The Prestige: Magic Tricks and Fiction

There is a lie at the heart of Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige. The movie is an elaborate trick, and Nolan knows it; he rubs our noses in it, not once, but twice. The trick is that the film has a glaring logical flaw, but we don’t notice it. We don’t notice, because we don’t want to notice it. But if we choose to see it, it opens up the real meaning of the movie. Nolan is showing us that this is how all movies work.
The Prestige opens with the following lines;

Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called “The Pledge”. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course… it probably isn’t. The second act is called “The Turn”. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back. That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call “The Prestige”.”

Cutter, an inventor of tricks (or ingénieur) and the movie’s narrator, describes a three-act structure possessed by magic tricks – Pledge, Turn and Prestige – which although fictional, is clearly based upon the classical three-act dramatic structure upon which all mainstream movies are constructed. Following the success of Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan was in the position to make a film he had personally developed. The Prestige was selected over another working script, Inception, which would require a budget that Nolan would be unable to raise until after the phenomenal success of his second Batman movie The Dark Knight. The script, by Nolan and his brother (another theme of the movie) was adapted quickly from Christopher Priest’s 1995 novel, wisely ditching the present-day framing narrative, and powerfully rearranging the chronological structure in order to increase narrative tension. The film was widely misunderstood as a “twist” movie, in the style of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense, perhaps because of Nolan’s obsessive secrecy, which went so far as to block a lucrative tie-in edition of Priest’s original novel. Roger Ebert described the film as containing too many twists, as though every denouement constituted a twist. The revelation of the “prestige materials” is scarcely a surprise to anyone paying attention. If there is one actual twist, it is the reveal about Borden and his ingénieur, which forces the viewer to reaccess what has gone before, but, to judge by the reviews, wasn’t all that unexpected for many viewers.

The Pledge: Nolan shows us something ordinary: a man, or two, to be accurate. Borden and Angier are two young magicians, working their apprenticeships acting as stooges for another magician. During one performance, Angier’s girlfriend, the magician’s assistant, drowns as a result of Borden’s recklessness. The two become mortal enemies, and repeatedly attempt to destroy each other’s careers. Although Angier, a natural performer, is initially the more successful, Borden becomes successful after performing an astounding trick called The Transported Man, where he is transported instantly from one side of the stage to the other. Borden and his ingénieur Fallen are twins, each living half a life in order to make the trick work. Sometimes Borden is the brother who loves their wife and is father to their daughter, and sometimes he is the other who loves their glamorous assistant, but they can only swap places when they perform the trick.

The Turn: Nolan makes things extraordinary when he introduces the enigmatic Nicola Tesla into the mix (played with fittingly aloof detachment by David Bowie). Angier, refusing to believe his ingénieur Cutter, who tells him that he is using a double, sets off to find Tesla and commission him to built a teleportation machine. Eventually, Tesla produces a device which copies, rather than teleports, whatever is placed inside it. When the trick is performed in London, Angier becomes a huge success, trumping Borden, who flies into a rage. Yet Angier is forced to kill the previous copy of himself, night after night, by dropping himself into a tank of water under the stage to drown, while the copy appears on a balcony at the back of the theatre.

The Prestige: the trick is then right in front of us, but it is not easy to spot. It is established that when Angier uses the Box, the double is produced practically instantaneously. The scene where Borden rages about how quickly Angier (which we know to be the double) appears on the balcony underlines that the film-maker wants the viewers to know it (at least, if we are paying attention). Why, then, (and this is the fundamental point) does the double fail to appear on the night that Borden barges backstage?

I have been offered two explanations. First, it has been suggested that the copy hears Borden as he hacks at the tank containing the original Angier. Yet we are shown several seconds of silence, at the end of which we hear Borden shouting from underneath the stage. If the Angier copy simply hears Borden, then we need to explain why he didn’t appear within a second as in every other performance. An alternative explanation is that Angier allowed Borden to sabotage the show, in order to see him jailed. But the same problem applies: either Angier and his latest clone are telepathic, or they knew he was coming in advance. And neither of these possibilities is suggested in the movie, nor, for that matter, the original novel. Nevertheless, Angier’s clone does survive; in fact the narrative relies upon it. But it makes no sense.

And yet we go along with it. That’s Nolan’s trick, his Prestige. And just like in the movie, the answer was right in front of us all along. Borden and Cutter repeatedly tell us that the Transported Man could only be done with a double, and the first shot shows us the result of Tesla’s machine working. At the same moment, Nolan, through his avatar Cutter, tells us that he is playing tricks with you.

