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The Illusionist

August 30, 2010

The Illusionist (2006)
Director: Neil Burger
Actors: Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, Rufus Sewell

Synopsis: A love triangle develops in turn-of-the-century Vienna between a young woman (Jessica Biel), a magician (Edward Norton) and an aristocrat (Rufus Sewell).

Review: It seems only right to debate the relative merits of The Illusionist in comparison to its similarly-themed predecessor, Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige. The Illusionist is more of a straight, conventional period melodrama, keen on setting up its central love-triangle and even opening proceedings with a contextual flashback that clearly prioritises narrative and character backstory. Though The Prestige was intentionally more abstract and elusive in its plotting, it undoubtedly used its theatrical/illusionist theme for more transcendental musings than The Illusionist. This divergence is symbolised by the respective climaxes in which The Illusionist’s last minute reveal or ‘prestige’ accords the magician’s grand conceit only a narrative dimension (a paean to his love for the Countess) rather than The Prestige’s more ambitious notions of Faustian pacts and mise en abyme. (May 2007)

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