Revealing the Prestige’s Method
an eyes wide open review of Christopher Nolan’s magical movie, The Prestige.

The Prestige Explained
“Are you watching closely?” Thus begins Christopher Nolan’s masterfully crafted period piece that seems to have a lot more going on than one might initially see occurring on the surface. This review assumes you’ve already watched The Prestige. If you haven’t – go away. Watch the movie, then come back. Are we clear? Great.

To set the stage for the reveal – I really must quote R.J. Carter, a science fiction author and a Senior Editor of “The Trades”, and how let down he felt upon originally watching the movie:

“So why do I feel cheated?… Because after committing so much time and faith to the plot, I find out that the story is one of science fiction. Don’t get me wrong — I love a good science fiction story; just tell me in advance”… “So why do I feel cheated?… Because after committing so much time and faith to the plot, I find out that the story is one of science fiction. Don’t get me wrong — I love a good science fiction story; just tell me in advance.”

What Carter doesn’t realize is that he’s only understood the first two epiphanies. It is the third that makes the movie make sense. It is the third that makes the Nolans the most brilliant writers in cinema history. To convince you, here is Newsweeks thoughts on the movie:

“At the end of this dark entertainment three twists await: one you will certainly see coming, another you may have figured out just before it happens, and the final may be so tricky you won’t quite piece it all together until after you’ve left the theater.”

So the challenge is in front of us. There are THREE surprises awaiting the diligent. Let’s not waste time – we’ve got some discovering to do.

A Prestige Primer

The plot of the Prestige is simple at face value. We are presented with two young aspiring magicians. Angier (played by Hugh Jackman) a very good showman but less than stellar magician. And Borden (played by Christian Bale) a natural magician in every right but a bit dim in the showmanship category. The prime mover of the entire movie’s sadistic tendencies is a tragic event that ends up killing Angier’s wife and it is believed Borden is to blame. The two quickly develop a rivalry to end all rivalries reminiscent of the Montigues and Capulets that basically consumes them night and day. It begins with Borden and Angier racing to become the best magician in London and ends with mayhem, blood and death.

Possible Prestige Methods

The point of this review is not to speak to the surface level plot points of the movie, but rather to address a deficit I am seeing in the larger Prestige discussion arena. Many people that have seen the movie and have discussed the various intricacies gravitate more towards the more philosophical and moral nuggets held within. And that is a great discussion to be had – don’t get me wrong – but think all of these discussions completely miss the larger reveal – or Prestige if you will – that is going on here in front of everyone’s noses. So to that end I will first recount the more populist of theories out there that most ascribe (at least in one flavor or another). And then I will sketch out for you my version of how the movie played itself out.

We Have Seen The Populists And We Are Them…

When the dust of this movie settles for most people it is fairly clear, if not a bit disappointing, what happened throughout. But what makes this Populist theory so widespread and overwhelmingly popular is that you have to work to come to this conclusion. Its not a simple thing to understand this movie even at the most basic of levels. So, when most people rearrange the anarchic timeline in their heads and finally makes sense of that they then begin cogitating on the whole “reveal” with Borden and his twin at the finale. Once they get that bit they progress to the larger questions circulating around Angier and the Tesla machine. At this point the chaos is so thick and the hip-waders are so completely and totally mucked they’ll take even some of the more outlandish of answers as fact.

Where the disagreement within this camp lies is usually within the “How exactly did Tesla make the machine work”, “which Borden was hanged” or the “how many Angiers were there that drowned?” veins. The really adventurous within this camp may posit something as outlandish as – “The Tesla machine isn’t a cloning machine, it’s a teleportation machine that leaves a new clone behind” which creates reams and reams of discussion fodder. So all that to say, this Populist vantage on the movie takes the ending literally. The Tesla machine clones all those who enter and the only thing left to sort out is how do we dispose of the extras?