Nolan’s other movies may cheat narratively, too. Many have argued that 2010’s Inception breaks its own internal logic rules by having Cobb use his wife’s totem after stating that they have to be uniquely personal (and see here for an example of the lengths some have gone to to explain the anomaly without breaking the film’s logic). His 2000 breakthrough, Memento, is noted for its backward structure, in which each scene precedes chronologically the one it follows narratively, attempting to mimic the short-term memory loss of the central character. Famously, the DVD includes the option to play the movie chronologically, from the film’s final scene to its opening scene. All that is revealed by doing so, however, is the fact that the film’s narrative is created through its structure. Watched forwards, we see a man telling an amnesiac that he will manipulate him, and then watch him doing it. All tension, doubt, ambiguity – in short, all narrative tension – is gone. The structure is not merely a narrative device, but in fact creates the narrative. Similarly, The Prestige’s narrative tension is largely created through its non-linear, cut-up structure.

Now you’re looking for the secret. But you won’t find it because of course, you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to work it out. You want to be fooled.

Cutter repeats these lines at the movie’s closing. I believe he represent the film-maker, the cutter, who chooses what we see – and what we don’t – and in which order. The flickering stills of cinema are no exception, and Nolan’s is not the first film to make the equation between cinema and magic tricks (Orson Welles’ magisterial and sadly little-known F for Fake being a prime example). Film-making is a magic trick: by flashing still images quickly enough, we create the illusion of movement, by cutting from one shot to another, we create narrative, and by controlling the placement of certain images, we create subtext. We, as viewers, are complicit in the trick; we know how it works, but we want to be fooled. All works of art play tricks on us, from the blobs of paint on a flat canvas which we translate into the likeness of a human being, to the gaps between the panels of the comic-book we fill from our imagination. Arguably, the skill of the artist is not in creating stories (which we all do naturally and without even thinking), but in smoothing over those bits where the listener might remember that they are just hearing a story. If the technical devices utilised to this end stay unnoticed by the audience, the work is successful; if not, the narrative fails. Derren Brown (who I regard as the finest illusionist in the world today) has said that a magician is an actor playing a magician – the audience never expect that the procedure is truly magical, and the pleasure comes from being unable to work out how it was done. For the poorer-quality movie, this applies most obviously to the visual effects; for The Prestige, it applies to the narrative. We don’t want to be aware of the director: as Angier repeatedly tells us, “no-one cares about the man in the box”.

The thing is, the few people I’ve mentioned my theory about The Prestige to, even though they were fans of Nolan and of The Prestige in particular, I got the impression they didn’t really want to know. They weren’t really looking. But of course, that’s how the trick works.

36 thoughts on “The Prestige: Magic Tricks and Fiction

  1. Ride March 28, 2012 / 12:09 pm

    You are a moron, whomever wrote this 12 paragraph write up on how this doesn’t make sense.
    “Why, then, (and this is the fundamental point) does the double fail to appear on the night that Borden barges backstage?

    I have been offered two explanations. First, it has been suggested that the copy hears Borden as he hacks at the tank containing the original Angier. Yet we are shown several seconds of silence, at the end of which we hear Borden shouting from underneath the stage. If the Angier copy simply hears Borden, then we need to explain why he didn’t appear within a second as in every other performance. An alternative explanation is that Angier allowed Borden to sabotage the show, in order to see him jailed. But the same problem applies: either Angier and his latest clone are telepathic, or they knew he was coming in advance. And neither of these possibilities is suggested in the movie, nor, for that matter, the original novel. Nevertheless, Angier’s clone does survive; in fact the narrative relies upon it. But it makes no sense.”

    It’s painfully apparent that your shortsightedness caused you blindness…Angier said himself that each night he didn’t know if he would be in the box or on the balcony. But let’s really think about this, he was in both places, he was a copy of himself. That’s obviously why he already knew and didn’t want to get shot by himself the first time he tried the machine. Taking that a little further only reinforces the movie itself, all the double crossing between each others books of tricks while they read to themselves and the banter back and forth within. Of course it was planned, of course he wanted to not show himself the last time so Borden could be convicted of murder. To make him pay for his exwife’s death. Use your brain stupid.

    • eric November 17, 2012 / 6:44 am

      You might want to re-read what you think you’ve just debunked, because you fail to address the simple question that’s asked — which is this: If Angier materializes up in the balcony stairs, how can he tell that Borden is down under the stage?

      There is a simple answer to this*, but in your anger you appear to have missed it — instead, focusing on a non-answer, thus proving the author’s point.

      *The simple answer: Angier has spies.

