Magic in Cinema (II)

Last week we talked about the origins of cinema and how they were linked, indeed, with the very concept of magic itself and the world of illusionism. Through the experience of one of filming pioneers, Georges Méliès, a magician with initiative and true business vision, we saw that the raw material of celluloid is, in fact, the same as that of magic: illusion, the desire for unknown emotions and being surprised by what is new and different; fantasy and visual impact… In short: the special effects, in the most literal sense, necessary to transfer to the big screen all the creativity and narrative force thought by the masters of ceremonies and which make us travel to another dimension. After all, the sense of the show is the same on a stage than sitting on the seat of a movie theater.

Welcome to the greatest show on Earth!

Today we are taking a first overlook over some of the best films that have tried to capture the art of magic and the guild of illusionists, something they might have achieved worse or better. We will do it over the weeks but without following any chronological order nor notoriety…

God blessed 2006. Twelve years ago there was a curious phenomenon −although it’s more usual than it may seem−: the coincidence, in the same year, of two top-notch films regarding a very similar theme. We are talking about The Prestige and The Illusionist. Both have a first level cast and huge budgets (40 million dollars the first; 16 the second), in spite of the fact that the work of Christopher Nolan ended up having much more media coverage and acceptance among critics, in addition to revenue in the box office (110 million worldwide, next to the 88 of The Illusionist).

 

Bale interpreta is Alfred Borden, a working-class magician

As a matter of fact, almost everyone agreed in assessing better Nolan’s tape. However, Neil Burger’s is also a sheer delight. Edward Norton and Jessica Biel leave us an intense love story set in nineteenth-century Vienna with very good moments of live performances and script twists. Instead, in The Illusionist there is no magic tricks at all, but it is an exquisite representation of the trade and what it means to have illusionism as a living. Well, just take into account what Christian Bale’s purely brilliant character states: “The secret impresses no one. The trick you use it for is everything”. Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine and even David Bowie complete a luxury line-up.

Edward Norton and Jessica Biel… A heck of a cast!

Two very different films with two very different approaches to the world of magic, but which absolutely no illusionism lover should ever miss. Yes, 2006 was a magical year indeed!!!