The Prestige’s Prestige…

The Man Behind the Curtain
The first point I would like to make in regards to this larger reveal within The Prestige would have to be a completely unrelated movie. Anyone who has experienced any of Christopher Nolan’s other movies will know, the Director of The Prestige is not afraid to layer ambiguity over ambiguity in order to create a powerful tapestry that ultimately overloads the senses. Memento is the perfect example of this illusion folded in on top of illusion with the intentional objective of avoiding a definitive answer to the problems played across the screen. The Prestige is yet another example of this, where we are confronted with constantly conflicting evidence that may or may not point in 42 different directions. All that to say, everything I am about to posit here and now was intentionally placed within the Prestige strategically by Mr. Nolan. I guarantee it. Now, as to whether or not my vantage on this movie is correct or not I will leave this question in your capable hands to ascertain.

What is the third reveal?
Quite simply put I believe that the Tesla machine is a sham and it doesn’t do anything but throw pretty sparks. Already many of you are hefting your rocks in order to stone me for heresy. To understand how I can posit something that contradicts everything we are told as the movie wraps up will take some effort. But if you will stick with me – and then if you watch the movie again – you will see not only how plausible all of this is but how necessary it is for the entire movie to make any sense at all.

The Prestige’s Prestige on AutoPilot
How can it possibly be? Let’s just cut to the chase and I will walk you through the explanation in a timeline format:

  1. Angier and Borden work together as plants in a show where Angier’s wife is accidentally killed.
  2. The two go their separate ways and begin developing their own shows.
  3. Borden and Fallon (Borden’s twin) develop the transporting man.
  4. Angier becomes obsessed with understanding the trick at all costs.
  5. Angier steals Borden’s notebook and realizes it would take him years to decipher.
  6. Angier captures Fallon and gives him back after Borden reveals the method/key – “Tesla”.
  7. Angier embarks on a trip to Tesla in order to have him build him a teleporting machine.
  8. Tesla is tipped by Borden of Angier’s goals and Tesla takes him on a wild goose chase.
  9. Angier “discovers” the hats and the cats and is convinced the machine works.
  10. Angier receives the machine under dubious circumstances.
  11. Angier learns that the machine in fact does not work and realizes he’s been duped.
  12. Angier begins plotting his revenge by staging a limited engagement of the new teleporting man.
  13. Borden visits both the show and the backstage removal of the tanks.
  14. Borden then goes onstage and then down below where he witnesses Angier’s double drowning.
  15. Borden is arrested for murder and put on trial.
  16. Angier – as Lord Caldlow – still wants to know Borden’s method and so he attempts to purchase the method for the drowning man from Borden while he’s in prison.
  17. Borden receives Angier’s journal and begins learning about Angier’s trip to visit Tesla.
  18. Borden discovers that Angier has apparently anticipated Borden’s murder of himself prior.
  19. Borden sells the transporting man trick in trade for his daughter’s safety.
  20. Angier visits Borden in prison to make him aware he’s won.
  21. Borden is hanged – says “Abracadabra” just beforehand.
  22. Fallon – now dressed as Borden – goes to Angier in his theater basement and shoots him.
  23. Angier attempts to get Borden to notice his surroundings – Borden doesn’t bite.
  24. Angier dies and Borden is reunited with his daughter.
  25. Roll Credits.

I have intentionally avoided explaining some of the stickier issues with this theory above. Instead I have differed a few of the more obvious rebuttals until later. But first, you have to admit that walking through the movie in its proper chronology along with this new view of how the events unfolded sheds quite a bit of light on certain aspects that you wouldn’t have noticed before. For example – why would Angier still be trying to get Borden’s method after having reproduced the trick with the Tesla machine? It logically doesn’t follow. He’d been duplicating himself successfully for months – why does he still need the method?

Or another anomaly: Towards the end Borden (not Fallon, but Borden) became obsessed with trying to figure out how Angiers accomplishes his final Teleporting Man technique. Recall Borden saying to Scarlet “All we know is that there’s a trap door! What’s going on under that stage?!?” So… explain that to me. If Borden was the one that directed Angiers to Tesla in order to get the cloning machine, why would he be so flummoxed by the trick? Wouldn’t it be obvious to Borden that his rival was using the same cloning methods as himself, only plotted out in a different way?

There are also other minor things that stand out as well, but I will leave those to you for now. More importantly would be for us to explain how such a contrary chronology is even possible by only watching what we are shown by Mr. Nolan.