      • AAAA February 28, 2016 / 12:17 pm

        Even though this is really old I will still say this, I don’t think he had spies. Angier allowed Borden to sabotage the show. Before turning on the machine he realises that Borden is on the stage checking the machine, something he has been waiting for because that was the whole point of the trick for him. The reason why he set up the disposal of his copies the way he did was because he knew Borden would not be able to help himself and go downstage to learn the secret. Using the same water tank in which his wife died, that was all planned to easily convict Borden. It was all planned.

  2. Ride March 28, 2012 / 12:13 pm

    LOLOLOLOL I get it…your religious!

    • mxtb May 19, 2013 / 10:03 am

      His religious what?

  3. adamkadmon March 31, 2012 / 10:24 pm

    Please explain. How does this follow from your first point? What makes you think I’m religious? And why would it matter if I were?

  4. neil July 27, 2012 / 4:14 pm

    I agree… Prestige left me feeling there was a logic hole… exactly this one… nothing to do with religion shmores, watch the movie again or ready the script and don’t fall into the trap.

    In fact.. i only found this blog because I want my new girlfriend to watch it with me because I felt i had perhaps missed something. This blog makes me think, nah, I didn’t miss anything.. it was the writer who missed filling in the logic hole.

    Still one of my favorite movies of all time.. maybe number 40 or 50 but it’s still up there… a masterpiece visually and maybe the logic hole helped it grab me long-term!

  5. Raj July 30, 2012 / 2:42 pm

    you fool. Go watch the film again!

  6. Terry August 10, 2012 / 8:33 pm

    I don’t understand the backlash from this blog. I think it’s lovely, and very true. The fact is that, as a movie, it doesn’t have to make sense logically as long as it makes sense emotionally.

    • adamkadmon August 11, 2012 / 12:54 am

      There’s no backlash, Terry, this is one of my favourite films ever. My argument is that the logical “mistake” is not actually a mistake, on the thematic level. The film’s theme is “narratives are magic tricks”, and the logic problem is there to flag this up. The whole narrative is a trick to make us skip over the logic problem because “we don’t want to see it”. That’s the prestige!

  7. MickeyMike November 9, 2012 / 5:31 pm

    Excuse me, but your whole write-up doesn’t make any sense. What again is your problem with the film? I think you are overthinking something here. Definetely your “big point” is no point at all. The weak spot is the whole sci-fi Tesla thing in general, but there is nothing wrong with the particular thing you point out.
    Angier night for night falls into the tank and is afterwards discarded of, Borden happens to be there and witness it. There’s no hole in that, you can delete this entry.

    • adamkadmon November 9, 2012 / 6:23 pm

      Why would I delete the entry?

      “Angier night for night falls into the tank and is afterwards discarded of, Borden happens to be there and witness it. There’s no hole in that” – I agree. The hole is: how does the duplicated Angier know that Borden has witnessed it and so not show himself?

  8. eric November 17, 2012 / 6:46 am

    There is a simple answer to the question (namely, that Angier has spies, having learned to be much more thorough and careful), but it requires a cheat (lack of support in the narrative).

    What’s neat about this reading is that the visceral reactions you get prove your point. Even if you’re wrong, you’re right.

    • adamkadmon November 17, 2012 / 12:25 pm

      Eric, I am not debunking – I repeat, this is one of my favourite movies, and I think I have pointed to another level of interpretation which I think the authors intended. No anger. No negative criticism at all, in fact.

      If I have missed the simple answer that “Angier has spies”, show me where in the film this is asserted. If this were the case, why would Nolan show that the stage crew were blind? As you yourself say, it requires a logical “cheat” in the viewer, and this is my whole point. The film, on a meta level, is about how movies (and stories more generally) are a kind of magic trick.

  9. adhokshid December 14, 2012 / 3:29 am

    I honestly dont know why u want to crash with epicness angier must’ve seen through borden’s disguise he must’ve appeared at the balcony and then hid himself till the crowds attention went to borden screaming the one thing i don’t understand is that was there a real angier bcoz the first time the angier in the box kills the other one but subsequently the one in the box dies every day so either he puts a clone in the box everyday or the original angier died that day

  10. KoreArabin January 7, 2013 / 9:30 am

    I assumed that the Angier who falls into the tank shares a consciousness with the Angier who appears on the balcony; they must have the same mind/thoughts/consciousness etc, otherwise Angier’s statement to the effect that he can be the one in the tank or the one on the balcony on any given night would make no sense.

