Questions about "The Prestige" -- unboxed spoilers

“The Prestige” is playing on satellite & cable, so I watched it. I think it’s great! I regret not seeing it in the theater.

I’ve read through a few threads here on the film, but I haven’t seen an answer to a few question I have…

(1) Why, exactly, was Borden tried for “murdering” (an) Angier? After all, we see he was struggling mightily to free him. Was it just an example of an inadequate justice system?

(2) Did Angier plan on Borden being arrested for his “murder”, or was he just lucky? Sure, he would have expected Borden to try to figure out how he was doing the “Transported Man” and to come backstage & downstairs to watch it, but how could he think that would be enough?

(3) Did Cutter realize that he was a key part of railroading Borden? I tend to doubt he would go along with that, so it must be that at the time he really thought Borden had murdered Angier, right?

(4) Why did Borden and Angier’s wife try the alternate knot? Some have suggested it was because they wanted to show off by using a more difficult knot, possibly because Borden and Angier were competing, but that seems doubtful to me. They were on the same team at the time, so competition doesn’t strike me as a good enough reason. After watching it the first time, I thought I’d remembered that they did it because Cutter complained that certain members of the audience could see it was a trick knot, but when I watched it again I learned that I had remembered wrong; the remark about part of the audience seeing things concerned Angier kissing his wife’s leg, so that’s not it. Any other ideas on why they tried it?

(5) Many have suggested that the tanks-full-of-Angiers denouement was merely for cinematic purposes, and some have complained bitterly that they felt they were being “hit on the head” with the obvious. Is that necessarily so? It seems to me that if I were Angier, keeping all my duplicates and disposing of the whole batch of them at one time would have been far preferable than to try to dispose of them one at a time. Whaddya think?

One point I forgot to add. Has no one recognized the parallel with Clifford Simak’s wonderful science fiction novel, Way Station?

I just watched the movie recently. I’m not sure if I’m remembering all the details correctly, but here’s my best effort to answer your questions:

We saw Borden trying to free him but there weren’t any witnesses. Angier’s tech guy (I can’t remember his name) found Borden with Angier’s body, and he knew of their rivalry, so he jumped to the wrong conclusion. It was his testimony that led to Borden’s conviction.

I think he was just lucky. He was killing his duplicate to preserve the secret of the trick, not to set up Borden.

Cutter, that was his name! Anyway, as I said above I think he just jumped to the wrong conclusion. It’s not too surprising: Borden would have been the most obvious suspect for Angier’s murder even if he hadn’t been found at the scene of the crime.

I’m trying to remember the details of the trick. Was she lifted into the water by the rope? Maybe he was worried that the other knot could come undone prematurely and cause her to fall, spoiling the trick. Or maybe it was just to make the trick more impressive to anyone who knew about knots and was watching closely.

I’m not sure I understand. He killed the duplicate at the conclusion of each trick, right? I thought the tanks full of their bodies were just to show the depths to which he’d sunk.

He did. I think the OP was asking, would it be easier to just get rid of each body one at a time, than to keep all the bodies in tanks together.

Personally, I think I’d rather get rid of them one at a time, but it does look very good for the purposes of the movie to see all the tanks. Very chilling for the viewer.

Nitpick: he didn’t kill the duplicate at the conclusion of each trick - he killed the original; although the word “original” should be used loosely, as the truly original Angier died on opening night. The Angier who died at the end was a copy of a copy of a copy… &c.

I just watched it the other day, and really liked it. I had read the novel, and since that usually lessens the enjoyment of a movie, I was impressed that knowing what was going on added a certain layer of perception, enabling you to see all the parallel storylines, which I thought was great.

My impressions were the following:

First, there weren’t many witnesses; the stagehands were blind and couldn’t quite get what was going on, so the court had to rely on Cutter’s testimony. Also, I think that Angier probably had a couple of palms greased (like he did to gain custody of Borden’s child).

I think he did. At one point he said he needed the utmost publicity so that “Borden would notice it” (or something to that extent). Also, he wrote “you will have been tried for my murder” in the journal that Borden is reading in jail.

I don’t think that he knew the plot. He seemed really upset when he met Lord Somethingorother, and subsequently did not associate himself with Angier again, but with the remaining Borden and the girl.

It was mentioned that the other knot would open by itself once she was hoisted up, if not tied carefully. Then, the competitive Borden twin (I found it fascinating how you could tell them apart during the movie, if you know what was going on, btw) wanted to show off his superior knot-tying skillz, which went horribly wrong.

Well, probably mostly for cinematic purposes, but you could argue that Angier would not have liked to lug his own corpse around (the stage hands probably couldn’t be involved in this, and Cutter did not know), and that he planned to set the old theater on fire or something once he was done with the show.

Who’s to say which is the original and which the duplicate? I guess in some sense it seems simpler to see the machine as creating a duplicate far away rather than transporting the original far away and simultaneously creating a duplicate in his place. But if Angier himself saw it that way, then why did he willingly go through with a trick that would kill him? I guess I assumed he saw it as killing an expendable duplicate, rather than killing himself for the sake of the show.

If it is the original who dies, that has some kind of interesting moral implications, since that would mean Angier is only guilty of suicide, not (as I interpreted it) murder.

But didn’t Angier return the diary to Borden after he was already in jail (meaning he didn’t need to know in advance)? Or am I misremembering?

