A ‘Prestigious’ Film

I agree with Kyle.  This was my third time watching The Prestige and I’ve gained a higher appreciation for the Nolan brothers’ work each time.  The twist ending is what amazed me the first time, the way in which the film selectively hides and shows the secret to the twist is what got me the second time, and the narrative complexity is what captured me this time.  Perhaps this is because of the focus of our class, but I also believe that it may take a minimum of three viewings simply to understand how much is going on.  Between the diaries (one of which has two separate authors), the voice-overs, and the non-linear rearranging of events, I think this film successfully accomplishes the surprise ending much more than The Sixth Sense does.  It may be cliché or maybe it’s highly intentional, but the distractions created by the complex narrative  structure of the film distract the viewer from the secret of the Borden/Fallon twins.  Watching The Prestige a second and third time is not only tolerable, but it’s really enjoyable, something that The Sixth Sense lacks. 

I should also quickly say that although I understand Ioana’s dissatisfaction with the cloning device I had and still have no qualms with it’s use in the narrative.  Although I don’t think that this film can be entirely categorized as one of magical realism as conclusively as something like Pan’s Labyrinth, I don’t think the idea of cloning and it’s use in the film is out of place.  As Leslie pointed out in her blog, ‘cinema is magic’.  It’s an escapist idea to watch somebody else’s life, conflicts and successes for two hours.  We go to the cinema to escape many of the realities which life (and physics) hold true without fail.  If you can’t get past the idea that a film uses ‘fringe science’ to play with the idea of cloning in a film, than how can you accept that Hugh Jackman (Wolverine), Andy Serkis (Gollum) and David Bowie (Ziggy Stardust, ha) are sitting at the same table in the first place?  The same mentality that allows us enter the world of film in the first place must be maintained throughout.  I understand Ioana would rebut this, arguing that the idea of cloning is too fantastical to fit into a film in which all else follows the laws of physics and reality, but this film is too good to be caught up with something so insignificant.

Lastly, there was one sequence in the film that i noticed this time around that I had missed before.  In a scene near the end of the film when Borden is sitting in the audience of Angier’s show and he is trying to figure out how he does the final version of the transported man.  The short sequence of shots when Angier is performing the actual trick, which is very quickly edited together, contains a shot which is only a couple of frames long, of a close-up of a trap door closing.  In the midst of all the other craziness and deception that is going on with the noise and the lightning bolts, I overlooked this until now, but I realized it this time that in the following scene when Borden is talking about the trick and how “he travels 50 yards in a second and all we know is he uses a trap door” you as the viewer know about the trap door whether you consciously made note of those few frames or not.  This got me thinking, not only about editing, but about the ‘fair use’ of very quick (1-3 frame) shots.  I loved the choice to include this small shot when i noticed it but I also remembered reading about how it was illegal to use subliminal frames, which may not be consciously noticed, but are at some level.  The obvious example would be the use of this in Fight Club.  I know it’s off topic from how this post began, but if anybody has any knowledge of this I’d love to hear  it.  Hope you all enjoyed The Prestige as much as I did.

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