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The Prestige Analysis

Essay by   •  December 24, 2010  •  Case Study  •  2,488 Words (10 Pages)  •  2,331 Views

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The Prestige Analysis

The Prestige is a film adaptation of the Christopher Priest novel bearing the same name. The story is set in the turn-of-the-century London about two stage magicians, their rivalry, and their obsession to be the best with the artistry and secrecy of illusion. The analysis of The Prestige will examine several aspects of the film including plot, character development, use of sound, use of photography, set design, lighting, and role of the collaborators. Each of these areas is important to create the emotion, suspense, and energy for a successful and entertaining film.

The Plot

The filmmakers introduce a man who designs the equipment to pull off the illusions. The magic of a successful illusion consists of three acts: the pledge, the turn, and the prestige. The first act is the “pledge.” The magician presents to the audience an ordinary object, which more than likely is not ordinary and at the same time, creates a distraction. For the second act and the “turn,” the magician shows the audience a piece of magic with the ordinary object. Finally, the “prestige” creates an illusion with an added deception, so unbelievable even other magicians are mystified. Usually the “prestige” is the finale of the performance.

While the movie’s principal theme is magic and illusion, the storyline covers the magicians as they progress from working together as magician assistants to “headliner” performers. After a tragic accident, the magicians work separately, creating competition between each other, trying to discover the secrets of the illusions, and sabotaging the other’s acts. The film’s sub theme involves the obsession, deceit, and jealousy between the magicians and within the premises of their private lives. They become fierce enemies jeopardizing their friendships and their lives.

The moral to the story is that things are not always what they appear to be. Mr. Angier thought Mr. Borden had used a teleportation machine invented by the scientist and engineer, Mr. Tesla. However, Mr. Borden had an identical twin brother, which created the illusion of teleportation between two boxes. The film’s entire storyline became “the pledge,” the “turn,” and the “prestige.” From the beginning, the characters represented the “pledge,” or the objects of the film. The “turn” involved the death of Mr. Angier in the waterbox and the hanging of Mr. Borden. Finally, near the end of the film, the audience learns Mr. Angier and Mr. Borden are very much alive creating the sense of the “prestige” and the final act of an illusion. Luckily, unlike a magician’s performance, the audience does learn the secret behind each magician’s death defying illusion.

While watching the movie, the plot seemed confusing because the film kept flashing back and forth in time through multiple characters’ eyes. The thought of a magician teleporting himself seemed impossible, but the illusion kept the audience wondering how Mr. Borden accomplished the trick. At the end, when the pieces of the puzzle were in place, the plot of the movie tied together amazingly.

Character Development

The main characters are the two magicians, Mr. Robert Angier and Mr. Alfred Borden. From the beginning of the film, the dialogue between characters introduces both men as having a love for the art of illusion. Mr. Angier has an aristocratic background and does not use his family name in order to protect his family from his chosen profession. Mr. Borden has a poor, working class background and sees success as a magician as a way to escape the life he has known. Mr. Angier carries himself with dignity and a dialect suited for showmanship. While Mr. Borden’s language and dialect support his background and his magical performances are lacking charisma. The story begins with the characters being friends. They slowly turn on each other after Mr. Angier’s wife dies in the waterbox. Continuing on a downward spiral, both magicians try to best the other, their anger increasing, and causing injuries to each other. The main characters in the film are very dynamic and changed through the length of the film.

Other key characters include Mr. Cutter, Sarah Borden, and Olivia Wenscombe. Mr. Cutter, the engineer that designs the mechanical devices used for the illusions, tells the story leading up to the death of Mr. Angier and Mr. Borden. Sarah Borden, Alfred Borden’s wife, displays confusion over the on-again, off-again love received by Mr. Borden. Throughout the film, she expresses this confusion by telling Alfred, “Today, it’s true,” or “Today, you don’t mean it” (Nolan, Ryder, and Thomas). She believes on some days, his love of magic is greater than his love for her. Olivia Wenscombe, Mr. Angier’s assistant and later Mr. Borden’s mistress, represented a woman who loved the attention of the stage. Her outgoing personality embodied through her clothing and her dialogue.

The Use of Sound

Even though the film is essentially a visual experience, the use of sound has become extremely important in modern film. The modern viewer hears a complicated soundtrack that is as meaningful as the image on the screen. Three elements comprise the film's soundtrack: the dialogue, the sound effects, and the musical score. The proper balance and mix of these elements produced the essential emphasis required, which created the desired effects. As explained by Joseph Boggs and Dennis Petrie,

Because we are more consciously aware of what we see than what we hear, we generally accept the soundtrack without much thought, responding intuitively to the information it provides while ignoring the complex techniques employed to create those responses (Boggs and Petrie, 2008).

The Prestige soundtrack provided very balanced music and brought out the essence of the scenes. The blending of the musical score with the imagery enhances the mood and feelings of the film. The music fortified the different scenes as transition and heightened the mood of the scenes. A simple drumbeat for the water escape scene helped heighten the anticipation of the magic trick and the pending tragedy.

The background sounds placed the scene and brought the viewer into the film. In the scenes of the city or backstage, the sounds of people off scene can be heard. The

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