Illusion of Good Intentions

I keep expecting director Christopher Nolan to swing and miss. He gave us a stirring Memento, wrestled with Insomnia, ensured that Batman Begins, and capped things off with The Prestige, my pick for greatest film of 2006. (In 2008, he’ll give us the next Bat-installment with The Dark Knight.) This 37 year old Brit not only seems to direct films about Americans better than Americans can, his directorial choices frequently delve into deep issues of subjective perception and human nature. Whether it’s a period piece set at the end of the 19th century, present-day human drama, or a comic book hero, Nolan’s exploration of human nature and obsession remain constant.

In The Prestige, these themes ripple throughout a challenging narrative exploring morality, perspective, vengeance, justice, deception… and perhaps most importantly SELF deception. As one character instructs us:

“You don’t really want to know the secret… You want to be fooled.”

Playing against traditional forms of protagonist and antagonist, Nolan adapts Christopher Priest’s novel using actors Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman to the portray bitter, rival magicians vying for supremacy in glory and fame, locked in a cycle of hatred and revenge.

Echoing the biblical King Solomon, there is even an Ecclesiastical lament: “You never understood, why we did this. The audience knows the truth: the world is simple. It’s miserable, solid all the way through.” Both men struggle for what they think is right, and what they are entitled to; it’s a tragedy echoing two poignant Proverbs:

“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart.”

– Proverbs 21:2

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”

– Proverbs 16:25

Highly recommended, The Prestige is a brilliant example of the human condition. Because of the nature of this mystery thriller, it’s also one of those films that is astounding to view a second time once the secrets have been illuminated. The screenplay is meticulously crafted and the acting is high caliber, including a hard-to-recognize David Bowie portraying Nikola Tesla – another brilliant move not only placing the film in an interesting period of American history, but connected to a fascinating historical character as well.

For those who’ve seen the film, there is an audio discussion of these themes in greater detail below (caution: plot spoilers abound).

  1. Anne Hedley

    I totally agree that is in fact the best film of 2006. The Script and director is first class and it was a stroke of Genius casting the exceptionally talented Hugh Jackman with Christian Bale supported by Michael Caine and David Bowie and Andy Sakaris.

    The setting of the period and the costumes gave the film even more enchantment. I have watched the film four times, once at the cinema and three times watching the excellent DVD. The closer you watch the more you see.

    This film, with Christopher Nolan’s superb direction and script, carried to the heights with the performances of his stars, put everything offered for oscar nominiations into the shadows.


    I particularly liked Hugh’s performance, because he had so much to offer in changing his character from a happily married man to a great showman in the world of mystery, thrills, murder and revenge; he became so cold and vengeful as he sank to the hard and cruel man who was so bitter with hate. I loved the two cameos he did, showing his skill at making new characters come alive This was however due to the double performance of Christian Bale playing Borden and his own brother so very well, but not with the same depth of characterisation only because the scope was not there – but they were good and worked excellently together.

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