Dedication to his art. He didn’t care what it took so long as he had his prestige.

That, to me, was the major theme of the movie - seeing how far into obsession people would be willing to go in order to be the greatest at what they do. Borden was prepared to live a double life for his trick; Angier unwittingly upped the ante by killing himself each and every evening. *That’s * what made the movie so creepy.

(Besides, there was also the fact that his wife died the same way. In his twisted mind, maybe he thought that by constantly drowning himself he was proving his love for her).


Perhaps, but Cutter was one sharp guy. Wouldn’t he have followed up and tried to figure out what was really going on?

Maybe it’s just something we have to accept – willing suspension of disbelief and all that – to make the picture work.

I agree Angier needed to eliminate his “double”, but it seems to me that it wasn’t primarily to preserve the secret, because, after all, Borden had a “double” and he protected his secret fine (at least from Angier, who refused to believe Cutter’s proclamation that Borden had to be using a double). There were additional reasons for Angier to kill his “doubles”: Practical economics, for one (he probably didn’t want to share his fortune among 100 duplicates), and two, just the general creepiness of the situation. Remember when he first tried the box he had a loaded revolver “just in case”, which he used immediately, because he “wouldn’t want to live that way” (or words to that effect).

Both seem eminently convincing. Thanks.

No pun intended, right?

That’s the general consensus, but put yourself in that situation. The more times you tried to get rid of the body, the higher the odds you’d be discovered or prevented from doing so. I can think of only two options:

(1) Keep them all in hiding and get rid of them all at once (in a mass grave, say, or at the bottom of the ocean), or,

(2) Take Clifford Simak’s way and destroy the bodies in acid one at a time.

I guess the main thing is that I don’t agree with the general consensus that it was just to allow a cinegraphic moment of revelation.

I’m not sure I agree. Every Angier was an “original” Angier. Remember when Tesla told him not to forget his hat? And when Angier asked which one it was, Tesla replied “they’re all your hat”.

Tesla – certainly the Tesla we saw in “The Prestige” – was an astonishingly gifted thinker. Recall that when Tesla asked Angier if he had considered “the cost”, and Angier replied that money was no object, Tesla asked again: “But have you considered the cost?” It’s clear that Tesla was talking about the philosophical cost, the cost to Angier’s “soul”.

Thus we should take Tesla’s comment about the hats to be saying, in effect, “they’re all Angier”.
On the other hand, I can sorta see your point. After all, at the moment of replication, what had been an emptiness was suddenly filled with another Angier. Thus, I can credit an argument that the surviving Angier was a “copy”.

Okay, never mind…

Interesting ideas, Einmon. Those are good answers.

That’s the way I recall it, too; i.e., that Angier either created the diary or at least added the final note after Borden had been arrested.

But if that’s not the case, then the answer to one of my OP questions is that Angier did plot to get Borden arrested for “murdering” him. The thing is, I can’t quite see how he could be confident of that at all, even if he greased palms.


I agree, and that’s basically my point: that the drowned Angiers weren’t “duplicates,” and that he was, in a very real sense, committing suicide every night.

I thought of that once I had posted - I don’t think you can tell from the movie whether he had prepared everything in advance, you’re right, he might just have written it afterwards. Hiring Cutter might point to premeditation, though, since he knew of the rivalry between Borden and Angier, and was certain to point fingers if he found Borden behind the stage (where he was wont to go, as Angier knew very well).

If you agree that they are “all Angier”, then yes, he was commiting suicide each night. If you think one is a duplicate, then the original Angier is dead by the time the first trick is completed. When he first used the machine, the Angier in the machine shot the teleported Angier. For the trick the Angier in the machine is drowned. The Angier in each spot was killed at least once.

What if the method of disposing of the original wasn’t so grotesque? Would it be the same thing if Tesla’s machine painlessly disintigrated the original in order to create the exact copy?

Of course a better question is why didn’t Angier just make ONE copy of himself and just take turns being the guy taking the bow at the end of the night? It has to be simpler than trying to dispose of a hundred water tanks full of dead bodies.

That’s kind of the whole point to Angier’s character. As was shown with the double earlier in the movie, he couldn’t handle someone else getting the prestige. Sharing with one copy would not have been acceptable. Killing his duplicates showed how far he had fallen.

And Angiers wasn’t willing to live the kind of shadowy half-life that Borden had to in order to pull that trick off. Borden’s lifestyle was so screwed-up that Angiers didn’t even believe it was possible.

Hmm… is there a meaningful distinction between a machine that teleports a person and a machine that creates a duplicate at a different location while simultaneously destroying the original? I don’t know. Even if the two Angiers both co-exist for, say, five seconds, I guess you could argue that the machine could just as well be thought of as a device for teleporting a single individual to a different place and time (i.e., transporting him five seconds into the past).

So how can you ever distinguish between a transporter and a duplicator/disintegrator machine? Beats me. Kind of casts Star Trek in a whole new light. :smiley:

But in the case of The Prestige maybe things are (morally) simpler – killing the second copy wasn’t essential to the operation of the machine, so it can be reasonably seen as a separate moral choice. Whether it’s murder or suicide (or both?) I’m still not really sure. Post-transport, at least, they’re two separate (albeit identical) people, so I’d think the transported Angier would at least have some obligation to shout out “There’s a drowning man beneath the stage!”