Monday, August 25, 2008

Book Review: The Prestige - Magicienii (1995)

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I was looking for this book and almost missed it because of the changed title. Bad translation work, very unimaginative, as if calling a book about chickens… chickens. Anyway, moving on.
The story evolves around the rivalry between two magicians in turn-of-century London. In present days their descendents get together to swap stories and solve mysteries. We perceive them as pieces of diary written by both of them.

On one hand there’s Alfred Borden, coming from a poor background and being a great engineer. On the other hand there’s wealthy Rupert Angier who has a great stage presence. These two men have in common their fascination for magic acts and their body and soul devotion to their art.

It’s fate that makes them meet early in their career when due to a misunderstanding and accident they become sworn enemies. From that point on they’re obsessed with ruining each other’s act and becoming the better showman.

Borden has an act called The Transported Man during which he disappears from one place appearing almost instantly in another, something that couldn’t normally be achieved without using a body double. In order to out do it and unable to figure out how Borden does it, Angier hires scientist Testla, who currently experiments with electricity, to build him a teleporting device, a machine capable to physically transport him, and designs a new and more impressive show.

It’s Borden’s turn to try to find out how he does it and in his search the results are disastrous for both magicians. It’s hard to explain it without ruining the plot, but back in present days the ending is weird and creepy having a bit of a horror feel added to it.

The narration is fluent in spite of the constant change of point of view and jumping in time. The writing style is a bit rigid though and dry. The scenes in the past and the main characters are well done, unlike the current day episodes and descendents who seem to have been given less attention and purpose. Once used as a mean to introduce the story they’re neglected and mostly get in the way.

The novel has a distinct feel compared to the movie. It’s one of the very rare cases when the movie is better than the book it’s inspired from, being one of the best movies of the last decade and even more. Under the supervision of director Christopher Nolan, Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Michael Caine, and Scarlet Johansson make a brilliant performance worth watching.

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