    The Angier in the tank saw Borden through the glass as soon as he fell into the water. Presumably this would be shared instantaneously with the Angier who appears on the balcony, through their shared consciousness. So the Angier on the balcony simply hides rather than appearing triumphantly, and sneaks off, leaving Borden to carry the can for murdering the Angier in the tank.

    • Capitán Piluso January 29, 2013 / 7:12 am

      But that consciousness is shared until the very moment that the copy is created, therefore the copy at the balcony should not have any knowledge of what happened to Angier under the stage.
      Otherwise Angier would have suffered the death of all his clones… and there is no indication of that in the movie, especially there is no suggestion of such link when he kills his clone with his gun.

  11. Capitán Piluso January 29, 2013 / 7:08 am

    I find it hilarious the reactions you get from uncultured or even stupid little minds here.
    The literacy in this country is really going to hell. I would expect the “this is just a movie” reactions from a 10 year old brat, not from adults who are supposed to have passed basic literature classes in high school. Most answers are non-answers and I would bet that none of the haters actually read what you wrote.
    With this kind of critical thinking, no wonder our world is going to hell.

    I haven’t realized that plot hole and I will have to rewatch it to confirm your observations…

  12. arthurcalloway April 1, 2013 / 3:16 am

    I really love your analysis of the movie. I agree that your thoughts might be the correct interpretation of the movie. Keep up the good work.

  13. tekshi May 29, 2013 / 4:44 am

    Bit late here but just saying, Angier most likely saw through Borden’s disguise when he picked him from the crowd which then let his clone know Borden was going to go after him this time.

  14. Man-Man July 9, 2013 / 4:10 pm

    In the novel, Angier plans on retiring by faking his own death. In the film, Angier states that he’s only going to do a run of 100 shows.

    My interpretation of Angier not appearing on the balcony was that he had planned to disappear (retire by faking his own death), and later assume the identity of Lord Colderdale. The fact that Borden happened to be backstage when Angier-1 drowned may or may not have been a happy coincidence. If it was planned that Borden would be backstage, then framing Borden was Angier’s final revenge.

  15. Demetra niko August 6, 2013 / 9:21 am

    I don’t get it???

  16. James January 13, 2014 / 5:29 pm

    To the author – interesting analysis of the film, and it’s potential message (which brought me here) however, I think you have over-analyzed a simpler explaination of the story.

    My understanding, was that Angier used the secret scientific properties of his machine (of which there was no other machine known to the general public) to first of all fool the public and Borden, into thinking his machine was an illusion (the bait on the hook). He then limited the performances to 100 in order to ensure publicity and a rush for seats, which would ensure Borden’s appearance (reeling in the fish). I also think that this tactic had a double purpose, which was to first of all beat his rival publically, and then shockingly die at the height of his success, therefore not only making his reputation immortal (cite Houdini), but extracting a death sentance on Borden by framing him in circumstance as his final revenge (fish caught). Angier’s secret machine is the masterstroke as only he knows that his machine is real and that he will survive (technically speaking). How much of the entire performance (of 100 days) was set up just to frame Borden remains open to debate, however Angier’s revenge was definitely a purpose, therefore he was waiting for him and as soon as he had him on stage, simply hid from the public, to Borden’s doom.

    My interpretation of Angier’s story surrounding that scene is based on these elements:

    1) his machine from Tesla cloned identical copies of whatever was put inside it, and teleported these copies a good distance from the actual machine. Thus his appearance point (after teleported replication) wasn’t known and he could choose whether to appear or not.

    2) Borden and Angier had spent the first part of their careers working together, living together and being disguised on stage together. I think Angier would have recognised him very easily and known before he was cloned, that Borden had walked into his trap. He couldn’t reveal that fact however for obvious reasons when Borden was on stage.

    3) The blind stagehands also proved an infallible defense in Borden’s guilt as they could neither see the real result of what the machine could do (so were totally necessary anyway), nor could they bear witness to anything Borden said.

    Whether my interpretation is what the director intended or not, I think it was a brilliant stich-up!

    • cxbishop January 21, 2015 / 10:07 pm

      Yes, this comes through pretty clear in the movie.

  17. John Willingham August 22, 2014 / 12:46 am

    Iggidy Biggidy Bang Chiggidy Bang Iggidy Biggidy Bang ChiIggidy Biggidy Bang Chiggidy Bang ggidy Bang Iggidy Biggidy Bang Chiggidy Bang IggidIggidy Biggidy Bang Chiggidy Bang y Biggidy Bang Chiggidy Bang

  18. Randy Magic November 10, 2014 / 6:17 am

    I liked the obsession, secrecy, and sacrifice shown in the movie though the rivalry between Borden and Angier dominates the film!

