borden gained one. At the end, Borden was prepared to lose it all for his daughter, but Angier didn't have anyone like that. I felt very sorry for Angier, even though his crimes were awful.

I think this is an important line, as regards theme:

"They'll beg you and flatter you for
the secret- but as soon as you give
it up you'll be nothing to them.
Understand? Nothing. The secret
impresses no one- the trick you use
it for is everything."

The theme may be that of the title, as said upthread. The meaning of prestige not just in terms of the third stage of a trick, but that of its dictionary meanings, both the modern and the Latin (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Prestige).

I love how intricate and thought out this script is. It's the sort of writing I aspire to.

katiemac
07-04-2009, 03:44 AM
I'll have to come back to this. I friggin' love this movie and the way the story is designed.

KTC
07-04-2009, 03:47 AM
I never heard of this movie.


3 year-old thread.

katiemac
07-04-2009, 03:56 AM
I never heard of this movie.


3 year-old thread.

ElaraSophia explains why she resurrected it.

KTC
07-04-2009, 03:58 AM
ElaraSophia explains why she resurrected it.

oh i know. i just can't believe i haven't heard of the existence of this movie when it's been around, obviously, for years.

katiemac
07-04-2009, 04:02 AM
oh i know. i just can't believe i haven't heard of the existence of this movie when it's been around, obviously, for years.

Gotcha. Seriously, check it out.

SherryTex
07-04-2009, 04:04 AM
typing Netflix now.

KTC
07-04-2009, 04:06 AM
Gotcha. Seriously, check it out.

I think I will. I'm seriously itching to read that first post...but I don't want to ruin it for myself. I'll do what Sherry's doing.

Cyia
07-04-2009, 04:33 AM
Excellent movie. I didn't know it was based on a novel, though.

katiemac
07-04-2009, 04:45 AM
Okay so, more onto the topic - First, just to get it out of the way, I have to say Christopher and Jonathan Nolan are full of awesome.

The real thing that gets me about this film is how layered it is. Forget the layers in the actual story - the (mis)direction of the actual movie mirrors the plot. Take, for example, the first words: "Are you watching closely?" It sets the stage not just for the plot, but for how the game is going to be played to the viewer. Nolan directs this thing like the magicians direct their shows, and that subtle layering is enough for me to love this movie.

I won't even get into how the movie has a pledge, turn and prestige of its own.

I've read the book as well as seen the movie (multiple times), but IMO the movie does the story justice better. The book isn't bad, and many of the same clues exist in the book as the film, but Nolan seems a better master of planting these clues.

Now, to turn it back to writing -- Nolan masters planting clues in a very similar way to how Rowling does it in the Potter series. Make every scene count on MULTIPLE levels. Dclary above in his (2006) post touches on this. You're misdirected on the more obvious clues because you're paying attention to something seemingly more important.

It's also not uncommon for the viewer to see only PART of a scene, to go back to later. I haven't tried this as a writer, but I suspect it's easier done on film than in novel form. Still, what's interesting to note that these scenes which are cut don't feel like we're missing out on something important. It's not like when you're reading a book and the author cuts a major scene midsentence at the end of a chapter, just so you turn the page.

What's additionally interesting about the book vs. the film is that they both have frames. The frame story in the movie is, of course, the trial and murder, but more so, the narration with Michael Caine where he's showing Borden's daughter the canary trick. In the book, the frame story is about a descendant of Borden in the present day who receives Borden's journal. Without getting into spoilers about the book, the movie feels far more satisfactory to me because it comes full circle. As Caine says, the trick is not making something disappear, but making it come back - and Borden does come back. Nobody cares about the man in the box.

katiemac
07-04-2009, 04:50 AM
In terms of who the antagonist/protagonist is in this film, I don't think it's necessary to put labels on them in that way. That being said, though, I view Borden as the main character. (He's also more of the main character in the book.) He might have initiated the rivalry by (accidentally) causing Julia's death, but Angier took it to the next level by shooting him in the bar. He also was the one to steal Borden's trick, and sent Olivia as a spy to Borden. Still, I don't think it's easier to put either one of them in the protag/antag category since they were fueled by something so dark - obsession.

As for the theme, I think there are many - but you can also view them in different ways. Are we talking about the theme of the movie itself (how Nolan crafted it) or the theme of the story? They overlap quite a bit, which makes the whole experience very interesting. It would be a good experiment to see if it's possible to try to assign a theme to how you write - one that also mirrors the plot's theme.

Cyia
07-04-2009, 05:16 AM
I think it's an absolutely chilling bit of foreshadowing when you see that bit with the canary and the cage after knowing the way the story ends.

TrickyFiction
07-04-2009, 05:30 AM
Nolan directs this thing like the magicians direct their shows, and that subtle layering is enough for me to love this movie.

I won't even get into how the movie has a pledge, turn and prestige of its own.

This was what amazed me most about the film. I didn't expect to like it because I had recently seen a similar, magician-story movie that did not impress me. This one, though... Wow. I had to watch it three times and I'm still not convinced I caught every little thing. What I loved was that everything was vital, everything was part of the whole. Even though you don't catch it all, that sort of storytelling -- all jigsaw puzzley -- makes the story feel so... complete.

