Sunday, March 18, 2007
The topic of this entry is a complete and total spoiler alert for the movie, The Prestige. If you haven’t seen this movie and plan to do so, DON’T READ ANY FURTHER.
Still here? Okay, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Today, I just watched The Prestige—wonderful film, by the way. I think I’m going to add it to my Amazon wish list. Amazon lists its genres as drama, fantasy, and thriller. However, because of the single concept used as the climax of the movie that I feel the science fiction genre should be added.
Here comes the spoiler: one of the main characters, Robert Angier, played by Hugh Jackman, used a fictional device created by Nikola Tesla (played, in the movie, by David Bowie, though Tesla was very much a non-fictional person) which used electricity to instantly clone himself—the purpose being to quickly get from one place to another as part of a stage magic show.
Angier and Alfred Borden, played by Christian Bale, both perform a teleportation trick earlier in the film, but both accomplish the feat with the help of a double. In Borden’s case, the double was an unknown twin who even had two of his fingers cut off to match the injury of his brother. Angier also used a double, but it was someone his team found who looked exactly like him.
However, Angier ultimately reworks his version of the trick to use Tesla’s cloning machine. But, to avoid risk of someone recognizing the clone—a never-ending danger for Borden—Angier drops through a trap door in the stage into the same type of water tank in which his wife, played by Piper Perabo, had died during a performance. That Angier drowns and the cloned Angier appears elsewhere in the theatre to an amazed audience. The limited engagement show is only performed 100 times. Though subtle glimpses are seen a bit earlier, the very end of the movie reveals that a room contains 100 tanks still full of water and the dead clones of Angier.
There’s a really serious moral paradox to consider here, which I’m sure is being discussed at great length in other forums. Since I don’t care to get involved in such forums, I’ll just leave some thoughts here and welcome your comments.
The morality to which I refer is this: pretending for a moment that the cloning was not a fictitious plot device, would Angier be guilty of murder? Suicide? Clearly, Angier willingly stepped on the trap door and allowed himself to drown, knowing full well that he’d live on in the clone which wouldn’t have endured the experience of drowning—at least not until the next performance. After the 100th show, the final clone would have never experienced the drowning.
I’m not sure which way I lean on this topic. It isn’t murder since Angier never kills anyone but himself. But, it doesn’t seem like suicide because Angier lives on—at least until the end of the film when he is shot by Borden. Yet, Borden’s action notwithstanding, someone did die every time the trick was performed. Therefore, in spite of it not seeming like murder or suicide, one or the other must’ve taken place.
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» Posted by ALBj at 08:41 PM (ET)
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