The Narration
How can it be that a movie can physically get away with lying to our faces? The first (and maybe the most important exercise) thing we must consider is the source. Can you remember who does the narration of this movie? Yes, you are correct Cutter does narrate a fair amount. But who else narrates the action as it proceeds? No it isn’t completely accurate to say either Borden or Angier narrates. Actually if you look closely you’ll realize that the two key narrators in this story are Borden’s diary read by Angier and alternately Angier’s diary being read by Borden.

The next question that we must ask ourselves is this – can we trust Borden’s or Angier’s diaries? Obviously not. One of the greater sub-plot twists is the reveal to Borden that Angier is writing to him “from the dead”. Similarly, we feel Angier’s unfettered angst and loathing for Borden when Borden’s diary reveals that the entire document was crafted solely for his consumption. So, if this is the case, why should we believe a single thing that these sources have revealed to us? Right, so please keep that in mind as we continue forward.

The Motivations
If we consider both of the two main characters, Borden and Angier, what would we say that their main motivations are? For Borden I think it is fairly obvious that he is intent on developing the world’s best magic trick that will turn the world upside down. You recall his arguments on behalf of the bullet catch and his hopes for doing something new and exciting as opposed to the litany of tried and true tricks. Angier on the other hand feeds off of the love and approval only the audience can give. One of the really great threads buried deep within this movie is the juxtaposition of these two extremes. Natural talent and savant versus the ever envious showman. These two men obviously are out for blood and nothing is going to stand in their way.

Early on Borden discovers a key fact about what it means to truly become a great magician/artist. Borden understood that it took complete dedication to his craft 24/7/365 days of the year. There was no on-stage moment… his life was the stage. But what has this to do with the final reveal? Angier finally understands that to best Borden he is going to have to get his hands dirty. He is going to invest sizably and go to extraordinary lengths to better Borden. And in Angier’s defense, this he does really really well. Angier is solely responsible for this the most extraordinary of surprises in all of the movie. He has finally learned the lesson Borden has been trying to teach him for years. And it is this lesson, this surprise that 98% of the movie’s audience are blissfully unaware.

The Prestige’s Raison de etre
The very first prime mover we encounter within the movie is that magic is special in that it frees the audience from their painful and boring lives by allowing them to believe in something that is unreal. It frees them to believe in something greater, that something truly otherworldly exists in this world. Why would we not begin to think for a second that the movie The Prestige is doing anything differently? It is then allowing the audience to slip into the fantastical notion that magic is real and there is an escape from the ordinariness of this life. When in fact there really is a solution available to those who are diligent and observant.

Secondly throughout the movie we are shown time and time again the details of various magic tricks and how they physically work. Then at the end all of a sudden this pattern stops and the machine actually works? This answer is disjointed in the extreme. If this occurred in The Illusionist I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. But it didn’t… it occurred in The Prestige and it in so doing is a logical fallacy.

And finally, the movie proves its on thesis in that most don’t really want to know how a magic trick is done. We really do want to be fooled. So to it goes with the mechanics of how the movie actually works. Most do not want to be fooled. Ask yourself this question. Is The Prestige a drama or a science fiction movie? It doesn’t logically follow that it would be a science fiction movie. It makes no sense that a writer/director as smart as Christopher Nolan would make this mistake accidentally. Its way too brazen and obvious for such a nuanced and intelligent director.

Common Questions:
Q. But the HATS man! What about the hats and the cats? He sees them with his own two eyes! He discovers that the machine works all on his own!

A. Drivel. Are you saying that purchasing 200 identically sized and colored top hats is difficult? That finding five similarly colored cats is hard? Please. The genius here wasn’t in the hats and the cats in the field. It was in getting Angier to believe he solved the glitch in the Tesla Machine. It was the perfect con.

Angier only realizes the machine doesn’t work after the lab is destroyed and he’s already on his way back to England. That was Angier’s turning point. Do I really want to be the greatest magician of all time? Will I live the lie 24/7/365 in order to pull of this stunt and in so doing secure my position atop all the other magicians and showmen that went before me? And more importantly, will I beat my arch nemesis finally? Or will I allow myself to lose?

——

Q. We see with our own two eyes that Angier is duplicated by the machine. That he had to take the gun and shoot his double upon realization of what he’d done.

