To create the illusion, the magician will often divert the attention of his audience. The magic trick is, therefore, to act without noticing it. This means offering a distraction on which the spectators will be able to concentrate.
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This idea is at the heart of the film The Prestige. Directed by Christopher Nolan and released in cinemas in 2006, the visual work dedicated to the world of magic also reveals why it is so difficult for a magician to fool another. Between professionals of the illusion, we know where to look.
The Prestige is a 2006 mystery thriller film directed by Christopher Nolan from a screenplay by Nolan and his brother Jonathan, based on the 1995 novel of the same name by Christopher Priest. It follows Robert Angier and Alfred Borden, rival stage magicians in London at the end of the 19th century. Obsessed with creating the best stage illusion, they engage in a competitive rivalry, with tragic results.
Because the developer has total control over what the viewer sees (and not sees), the manipulation of visuals is easier in cinema. But it can also appear as a ” deception “. Adapted from a novel by Christopher Priest, with several important changes which have given a different end to the film, the work of Nolan nevertheless retains an element of secrecy much more difficult to hide on the screen. This makes the second experience of watching the film The Prestige far more interesting. Here’s why.
The Prestige explanation: how to create the illusion in the illusion?
If the cinema, notably for the films of type “plot twist” (such as the Sixth sense, for example) is based on the illusion, it is not always necessary. Yet there is a film like The Prestige where the director made the choice not to reveal everything to the public. The Prestige becomes a cinematic experience that is much richer at the second viewing. When the audience understands the magnitude of the sacrifices that have been granted to their art by the characters of Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale).
However, Christopher Nolan decided to retain this key information up to the last minutes of the film. For this, he used various methods to deter the audience from trying to guess too quickly. Some of these methods are basic, but the most effective is simply to announce the first fruits of this tour de passe at a time when no one pays much attention.
In the scene that showcases the round center of the film The prestige: The Transported Man, the audience is completely captivated by the rivalry between the two men. Thus, the tower, designed by Line, will be stolen by Angier to serve his vendetta personally as much as professionally.
The Prestige diverts the attention of the viewer to delay the final revelation
What is crucial in this scene (that can be seen elsewhere in the trailer for the film The Prestige), is the decision of Nolan to gradually build up the anticipation of the illusion of Borden. And then refuse to show it off fully. The camera goes back and forth between Angier, in disguise, observing the act of Borden. And Angier removes his disguise, a little later, while his assistant (Scarlett Johansson) asks him what he saw.
The juxtaposition is striking between the glibness of Borden and the reaction amazed of Angier elicits a huge curiosity among the spectator. But it is precisely at this point that Nolan cut the scene and returns to the character of John Cutter, the engineer of Angier. The highest point of the tour is eclipsed, and the camera focuses entirely on her face. The viewer is disappointed… There will be no more on the highlight of the film The Prestige.
Hide the magic trick at the sight of all!
There are several levels of “deception” in The Prestige. For example, the character of Borden insisted on its small rubber ball. Throwing it to a member of the public for inspection, and then stating that it is magical. In reality, the ball has nothing to do with the tour and just creates a memorable image.
Another level of deception: the film quickly switches to a scene where Angier and Cutter are discussing with animation the nature of the tour de Borden. Turn, remember, we have not seen. It is for this reason that at this stage of the film, the audience is too busy to wonder what is the trick!
However, Cutter is revealed just a few minutes after The Transported Man has been presented! Borden realizes his round with a double. It is their attempt, the most successful of Nolan to play the cards on the table with his audience. The character of Fallon (who is none other than the sister of Borden) is shown half in the dark. A hint of realization that prevents the audience to observe the character too closely.
But again, the film The Prestige will shake a distraction even more attractive in the eyes of the public to divert his attention. Angier chooses him as a double. It is the strategy of “hide the tower in the sight of all” that we mentioned earlier. Including the use of disguises physical throughout the film. Once again, the best way to hide information is to reveal it openly at a time when the public is fully absorbed by something else. Or tell beautiful stories…
The Prestige: where the art of fooling his audience up to the last minute
If Nolan had shown Borden out of the door on the right and grabbed the rubber ball – it will be a few minutes later in the discussion of Angier and Cutter on a double would have been enough context to allow spectators to choose their camp. Or at least consider the question. Instead, the two men arguing over an illusion of we have only seen half of it. And the question of what it is beyond all consideration of its operation.
Nolan plants, therefore, in his film The Prestige, an idea that encourages us immediately to be rejected. But you will recall that we had already mentioned, removing any possibility of feeling trampled! The tip of Nolan, if it is and everything is pretty simple, is not very efficient.
Say to the public, with emphasis what is the “trick” your turn, without any real indication as to the nature of this tour. Hide and admit at the same time.
To go further, I invite you to discover the techniques of perception applied to mentalism. And to introduce you to become, you, too, psychic!