The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

The Prestige

Posted by Deliverator on October 15th, 2006

I recently read The Prestige, a book by author Christopher Priest, in anticipation of the impending release of a film adaptation from director Christopher Nolan. Chris Nolan did Momento and Insomnia and is most recently credited with the revitalization of the Batman franchise with Batman Begins. The movie features a star studded cast including Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson and David Bowie as Nikola Tesla! From the trailer, it looks to be a kick.

I look forward to seeing what he can do with it. I will be seeing The Prestige this coming edit SUNDAY at Lincoln Square if anyone would like to accompany me.

* SPOILER ALERT *

The plot of the book surrounds a long running feud-turned-vendetta between two british illusionist in late 1800’s early 1900’s England. The book is told from each of their perspectives, as well as from the perspective of their great grand children (Yes, the feud goes on that long). I like how each of the two illusionists have legitimate cause for grievance (though that fact is unknown to the other), each executes considerable restraint and make attempts to end the feud, yet come off seeming petty to the other. The similarities between the two characters are very strong and one gets the sense that they would have been great friends if the feud had not developed. At the same time, despite the feud, each character deeply respects the skills of the other and their professional careers would probably not have developed to the same extent if not for the constant egging on/one-up-man-ship by the other. This is a book that is filled with dualities and explores their nature in many ways. Much of the book surrounds the tit for tat development of a new trick, whereby the illusionist seems to be teleported from one place to another in full view of the audience. Each illusionist develops their own version of the trick (or is it?), which has the same apparent result but via very different means. Each of them are in turn confounded and unable to explain how the other achieves their version of the trick.

At times, I was distracted by the jarring transitions between perspectives/manner of narration and felt like the author could have moved the story along more effectively in a different way. The halting way the story is revealed is perhaps the books weakest point (aside from the drawn out and somewhat uncharacteristic ending). Although I could do without some of Priest’s narrative techniques, I hope the movie keeps the novel device of having two likeable protagonists who are yet each others antagonists. Too often in movies, we are beat over the head with the idea that “this is the good guy” and “this is the bad guy.” The book is filled with lush details about magic and annecdotes that I sincerely hope make it to the film. Chris Nolan showed an amazing talent for creating atmosphere in Insomnia and The Prestige has that in spades.