A. Earlier in this review I detailed out the narration problem. This too is a similar problem. At the point in the story when this scene is shown it is Angier telling Fallon what he’d done, and that the machine had worked. Why would we trust Angier’s word any more than we would trust his diary? This is just one more lie, albeit one that we envision along with Fallon as he is telling it to us. Its nothing more than a lie.

——

Q. But what about all the bodies in the chambers at the end?

A. That is the essence of a magic trick. There needs to be nearly incontrovertible proof that the trick is real or we wouldn’t believe. It really doesn’t matter how I answer this one, in my opinion. 20 different look-a-likes that Angier has killed. 20 wax figures he’s crafted to trick Fallon (Borden) into believing he’s really made the Tesla machine work. This magic trick was for an audience of one. Fallon. (And You.)

—–

Q. During the wrap up – the explanation – of the movie Nolan did not say anything about the machine not working. Its simply incomprehensible that Nolan wouldn’t have explained everything to us and tie a pretty bow at the ending of the movie.

A. True. American movie going audiences disdain loose ends. They are anathema to us. And for a director to challenge us in this way is almost unthinkable. And as unthinkable a premise as this is – it is exactly what Nolan had done in The Prestige. He has evenly balanced two equally plausible and irrefutable truths perfectly. Either A) This movie is science fiction. or B) It is a magic trick. Neither can be proven wrong. The evidence to both options are equally weighted. It is in this that we see Nolan’s true genius.

—-

Believing that the Tesla machine works would be similar to believing that a magician who saws his assistant in half has somehow created a medical device that will re-weld her back together again. Why would you ever believe this to be true? You wouldn’t. So why exactly would you believe that the machine truly works? You shouldn’t.

But I do admit that ultimately I would have had to concoct evidence to make sense of such an awful movie directed by such a brilliant mind. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to concoct a story when one is right there if you would just take a moment to consider it fully. The only question is – Are you watching closely enough? Do you really want to know the truth behind the story?

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403 Responses

  1. CHABUDDY G

    I agree with the theory that Tesla’s machine does NOT work. I am not sure if this is mentioned in previous comments, but there is a brief scene in the film (right after
    his wife dies and before he shoots Borden) where Angiers submerges his face in water and pulls his head back out. I believe this is a subtle piece of the puzzle that foreshadows his final trick. He is practicing how to breathe underwater, perhaps he even gains mastery on how to seem dead. So when Borden fails to break the tank, Angiers feigns death. This also explains the coroner scene, if you can accept the possibility that Angiers/Lord Caldlow uses his aristocratic background and resources to bribe the coroner in order to allow him to appear dead for Cutter. Finally, it explains the final shot of the film – Angiers is inside the tank and he is alive, perhaps he escapes the fire or perishes, but either way, he witnesses the secret behind Borden’s trick. This would have to mean the character delivering Angiers’ final monologue is Root (if Root switches places with Angiers after Cutter leaves, which gives time for Angiers to jump in the tank and wait for the other twin, therefore, Angiers somehow knew that luring Cutter would reveal the secret of the trick BUT WHY? AND HOW?) . Furthermore, the financier for Angiers’ “Real Transported Man” states “give them [the audience] enough reason to doubt it.” Perhaps Angiers’ feigned death during the final performance immortalizes the legacy for the Great Danton, which results in amazement from the spectators because they believe that a man really could teleport, confusion from Cutter because he is incapable of figuring the trick, and envy from the unfortunate Borden twins because they will never now its secret.

    On a completely different note, it would be funny to view this film as a potential prequel to Batman VS. Wolverine. Think about it – Borden (Batman) has the ability to disappear and re-appear, while Angiers (Wolverine) never dies. Cutter is Alfred and Tesla is Magneto. Scarlett could be Black Widow or Catwoman, depends on which studio gets the rights.

    Also, thanks to everybody for their wonderful thoughts and theories. This film is a mindf*ck and so is this thread of ideas. LET’S GO DUNKIRK!!!

    Reply
  2. Aurora

    It’s really quite simple. Do you all miss the 3 shots of a portrait of TESLA in Bourdains prop room!!??

    Duh!