  19. Jhhibb June 11, 2016 / 11:01 pm

    This theory explains some of those points.

    Angier Triplet Theory

    Here is some important information overlooked by fans of the movie “The Prestige”.

    We watch Angier’s life unfold for us pretty straightforward but there is a piece of his life mentioned in the story that doesnt fit into the story he is telling. Now we know when he was just a young magician, his wife , came up with the name the Great Danton. Angiers wife dies. He is seen a bar drinking looking like he is drinking his pain away and Cutter puts the little card on the bottom of his glass and he talks about a having work for a new upcoming magician. This is pretty much the debut of his Great Danton act because he tells Cutter that he wants to take the name The Great Danton. So obviously he wasn’t working or working as an amatuer under another name. Because why would Cutter have to ask him what to call the act? Right.

    Next comes the Bird in the Cage trick. He debuts as The Great Danton and in the first show, Borden pops the cage killing the bird and breaking the womans finger. He is asked by Cutter to change the name, Angiers says No. And Cutter told him to hang on while he thinks of another trick. Next we see Angiers getting ready to sneak in Borden’s show. Olivia helps him and states that she is staying there until they get another booking. So obviously , Angiers has not worked either.
    Then Angiers learns of Borden’s trick the Transported Man. Then Cutter says he uses a double, Angiers doesnt beleive but goes along with it. So they wait a month without work for Cutter to train the so called double.

    Now important point number one , The Double. We know for a few shows Angiers and Root(the double) do the Transported Man as the final act. We see Angiers do a trick involving handkerchiefs. Someone’s handkerchief is in anothers ones pocket. First, handkerchiefs is a symbol that relates to Angiers. He does the handkerchief trick and throws handkerchiefs around for Olivia to catch. So when you see handkerchiefs it pointing to soemthing involving Angiers

    Then of course, Borden finds out about the Double and of course the show ends and the act is over with Angiers upset. What happened to the Double? Is it possible that Angier risked his career and name to be proven a fake by Root? Where did Root go? We will get to that later.

    Of course , Angiers gets Borden’s fake diary and then buries Fallon to get the key word for his trick which is Tesla. So now as far as we know Angiers went to America and specifically to Colorado Springs after this point. So now the important point which is spoken by Tesla’s assistant Alley. He says he knew the Angiers was the Great Danton because he saw his show six times and he didnt understand how he knew what each person was holding everytime. This is a trick we never saw him do. Even though he guessed the watch correct. But we watched his show, When did this occur? It doesnt fit in. How did an assistant living in Colorado Springs happen upon the Great Danton who at the time was a lightweight. But Alley knows him an the Famous Great Danton. So how did Angiers become this Great Entertainer after two failed acts. And also Alley never mentions The Transported Man act. He asked how he guessed what people were holding so obviously Alley saw a show inwhich Angeirs does other magic tricks. This is very important and is missed by most fans.

    So here is the Triplet Theory. Upon investigation, the conclusion i come to is this. Angiers was Brother #1. Gerald Root was brother #2 and Lord Caldlow was Brother #3.

