Sunday, November 07, 2010

I just finished The Prestige by Christopher Priest.

This is the basis for the movie of the same name.  There's no way I'll be able to avoid SPOILERS in this post, so reader beware...

I saw the movie version of this story years ago, and enjoyed it as one of the most intelligent movies of the time.  The book is equally good, though different in many ways.  Both are built around a feud between two magicians, Borden and Angier, ultimately ending in tragedy, but the differences are striking, and are mostly improvements in the film version.

The novel is book-ended by modern scenes involving the magician's grandchildren that don't feel necessary to the story, and the film wisely gets rid of them.  In the novel, the fact that Borden is actually a twin is strongly hinted at from early on, and is even investigated by Angier before being dismissed.  The movie avoids any hints of twins, and depends on the impression created by only showing one Borden, to keep the audience from suspecting it as well.  This strengthens the contrasts between the two magicians and the irony of Angier making the Tesla device work.  In the book, the device leaves behind a copy that is not fully alive (referred to by Angier as the "prestige materials", which explains the title, something the movie never really does), while the movie Angier is actually actively killing the duplicates left behind, a much more intense, almost melodramatic, emotional choice.  The movie also makes the feud between the two stronger, tying it to their actions while working together and making their acts of sabotage more concrete, while the novel keeps the two very seperate, and their feud is almost abstract.

Overall, the novel is still a very good read and recommended.

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