“The Illusionist” – Film Review

Illusionist poster

 

Illusions are all about making an audience believe the impossible. Magicians can accomplish this through sleight of hand, misdirection and clever technology. Innovative and deceptive designs makes the turn of the century magician a great trope of steampunkery.

Eisenheim workshopMost of this romantic drama centers on the relationship between the magacian Eisenheim and his childhood love, Sophie (Jessica Biel), who is being forced to marry the crown prince of Austria. The special effects are lovely and based on magic tricks that were really performed during the 20th century. At left, Eisenheim (the always amazing Edward Norton) is seen pondering in his workshop where this son of a cabinet-maker aspires to and achieves greatness.

the_illusionist_wp_03_1024The filmmakers wanted to capture to beauty and awe of watching a master illusionist, so many of most impressive tricks are done with computer graphics to achieve what the Eisenheim of the original story had been able to do. But, you can see a video of a real mechanical orange tree illusion like the on in the film here.

The story is told from the perspective of Walter Uhl (Paul Giamatti), a police inspector. Uhl spends most of the film flashing back over his investigation of Eisenheim and his necromancer-like abilities for the benefit of Prince Leopold of Austria (Rufus Sewel). Leopold was not a real person, but is based on Rudolf, the crown prince of Austria who died at the age of 30 in 1889. Rudolf had a mistress who died under shadowy circumstances like the Sewel character.

Though it may not be as overtly Steampunk as other films such as The Prestige, it does incorporate mechanized illusions and a belief in Spiritualism that was prevalent during the steam era. I also liked that the story takes place in Austria rather than employing the usual backdrop of Victorian England. This is a lovely piece of film and I highly recommend it.

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Like my reviews? Check out more cool stuff at my website!

 

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