    Take these points
    1. Angiers does not beleive that Borden uses a double because he (Angiers) is already using the twin brother or in his case , triplet, method. So if Angiers has two other twins that he didnt tell anyone about, of course he wouldnt possibly beleive that same one else like Borden was doing the same thing. The odds of meeting another person who is exactly doing the same thing as him IS the most unlikely method. Thats why he beleived Borden was doing something really magical.
    2. The scene when Sarah’s nephew starts to cry and asks “Where’s his Brother?” It is assumed that he was guessing Bordens twin brother method. But Christopher Nolan over explains this point. Two things here. The magician made the bird “disappear” by slamming the bird inside into a hidden “trap door” and another bird (its suppose to be the same bird but isnt) from a short distance away from underneath a handkerchief. So we have one bird going thru a trap door to his demise and another bird transported a few feet away from a handkerchief. This duplicates Angiers death under the trap door into the water tank and the handkerchief is a symbol associated with Angiers because he does tricks with handkerchief.
    3. Now staying with Sarah’s nephew. Borden tells him a trick and says something like “Dont tell anyone and they will bug you for it. But never tell because you will become worthless to them.” This could be interpreted as why Borden never reveils his twin brother method even to his wife but it also gives you the inner thoughts on how all magicians feel. And why, letting a method be revealed, is devastating. So the question again, then why would Angiers allow Root to live knowing that Root could tell and show everyone that the Great Danton is a fake. That is because Root is Angiers brother. I mean think about it. If Gerald Root was just a look alike. Then he , being pissed off at Angiers because he lost a big paycheck, wouldnt literally go out and show and tell how the “Transported Man” works. No magician would allow that.
    4. Now staying with the scene one more time. After talking to Sarah’s nephew, Borden opens the trap door to remove the dead bird from underneath the trap door. Now he basically conceded that the young boy guessed right that the bird died and had a brother bird by calling him a clever boy. And now we get shown Borden removing the bird but listens to what he says ” you are the lucky one today” and puts the bird back with the others. Basically, Nolan is showing us that one of the brothers of Angiers or Borden will be lucky and one will be unlucky. Now its not Borden because Bordens Brother , obnoxious Freddie, is executed for Angiers murder and the compassionate Alfred survives. So it has to Angiers is unlucky and one of his brothers is lucky. Lord Caldlow? Hang on!
    5. Tesla’s teleport machine was actually a teleporter not a cloner. Alley stated that he tried Angiers top hat a dozen times. That means only 12. There was 36 top hats. Which is 3 times the hats. Which is 3 sets of 12. So Nolan , thee Director, is showing us that Angier exists in 3’s. Which means that Alley used hat to try teleporting it one dozen for each Angiers. So since this is dealing with the subconscious. This part of Angier’s storytelling is made up. this shows that it was made up in Angiers head. Because Angiers knows there are 3 of him. So his mind simply multiplied the number by 3 without him thinking about it.
    6. Teslas transporter did transport one person outside his lab. And in Angiers theater it transports someone up into the balcony. Now we know its not a cloning machine and the scenes with Tesla are part of Angiers skill and Nolans skill to give us a reason to not beleive as the booking agent told Angiers and Cutter when he and us were first to see how the Teslas machine works. The man said ” dress it up, give the people a reason not to beleive” so that is what Angiers is doing with his Tesla’s story. He is dressing it up as to give a reason not to beleive.
    7. In tests, Tesla substitutes a cat for the top hat stating maybe different material does different things in the machine. Now those of us old enough the see Jeff Goldblums The Fly. We know scientist would try testing inorganic non living samples before living one.But in this case ,We are suppose to beleive that a genius scientist like Tesla would trying it the reverse way first. If teleporting was on his mind, he knows full well a cloth hat would be a better test subject than a live cat with its skin, cells ,brain and working internal systems. So this shows what we are seeing is unbeleivable. Scenes of Tesla are real and some arent.
    8. Lord Caldlow tells Cutter at the end that his name always has been Lord Caldlow. Some take this as of course its mentioned that Angiers changed his name to protect his family. Thats true but we assume its Lord Caldlow. But at the end, we see that Lord Caldlow already has a real beard fast. He acts like a different person. He appears cold and unemotional not like Angiers showed emotion, anger , sadness and regret. Because he was obsessed with Alfred Borden. I stated about the beard. This applies to Freddie and Alfred borden as well. You see Angiers brothers when you see them , are wearing beards. Gerald Root had a mustace and beard and different color hair. Lord Caldlow had goatee and thin mustace but Angiers never does. Freddie Borden is seen with a mustace and beard in Angiers theater after he reveals the tied up Root. And also in the restaurant with fallon, olivia and sarah. Right after Alfred was unburied. And when he sneaks behind stage, he is wearing a beard, and see Angiers trapped in water. So Christopher Nolan is letting us in on how to identify when you see the brother.
    9. The machine is a teleporter not a cloning machine. The theory is if Tesla had money issues so bad, he could of cloned stacks of money and put Einstein out of business. But they doesnt happen. And if you also notice when supposingly Angier finds the clone hats and cats that Tesla states “You never know how these things work, that is one of the beauties of science” and when Angiers is about to leave and asks which top hat is his. Tesla says he needed more time to “recalibrate ” the machine. What did he recalibrate? If its a cloning machine and it does make a clone like 50 yards away , then why is Angiers still showing up 50 yards away from the machine ontop of the balcony. Tesla never recalbrated it. And also when Angiers turns on the Tesla machine the first time, supposingly the clone is made only 15 feet away. But it reverts to old distance in the first act. How? Angiers didnt know how to recalibrate it? And also if everything happened exactly as Angiers says. Then why did Tesla hastily leave with Alley and with none of his experiments. And we knew he left rather hastily because his place was on fire. Then Tesla, taking nothing, has only Angiers machine with him? And then delivers it to hotel with : A)Einsteins people still around looking for anything Tesla to destroy. B)Tesla and Alley goto Angier’s hotel and delivers the machine and didn’t even ask the hotel to call Angiers down to say Goodbye. C)Einsteins people coincidentally break in and burn down Teslas lab the exact same moment Angiers machine is working? Angier was there for two years and they took that moment to destroy Tesla’s lab? Of course not, this part of the story is false so as to confuse us and to basically reveal to anyone who might inquire that Tesla cant be found anywhere so no reason for looking in Colorado Springs. Nothing to see there. Keeping moving!