    He had visited Tesla FIRST and got a twin. And then set up the Gran Detante for a huge extravaganza in America. The exchange was funding for Tesla through Bourdain, while Bourdain got to be a better Magician in London as mister Grand is spending all his fortune and time in America
    Just as Bourdain had planned, and had agreed with Tesla. Since Edison and the government were coming to take down Tesla. As we all know, Tesla was the real geniuses in history and this was a good poke at the American government.

    Bourdain and Fallon always knew this would come to a tragic end. Where one would make it to the end and one would not. So that is why they had half lives. To make it “fair”. As one would ultimately die for the trick. Fallon.

    Oh don’t forget the line that Bourdain tells the Grands double…how once his double realized he had power over him… it was very difficult to handle, and he was over powered.. this is true .. as the original Fallon became even more vengeful towards the Grand than Bourdain.

    THERE WAS NEVER A TWIN!!!

    THANKS GUYS .
    My twitter is @too_glad

    Reply
  3. Maurice

    This theory ignore so many key points in the story. I’m sorry but no. No 8 year old article I just found.

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Then share with us please how you think it went down? I’ve been pontificating about movies and theorizing about how they might work for the last 10 years on this site, and this single blog post is my single best theory I’ve ever come up with.

      So yeah, I’ll stand behind this 8 year old post. And I ask you, if not this, then how? Because if you think the machine works I have a TON of questions for you.

      Reply
      • Maurice

        I’ve read this theory before on other sites and I will say that this is the most well thought out explanation I’ve seen so kudos for sticking by it after all of this time. But I think the flaw is that you remove so much agency from the characters in order to make this theory work. This is more of a critique/analysis of who you think Christopher Nolan is as a director than an actual analysis of the film.

        For me, the answer is all about character motivation. I think you actually got that part right but for some reason you ignored the central motivation of Angier even after mentioning it. He wanted the love of the crowd, he wanted to be in the prestige.

        So let’s say that your theory is correct and the machine didn’t work. Then how did any of this work? You say the machine didn’t work but didn’t present the alternative which is “what really happened under the stage?”. You touched on this in you FAQs section and dismissed it but this is SO important. Let’s say he did use doubles and then put 20 wax figures in the tanks for Borden to discover. This would require:

        1. Another double to be in the Prestige.
        This is flawed for many reasons. Cutter wasn’t involved in the trick outside of being at the front of the house. So who trained the double? And remember the central reason he even went on this trip to find Tesla and the secret: so he could discover the method to improve his illusion and be in the prestige. The machine not working would require his “showmanship” to introduce the machine which would leave him under the stage…. again. Why would he do this?

        2. More importantly it would require that he knew Bordens method all along
        So you’re saying that he placed 20 wax figures or dead doubles in these tanks so Borden would see him. That would imply that Angier knew his method, knew he had a twin brother, knew he’d come and find him etc etc. This doesn’t make sense. And I just explained how/why there can’t be doubles in those tanks. They made it so very clear that wouldn’t be possible earlier in the film.

        I honestly think this alone kind of kills this theory. There are some other misses in your article but this was enough to make me dismiss the theory again. It doesn’t hold if you pay attention to the story presented to you. Remember a key line during his final monologue (roughly): “It took sacrifice stepping into that machine every night not knowing if I’d be the man in the box or the man in the prestige”. What do you think he meant by this? It’s the basic fear that the machine simply would not work and he’d fall through the door and drown. It’s little things like this you ignored on your way to write this article that kills it to be honest. You’re cherry picking.

        Also, your point about narration is spot on but I don’t think Angier sat there and told Borden exactly what happened with his machine when he first used it. We heard the speech as he told it. That flashback was for the viewers benefit.

        There’s also the fact that, while Tesla was in retreat, he took the time to:

        Box up this fake machine
        Write an ominous letter about the fake machine
        Ship the fake machine

        for… what? And then, for some reason, in your mind there’s this whole section of the narrative missing there Angier discovers it’s fake and decides to use it anyway? None of this makes sense. Your theory turn everyone into idiots.

      • Taylor Holmes

        I have yet to read your comment, but I’m going to read and comment as I go. So I may not anticipate where you are going in advance… but let’s see.

