The Brothers Bourden

At the end of the screening of The Prestige last wednsday the question was raised, “Why does the one Bourden brother get to live while his brother and Angier┬áboth die?” The same question was raised again at the end of class on thursday. I am slightly embarrassed to say it but I spent a good chunk of time this past weekend thinking about this question. I like this film a lot and have seen it more than a few times but I have not been able to, or maybe I haven’;t really wanted to answer this question. The more and more I think about the filmk the more I start to think that Nolan may have spent some time setting up to Bourden as two different people not only to reveal as the prestige of the film but also to answer this very question. I like to identify the two Bourden brothers by the women that they loved: Sarah’s Bourden and Olivia’s Bourden. there are two scenes when we know absolutely which Bourden brother we are dealing with and those two scenes are when they each meet the women they love. Sarah’s Bourden (during the scene in which he meets her) is friendly and kind (he talks to her nephew and explains some of the rules of magic) and through this interaction with Sarah we learn about his character. Olivia’s Bourden meets Olivia, and although I do believe that he does love her, immediately begins to think about how he can use her against Angiers, which says something about his character as well. Judging from these two experiences and knowing that Sarah’s Bourden is the one who loves her then we can assume that every time Bourden tells Sarah that he loves her and she does not believe him (and the one time when Bourden tells her he does not love her) that it is Olivia’s Bourden who is speaking. This would also mean that Bourden is the one who presents Sarah with the key to their new house and it is Olivia’s Bourden who fights with Sarah even after Sarah’s Bourden has asked him to help him out in his relationship with her. Undoubtedly it is not only Olivia’s Bourden who is capable of being short tempered or nasty but Nolan does not show us this, and I believe by only showing us Olivia’s Bourden acting this way he is giving us as the audience clues to the morality and character of each of the brothers. Going on what I have just stated (which I will readily admit is not concrete evidence) I believe, based on what Nolan has shown us about the characters, that it is Olivia’s Bourden who ties the knot on Angiers wife that causes her to drown (and starts the fued with Angiers), but Sarah’s Bourden who shows up to pay his respects at the funeral (this would account for his not knowing which knot was tied) – if this is indeed true that tells us a great deal more about each character. I also think that it is Olivia’s Bourden who decides to go to Angiers show at the end of the film to try and figure out his trick, even after the brothers have decided to let it go. This would mean that it is Olivia’s Bourden who is arrested, tried, and eventually hung and Sarah’s Bourden who kills Angier in order to avenge his brother. The way that it shakes out in the end then is that Oliva’s Bourden accidentally kills Angiers’ wife and then Angiers frames Olivia’s Bourden, while Sarah’s Bourden kills Angiers to avenge his brother and also to reclaim the daughter that is most likely and logically actaully his and not Angiers or Olivia’s Bourden’s. I know that this is a lot of assumption on my part but it is a way that the movie can make sense to me and not end on such a morally ambiguous note. Anyway, I would welcome comments or other thoughts or ideas on the ending.

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