Are you watching/reading closely?
Every magic act has three parts. The Pledge, the Turn and the Prestige.
It is not often that I come across a book or movie which intrigues that eccentric mind of mine and binds me in a mixture of amazement and awe. The Prestige by Christopher Priest and the movie(2006) by the same name directed by Christopher Nolan captured my attention like nothing else did.
The first fact was that it dealt with stage magic as a subject and the second fact was that it was a Chris Nolan film. You people have balked in awe at Inception just recently, but how many of you were carried over by The Prestige?
The Prestige was written in 1995. It tells the story of two 19th century magicians who were friends at first, contemporaries, but then turned into bitter foes. The rivalry was so bitter that it affected their subsequent generation even after a hundred years.
I am not going to delve much into the story except offer you some brief sketches. It would be too much to let you not enjoy the act. The novel tells the story in first person perspective through the eyes of the primary characters-Andrew Westley a.k.a. Andrew Borden, Katherine Angier, Alfred Borden a.k.a. Le Professeur de Magie and Rupert ‘Robbie’ Angier, 14th Earl of Colderdale, a.k.a. The Great Danton.
The movie is an excellent adaptation of the novel. Sometimes you read a book and want to see the film adaptation. Or it is the vice versa. To me, it was vice versa and my appetite was completely whetted. Splendid performances by Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman and Michael Caine, the movie with its characteristic Nolan style narration will keep you spellbound for its full length.
The novel on the other hand is a reader’s delight and is a must for every collector’s shelf. Such is the narration style as you progress from the present generation of the Borden-Angier children as they meet for the first time, the eerie feeling conveyed subtly from the first page of the novel-remember it is a novel about magicians and magic. As Borden himself says in his diary-I hold out my hands. They are empty. But all is not as it seems. For out of that empty hands I will produce an illusion. Nothing is real as you see it. It applies to every word in the novel.
As we progress from the present generation to the feud between the Professor and the Great Danton,we learn about their rivalry and character-each outwitting the other, finding a fault to his advantage. The important part is when they perform their versions of the Transported Man. The measures each take to perfect the trick and their obsession to find out how the other performed the trick to the very way in which the trick is performed-which leaves you with a feeling you have never experienced.
The movie is even more colorful in illustrating the above said words as you will see for yourselves, especially the Tesla scenes where he develops the apparatus for Angier that performs his trick of the Transported Man.
As the chapters proceed in the book and we delve deeper, it is a feeling of utter awe and fear that envelops us when we actually get to know who Angier and Borden really are. The final chapter in the novel The Prestiges is a fitting name as all the knots surrounding the two greatest magicians of the 19th century are unraveled, not only for them, but for the present generation of their children as well, but leaves a final mark so eerie and captivating that you want to read the book again to understand whether that is what you really read.
The language is pure Victorian and a delight to those who love it. The way Angier, Borden, Katherine and Andrew narrate their version of the story makes you convince yourselves that it is a work of true account and not some fictitious work.
A novel and a film which will remain evergreen in your memory for many days to come.