        “I’ve read this theory before on other sites and I will say that this is the most well thought out explanation I’ve seen so kudos for sticking by it after all of this time. But I think the flaw is that you remove so much agency from the characters in order to make this theory work. This is more of a critique/analysis of who you think Christopher Nolan is as a director than an actual analysis of the film.”

        I’m going to give you your latter point here, but not the former. The way I came to the idea happened in a strange way, and it was predicated on the fact that I had faith in Nolan. I’ll be honest, I think Nolan messed up with Dunkirk editing. Just got it wrong. It undermined characters and led to shade being thrown where it shouldn’t have been. So yeah, I’m not 100% a Nolan fan boy. But I do think he normally gets it right. So I’ve changed a ton on my view of Nolan over the years.

        As to the agency of the characters, I actually have more faith in them than you do. I have basically said that the plies that these characters are playing are like 3 tiers deeper than your default understanding of the movie. It is the idea that the journals, which were written directly for their nemesis, gives them such keen insights and intelligence. And that is not made up by me. That is in both our views. But it is because of this that I am just pointing out that they are lying to each other directly. There’s no ifs ands or buts about it. Which means those narrators are useless for finding the truth. This is a wickedly insightful way of viewing this film. And, better yet, it means that they are working that much harder to out think the other.

        Your Next point focuses directly on Angier’s desire to be on the stage. And yes, that concerns me. And yes, I will give you this. His attempt was to flip the script and allow himself to be on the stage at the end. But just because he has this goal to flip the script, and that he wants to be on the stage at the end, doesn’t mean that the machine has to work. That’s an enormous non-sequitur. But I love this line of reason, and this fantastic insight that shows we are dialing this thing in. On your side, your Achilles heel, that you’ll never get around is the fact that Borden had to give the pass-phrase of Tesla for the journal as a head fake, that actually worked? Why would Borden have sent him to Tesla if the machine worked? Send him to Edison for heaven’s sake! hahah. If it’s real? Then whatever you do, don’t send him there!

        And yeah, Tesla did all that in my theory. Only to have Angier open it to find it doesn’t work? That actually makes the Borden password, the Tesla head fake make sense. Borden totally worked Angier 100%. He contracted with Tesla to screw his nemesis over. It actually is brilliant. But then to have Angier act as though it works, takes it to another level.

        Just between you and me. Yes, this theory has flaws. But no more flaws than your theory. And I’ll I have fought for since day one was that it be seen as a balancing act of two opposing ideas. Which, granted, is where my Nolan faith comes in. I believe Nolan is great at taking to opposing thoughts and sets them against each other, and keeps them propped up by their own inertia. Spinning top anyone? And that is what is happening here.

        But kudos to you for digging so deeply into the movie. I haven’t been on this thread for a while now. So it’s good to dust it off and say hey to some old friends! hahah. But great job. Love to know your thoughts on some of my other posts. Are we nemesii set against each other at birth? Or is this just a fluke!? hahaha. Take care.

        Taylor

    • Maurice

      I find it a bit strange that you say you trust in Chris Nolan yet stick to you journal theory. So let’s say you’re right and the journals are a lie… then the whole movie is a lie. It’d be the same as “it was all a dream” ending since us, as viewers, couldn’t possibly believe anything we saw. That’s not good storytelling. I believe that the journals, overall, were accurate. I have to believe that. Otherwise the movie is completely pointless.

      I’m not going to go point for point on your last reply since we could do this forever but I still think you’re ignoring key points in the story. You keep saying that how he accomplished his final trick is not important. It IS important. This entire film is about Angiers passion as a magician. It’s, more specifically, about him being in the prestige. His last line in the movie blatantly tells us this.

      “It’s about the look on their faces”

      So explain to me how he accomplishes this feat using a double or wax figures. He has to introduce his trick to sell it so he has to be in the first 2 acts. How then does he end up in the Prestige. It doesn’t add up. The machine works, simple as that. Again, you’re not providing any other theory or conclusion. This article is incomplete at best.

      And another thing to chew on. Let’s say you’re right. Anger finds out the machine doesn’t work and uses it anyway. I see how this could be possible given your theory But these are rivals. Rivals who will do just about anything to get over on each other. So Angier gets the machine, plugs it in, sees it doesn’t work, uses it anyway… and at no point does he decide to tell Borden about this?