    Now The Brothers……..
    Gerald Root :
    was the Double for Angiers. But as i stated, its Angiers brother. And of course Angiers knows it but plays along with Cutter and Olivia. They look like indenticals not just a double, since its played by Hugh Jackman as well, we know its and identical twin. Now i beleived that Angiers never wanted to use him since his brother is an alcoholic and prefers being a thesbian than a magician. We can sense some of the brothers identity problems beginning to surface as it does with many twins. You see and exact copy of yourself in the world so trying to individualize yourself becomes a task for completion. We see Gerald Root dyed his hair color and grew a beard to seperate himself from his other brothers, Angiers and Caldlow. But when you see Angiers and Root in the theater together for the first time after Cutter transforms Root to be act and appear like Angier, Root adds his thesbian flares on as well to secure in his own mind that he is himself and different from Angiers. He can see some of that snobby blood line that Angiers hides from others ,appear in Roots mocking of his brothers name The Great Danton. It was like a brotherly tease as well. Now things are going as planned but after a while Root cant handle looking like Angiers. His individuality is threatened. So he tries to change Angiers showman ship beginning of the show to a funny sillier version at the end when Root comes out. So them he wants to blackmail Angier. Now Angier doesnt seem to care and says pay him. He does this because its his brother. But then something happens that Angier doesnt expect. His brother Root betrays him to his enemy Borden. And now you are thinking then why wouldnt Angier kill Root for betraying not only him but the secret of the trick. But since Root is his brother, Angiers waits. Gerald Root was the man shot in the scene when Angiers puts together the machine and tries it because he made it look like it worked to fool his Brother so he can shoot him. Remember the supposing clone said No…wait..i’m . He was going to finish the sentence with ” your brother.” But he shoots Gerald Root and puts him in the glass box and its him you see floating in the tank at the end. Angiers had his revenge for Root conspiring with his enemy Borden. Obsession does many things to people.
    Lord Caldlow:
    Appears on film as Angier’s real name. But i beleive he is the third brother. He has a different personaility, he is cold, too the point, and rather snobbish. He wasn’t obsessed with Alfred or Freddie Borden because it looked like Caldlow viewed Freddie as beneath him. The way he rips up Freddies’s prestige for Transported Man. Like he doesnt care because like he said ” you have to admit, mines better” . This isn’t Angier, who despite winning the contest, still wanted to know as like a fate a complete. But Lord Caldlow appeared uninterested. Thats because he was, he wasnt obsessed with the Bordens. I also beleive that Lord Caldlow, using the name also The Great Danton in another area possibly france, is the one Alley is talking about seeing six time. He was the one who really made the name great. He and Angiers worked together like Alfred and Freddie did. Secretly. But since he never understood the chinese magicians trick, he and his brother , hid yes, but never thought of living the trick. Where Alfred understood the chinese magicians method and where he and freddie actually began to live the trick. I think Angiers and Lord Caldlow pretended to be the same magician, The Great Danton, just for the simple reason that it made his acts more diverse. This meaning that one could do certain tricks while the other had his own but underneath the same name, it looks like a Great Entertainer which is what people called The Great Anton. Every night the audience would see a different Great Danton and be wowed by not giving the same show twice in a row. And on the night when Freddie went below to look at the trick. It was Lord Caldlow who placed the box under the trap door. If you remember, the water tank was on stage earlier, for what seems to be also another trick The Great Danton could do. The slip knot trick , Angier’s wife did. Lord Caldlow placed the tank under the trap door to not only frame Freddie but to kill Angiers. Why you might ask? You worked your whole life building up an act. Now part of your act is obsessing over another magician. Then leaves for two years . It came to the point where Angier was making The Great Danton look like a fool. And being the snobbish elite that Lord Caldlow was, its easier to kill then face looking like a fool. So he set it up. Angiers couldn’t of known Freddie was there because he eyes were closed. And when Angier fell in the tank. The look on his face was surprised and confused on where he was. If Angier did clone himself and then die every night. Then every clone knew that who ever went in to the electricity is going to die. And yet Angiers looked lost and when seeing Borden he screamed for help. If Angier was cloning, he knew he couldnt be saved and that he had to die. But he looked lost because he was, he was suppose to be teleported to atop the Balcony. When he dropped in the tank he instinctively turned his face towards the audience, then saw water and then Freddie, and screamed for help. Because he knew he was setup. And also if Angiers was cloning every night and then killing an Angier every night, despite being blind, the stage hands’ hearing would be more acute and could hear Angier bang on the glass everynight. And say something. They were blind for the only reason and that reason so they couldn’t see that there was no one in the tank every night. But on that night, it was Angier’s body that cutter identified in the morgue.

