Scenic Routes: The Prestige plays a trick on its audience, hiding a secret in plain sight

In Scenic Routes, Mike D’Angelo looks at key scenes, explaining how they work and what they mean. Note: This column reveals major plot points about Christopher Nolan’s 2006 film The Prestige.

Magic tricks frequently involve misdirection. In order to create an illusion, the magician needs to perform an action the audience shouldn’t see; this requires providing them with something else on which they can focus. (One of the reasons it’s difficult for magicians to fool other magicians is that magicians know what to ignore.) When it comes to the magic of the movies, however, things get a little trickier. Misdirection is still sometimes necessary, but can be hard to achieve. In a sense, the nature of the medium works against it: Because the director has complete control over what the viewer sees (and doesn’t see), visual manipulation can come across as “cheating.” You can certainly …

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