      “You sent me to Tesla on a wild goose chase but I found a way to use it and do a better trick than you anyway”

      That’s ABSOLUTELY something that would’ve been brought up during their conversations.

      I just think, overall, you’re really reaching for the stars here. You ignore too much that happened in the story. Hell, their last conversation completely blows your theory out of the water since in order for it to be true, Angier would have to have known Bordens secret all along which doesn’t make sense.

      And this is all ignoring the fact that this movie is based on a book where this is pretty much how it happened in the end. I don’t see why Nolan would change this part of the narrative without showing it to us. Especially given how detailed and intricate the story was up until the point. He leaves out so many big chunks in the narrative all of a sudden. For what?

      Reply
      • Taylor Holmes

        “That’s not good storytelling…”

        True, that’s not good Hollywood-talk-down-to-your-viewer-and-make-sure-you-tell-everyone-what-to-think kind of storytelling. But believe it or not there is a whole ‘nother school of thought that says you don’t have to button everything up to make your movie a good storytelling movie. Your honor, I would like to submit to the evidence pool pretty much EVERY single movie Nolan has ever made as a good example for what this movie telling vantage looks like. Dunkirk probably being the only movie that isn’t a good example. And Memento? The movie he had just finished? Is a doctoral thesis on what an unbuttoned up movie looks like. So yeah, I don’t agree with you on your definition of what good storytelling looks like. And neither does Nolan’s track record.

        I realize why I don’t hang out here too often. Many of your points I have already elucidated upon. Not to frustrate you. But there are literally 400 comments now on this post. Hahahha. And most of them are as insightful and well thought out as your own.

        But I will comment on a couple of your points. I actually don’t think it’s that much of a stretch to say that they were written for the other person. And it baffles me to think you disagree. And no, it’s not an “it’s all a dream” cop out… on the contrary, it’s the version of the movie you believe in is an “It’s all a dream” mindset. By seeing that the machine doesn’t work I ground it in reality and actually make sense out of a non-sensical description of what we see on the screen.

        It literally makes no sense to have the movie reflect on the Chinese Magician’s method, and to realize he is actually not an old decrepit codger… but instead is a extraordinarily fit man acting like he’s old… only to say the magic works. That there is a duplicating/teleportation machine that actually works. The head fake on that logic is so extreme as to snap everyone’s neck in the theater. Why even bring the massive fish bowl trick up? It’s irrelevant.

        Now to your point about something that would have been brought up in conversation… you are obviously missing the entire point of the struggle between these two artisans. The trick, the prestige, this is the lever that they have over each other. That is EXACTLY what they wouldn’t be talking about. It is the thing they are killing each other to get at. Of course he isn’t going to say… dude, YOU SENT ME TO Tesla, and he totally scammed me! Hahahha. He gave me a bum machine that doesn’t work. Maybe if I set it up to work with AC power as opposed to DC? Ideas? No. Maybe use a compressor? They are continuing to double down until the very end.

        Wait. Let me see if I understand how you think it went down:
        Angiers and Borden get into a pissing contest after Borden kills Angier’s wife. But luckily, Borden has a twin they have called Bernard Fallon (But his real name is Alfred or Freddy, depending on which one you think is prime – I personally think that evil twin Alfred is prime, but whatever) and they have created the best trick ever where they use their doubleness in order to fake the audience out. But their artistry is lacking. Angier is dying to have the trick, literally. So he gets Olivia to steal the diary, and then almost kills Borden’s ingenieur/brother in order to get the key. And to get Angiers out of their proverbial hair, they decide… oh heck, let’s send him to America, Colorado Springs even, in order to ditch him. So they tell him the diary’s decryption schema, and off he goes. Only, surprisingly, Angiers comes back with an actual working prototype of a cloning machine as a result. And that’s lucky, because Gerald Root was dead, and it takes two yous to pull off the “transported man” trick. And one night, Freddy, against Alfred’s better judgement, decides to go under the stage and find out how Angiers is doing the trick. He sees Angiers’ teleported double that is drowning in the tank and is arrested for Angier’s death because Angier plays at being Lord Caldlow. He then is hanged for Angiers’ murder. And Caldlow takes Borden’s daughter after Freddy refuses to give up the Prestige. But! Fallon reveal’s himself as Freddy and blows Angiers’ blooming mind, and by the way, kills him in the process. Leaving only himself (that is Fallon/Alfred) to survive the festivities. That and his daughter anyway.

