The Prestige Movie Review


The Prestige is a film about two rival magicians, Angier and Borden. These magicians become enemies after a horrific accident leaves Angier a widower. Angier becomes obsessed with finding out Borden’s secrets which leads both to make several sacrifices. The Prestige relates to several concepts outlined in chapter one of Looking at Movies. These include invisibility with cinematic language, specifically fade-out/fade-in and low angle shots, and implicit/explicit meanings.

As discussed by Barsam and Monahan (2019) invisibility in movies does not allow even diligent viewers to analyze everything shown in a shot for only mere seconds. Cinematic language can aid viewers to interpret information through the camera’s viewpoint exactly how the filmmakers want them to. These three aspects allow filmmakers to have a powerful role in what viewers are taking in from a shot. Throughout the entire movie, The Prestige, multiple flashbacks aid in telling the story. One example is at the beginning of the movie when Borden is seen under the stage watching Angier’s clone drown. Immediately, the shot fades out and fades into the courtroom scene with Borden in chains. This use of cinematic language is very powerful. Not only does it allow viewers to know that some amount of time has passed in between shots, but it also creates a lot of room for foreshadowing. The movie used these flashbacks to depict that something bigger may happen with the scene later. This is something I particularly enjoyed about The Prestige. The fade-ins/fade-outs add a lot of suspense to the movie and they make the viewer critically think about what is happening.

Another element of cinematic language is a low angle shot. A low angle shot can be seen in the same shot within the courtroom. Cutter, an associate of Angier who came up with magic tricks, can be seen testifying on the stand. He is shown from a low angle shot. This use of invisibility and cinematic language helps to show the thing or character in a different “light”. “When it views a subject from a low camera angle, cinematic language taps our instinctive association of figures who we must literally “look up to” with figurative or literal power.” (Barsam & Monahan, 2019, p. 8) This particularly interesting use of cinematic language shows that Cutter has a lot of power to decide Borden’s fate, perhaps more than the judges who are shown at more of a mid-level view. Low angle shots are used in multiple ways throughout the entirety of the movie. The low angle shots are a clever way of initiating an underlying meaning.

In most scenes, there is an explicit and implicit meaning. Barsam and Monahan (2019) describe explicit meaning as information attainable on the surface, and implicit meaning as an inference made by the viewer based on the explicit meaning. For example, the scene where Borden is shot in the hand by Angier during Borden’s trick can have an explicit and implicit meaning. Most viewers could explicitly describe that scene as one man shooting a magician in the hand on accident during a magic trick. However, by digging a little deeper and looking underneath the surface, the viewer can uncover the implicit meaning. The implicit meaning is that there is an intense rivalry going on between two magicians. This scene shows that great and sinister sacrifices can and will be made to ultimately get revenge.

In conclusion, invisibility in this film allows the filmmakers to construct an image they want viewers to see. This is shown in The Prestige through powerful uses of cinematic language such as fade-in/fade-out and low angle shots. Implicit and explicit meanings also allow viewers to take a deeper look into the meaning of a particular scene or shot. Overall, the film takes advantage of great foreshadowing techniques in all concepts described which makes it so visually appealing.

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