I obviously fail at putting my words together this evening and I saw the movie forever ago, but I just had to comment.

katiemac
07-04-2009, 05:38 AM
This was what amazed me most about the film. I didn't expect to like it because I had recently seen a similar, magician-story movie that did not impress me. This one, though... Wow. I had to watch it three times and I'm still not convinced I caught every little thing. What I loved was that everything was vital, everything was part of the whole. Even though you don't catch it all, that sort of storytelling -- all jigsaw puzzley -- makes the story feel so... complete.

I obviously fail at putting my words together this evening and I saw the movie forever ago, but I just had to comment.

It's difficult for me to truly put it in words as well, but I think what you said pretty much nailed it. The jigsaw of it all is just an amazing way to tell a story.

Christine N.
07-04-2009, 05:42 AM
Loved it. have it saved on my DVR, along with The Illusionist. Using them both to research my 19th c. Cinderella retelling.

I think I need to research more - I haven't watched either movie in a while. Though I did discover something very interesting in my research. The Orange Tree trick that is very much a part of The Illusionist - remember, the one the Chief of Police wanted to know so badly - was an actual illusion produced by Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin, who was a clockmaker before he was a magician. He made several automatons in addition to the mechanical illusions.

I love when steampunk is actually life.

Which seems like it has nothing to do with this thread, except that much of the apparatus in THE PRESTIGE was based on stuff like Robert-Houdin produced in his lifetime.

katiemac
07-04-2009, 05:51 AM
Which seems like it has nothing to do with this thread, except that much of the apparatus in THE PRESTIGE was based on stuff like Robert-Houdin produced in his lifetime.

Well, Tesla (who built The Prestige apparatus) was a real guy as well, and competitor of Edison. (Yay for more rivalry.) He has loads of conspiracy theories surrounding him in popular culture. Which I think was a very smart move for the film/book - obviously this isn't historical fiction, but I do love that bit of realism.

Exir
07-04-2009, 06:43 AM
I really loved The Prestige.

The interesting thing about it is that due to the non-linear storytelling and a narrative structure based on the three acts of magic, the story becomes much more than a story -- and becomes a magic trick. It doesn't have a chronological beginning, middle and end, but rather a metaphorical one. The true story becomes not what has objectively happened, but what the viewer is doing figuring out the "trick".

Sophia
07-04-2009, 02:13 PM
The true story becomes not what has objectively happened, but what the viewer is doing figuring out the "trick".

That's a great way of putting it, and one that definitely applied to me. I was trying to work it out as it went along, and was given just enough clues to think I had it, only to discover I was misdirected at the end.

I think it's interesting that the notion of the prestige being the important thing, and of people losing respect for you once they realize how it was done, doesn't apply to us and our reaction to Christopher and Jonathan Nolan on the script - it's only adding to it as we analyze it. :)

The more I think about the film, the more I have different thoughts on the same things about it.

IceCreamEmpress
07-04-2009, 10:20 PM
oh i know. i just can't believe i haven't heard of the existence of this movie when it's been around, obviously, for years.

Please read the book first!

katiemac
07-04-2009, 10:26 PM
Please read the book first!

Oh, see, I recommend the movie first (which I never do) ... I don't think the book is as enjoyable.

IceCreamEmpress
07-04-2009, 10:31 PM
I've read the book as well as seen the movie (multiple times), but IMO the movie does the story justice better.

I find this a hard statement to parse. Christopher Priest wrote the story. I think the movie takes that story and adds other dimensions, which work better in some ways and less well in other ways. But the story didn't exist before Priest invented it.

I like the movie a lot--I think it's well-scripted, beautifully directed, and has some great acting--so I'm not bashing the movie by saying that the novel is really interesting and ambitious and worth reading first.

If you've seen the movie, there's no point reading the book. If you've read the book first, the movie won't be spoiled by it, and I think you'll get more out of the movie than someone who hasn't read the book.

katiemac
07-04-2009, 10:39 PM
I find this a hard statement to parse. Christopher Priest wrote the story. I think the movie takes that story and adds other dimensions, which work better in some ways and less well in other ways. But the story didn't exist before Priest invented it.

Perhaps I should have said the theme, then, instead of story. I think Nolan presents the misdirection in a way that is better than what Priest does with the book, but then again, they are two very different mediums and hard to compare. Nolan's frame, I think, also works better than Priest's to actively mirror what's going on in the story, but that is very much an opinion.


If you've seen the movie, there's no point reading the book. If you've read the book first, the movie won't be spoiled by it, and I think you'll get more out of the movie than someone who hasn't read the book.

It's true I can't erase the fact I saw the film first. But I think reading the book would spoil the movie, and vice versa. But in terms of getting more out of it? I disagree with you there. I saw the film years before I sat down to read the book, and it didn't affect my ability to get something out of the movie. I get more out of the film than the book, still ... ;) Which is, again, a rare statement for me to make.

KTC
07-04-2009, 10:43 PM
If you've seen the movie, there's no point reading the book. If you've read the book first, the movie won't be spoiled by it, and I think you'll get more out of the movie than someone who hasn't read the book.

I think this way too...I think I'll take your advice and check out the book first. Thanks.