        Am I close? Because that just makes zero sense. But regardless, your vociferous declinations are what continues to earn this page piles of SEO love. Hahhaha. And keeps the argument going many many years after it was initially thought up. Cheers.

      • Maurice

        … I’ll ignore that childish last paragraph in an effort to actually have a decent discussion.

        You’re doing a lot of avoiding so I’m going to ask some simple questions to be more direct:

        1. While performing the trick, Angier was clearly in the intro and the Prestige. How? Keep in mind that Cutter wasn’t there to train doubles as he did for the first iteration since he only worked front of house. So, there’s no reason to believe there was one.

        2. Cutters last line of the film (roughly). “I once told a story about a fisherman who drowned who said it felt like going home. I lied… he said it was agony”. My interpretation? “You just drowned a bunch of dudes and that’s fucked up”. What’s yours? Why did he say that to him?

        3. With Angiers’ dying breaths he said to Borden that he feared the machine in that, on any given night, he didn’t know if he would end up being the man in the box or the man in the Prestige. My interpretation? If the machine malfunctioned, he’d fall through the trap door and drown. What’s yours? Why did he say those words?

        4. You’ve missed the point of the fishbowl trick. It wasn’t used to say “hey it’s never REAL magic. It’s fake.” It was to call attention to the fact that to really excel in this, it takes sacrifice. The Chinese magician sacrificed existing living comfortably in his every day life. Borden sacrificed living their own full lives. Angier sacrificed his morality. I’m surprised you missed this. Did you miss the bird trick foreshadowing as well? They even said this in the final act of the film when Borden asked Angier what he sacrificed.

        Which leads me to my final question.

        After this line of the film, what was Angier telling Borden to look at? You mentioned 20 wax figures in your FAQ but keep in mind that in Angiers’ head, Borden was being hanged. So why would he put 20 wax figures in a basement? To trick whom?

      • Taylor Holmes

        1. I’ve stated this on this page upwards of fifty times? I do not know as I haven’t been let in on the trick. There are many ways that it could have been done. And one that has already been done in this movie already.

        2. Yes, I buy that interpretation. But Cutter, in both our interpretations, believes the machine to be real.

        3. Well, from my perspective it’s easily explained as a final embellishment. Trust me! It’s hard working with real magic, killing people day after day! hehe. And who knows when the magic turns on me! gah! Just an embellishment.

        4. I have spoken about the bird trick here before. Many times. I’m on the record. But of course you see foreshadowing, and I see yet another real trick explained by the movie. Bullet catch, transporting man, the bird trick… just a pile of real tricks grounded in the real world. This is the significance that matters to me. You see, yet another example of Nolan’s gorgeous balancing act.

        5. The tanks had been there all along. Just because he hadn’t cleaned up his handiwork doesn’t mean that it is any less relevant.

        I see the basic understanding of how to read this movie. And I believe it is one layer deeper. It is Nolan’s spinning top, that he intentionally placed here. That’s all. Nothing more nothing less. And my personal disdain is for those that can’t see beyond the obvious.

  4. Sam Awai

    Wow Taylor, your explanation was undoubtedly the easiest to understand. Your review and insight on the character plots in this movie are spot on. This is one movie that the Internet has trolled beyond logical comprehension. Lol.

    The Prestige is a great movie about the obsessive nature which can take ahold of someone who will not admit that an “illusion” is quite simply an illusion.

    ~ Are you watching closely? ~ Borden

    The above quote is the best “troll” comment in this movie. It is also a common quote used by every magician practitioner. Simply put, all magic is an illusion, and if you obsess over debunking or understanding the process of an illusion, then the illusionist has achieved his goal.
    Taken too far, you may end up like Algiers and become obsessed with an illusion.

    In closing, an illusion has to be taken at face value. All the while admitting to yourself that an illusionist will trick you into believeing that an illusion is everything but an illusion.

    Hope I didn’t confuse you or anyone else. I can’t wait to read your reviews on other movies.

    Reply

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