    The Angier Triplets and Borden twins all suffered from twin identification syndrome. Like i stated above, most twins try to be their own individual, even though they look like their twin. And in the minds of many twin, there is a serious case of trying to free themselves from the other. In the movie, The Prestige, its prominent many times.

    Borden Twins:
    Freddie is very careless and takes risk. He loves Olivia but was content in the beginning to keep Alfred’s wife,Sarah, happy. But once he fell in love with Olivia, the Borden Twins, ruled by Alfred, began to fall apart. Freddie couldnt hide the not loving you face for Sarah. So Sarah believed Alfred was cheating and lying to her. Alfred was more compassionate and caring but had the brains of the outfit. He loved Sarah and his child. So did Freddie. But Alfred didnt take chances without knowing first, Freddie took chances as we saw with Angiers wife. He tied the double langford know and she couldnt slip it. So Freddie wanted to become his own identity again. He wanted to be with Olivia and yet become the brains of the outfit. So since Alfred told him to leave Angier and his trick alone, this was alert in Freddies mind that here is a chance to become the boss. If he knew Angier’s trick then Alfred will have to listen. So you can see the conflict of individuality here. Alfred wanted free of Freddie to save his marriage but in the end both of them lost the women they loved.

    The Angier Triplets
    Angier seems in the beginning to be very passionate with his wife and playful. Her death kills his spirit. He becomes sad, revengeful, and obsessed. At this time, is when Angier fell upon his individuality, which in the end was his downfall.

    Lord Caldlow is snobbish, cold and unemotional except when he speaks of the audiences faces. This appears to be the only time he looked happy. He was a true showmanship. And was content with him and Angier sharing the title The Great Danton. But Angiers uncontrollable behavior and obsession of Alfred Borden caused the snobbish elitist to want to protect his honor, reputation and good name. Hence why he killed Angier.

    And lastly, the brings a new focus back onto The Prestige trilogy theory. It shows the teleportation is the standard hidden idea throughout. We have :



    What do you think?

  20. Chris December 31, 2016 / 9:35 am

    Just read this, pal – I know I hadn’t seen the film (or likely followed your blog) when you wrote this. A very well-written and thought out analysis, which definitely holds water in my book. I gave up reading the comments eventually… but some of those were quite fascinating too. I’m slightly tempted by the explanation that Angiers had seen Borden come onto stage before performing the trick… but on recollection, neither Angiers nor Borden seemed to be very good at seeing through each others’ disguises. I mean… if Angiers hadn’t clocked Borden and Fallon being twins for… 10-15 years… I highly doubt his ability to see through a disguise in a split second moment on stage.

    So…I think I’m on board with this. And it becomes another interesting layer to add to an already full interpretation of the film, which I bought during the first year of my PhD, and have watched in excess of 10 times since then. Thanks to you 🙂

    • adamkadmon January 2, 2017 / 8:20 am

      Thanks pal 🙂

  21. Brooke W June 15, 2017 / 1:41 pm

    Thanks Adam, been reading some magic essays and came across your post. I dont know why people are commenting that you are religious, etc…Anyways thanks for your interpretation of the film.

    • adamkadmon June 16, 2017 / 10:55 am

      Thanks for reading, Brooke.

  22. Thom July 1, 2017 / 2:15 am

    As to your question of how does Angier know that Borden is there… he specifically tells Cutter to get “the kind of booking that Borden can’t ignore.” He is waiting for Borden. Borden’s Defense Attorney says “How can we be sure that this isn’t some part of the trick that went wrong?” In fact, it’s part of the trick going exactly as planned. Every night, Angier will drown(“Anyone in the audience who would be irrevocably damaged by seeing a man drown should leave now”), and he knows as soon as Borden goes backstage, he can simply walk away instead of coming out as the Prestige, and Borden will take the blame.

    • adamkadmon July 16, 2017 / 11:08 am

      Yeah. That doesn’t answer how the Angier that is transmitted to the balcony knows that Borden is there on that particular night, when the version that saw him has drowned.

Leave a Reply to adamkadmon Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s