The Illusionist [based on the short story] by dir. by

4 April 2007

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In Austria at the turn of the 20th century a young carpenter’s son falls in love with a girl from the local nobility. Obviously her family are not impressed by this and do their best to separate the pair, and after much drama they succeed. The young boy is Eisenheim, aka Eduard Abramovich, and at the very beginning of this film we see him on stage in Vienna. As he begins his act he is promptly arrested by Inspector Uhl. Uhl then heads off to debrief the Crown Prince Leopold, and as he does we get to see all the back story too.

I loved the look of this film. Visually it worked really really well. Such a pity then that the rest of the film fell short. I never got a sense of Eisenheim as a character. Yes, we know that he loves Sophie, who by now is unofficially engaged to the Leopold, but as for the rest of his character? Nothing. Sophie is slightly more understandable. She has grown up knowing that eventually she’ll have to marry for the good of her family, but yet was never able to forget her teenage love. Leopold is another character fairly lacking in development. He’s the badguy. And that is about it. Inspector Uhl is probably the most rounded of the main characters, and he is played superbly by Giamatti.

If I’m going to be brutally honest I was a little bored by this film. Possibly because I had a fair idea of what was going to happen all along. Show Spoiler ▼

IMDb | Stuff as Dreams are Made on | Western Eye | At the movies

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6 Responses

  1. Excellent summation. I've never quite been able to put my finger on what bothered me about it, aside from how easy every supposed twist was to see, but you've clarified it for me. He was a non-character, and as much as I love Norton, he coasted through it.

    Perhaps the other issue is that I've seen The Prestige since, and that kinda blows it out the water.

  2. Fence says:

    I wasn't all that impressed with The Prestige either, although it was a lot better than this. And yes, Norton coasted, although maybe that is the best he could have done with such a lack of character?

  3. Aarti says:

    Have you read the book The Illusionist? I was debating whether I should read the book first and then see the movie, or vice versa. I am sadly behind on my movie-watching, though, so maybe I should stick with the book, if I can find it somewhere cheap! I have a feeling it might be better than the movie. Though I'm not really that great at anticipating plot twists!

  4. Fence says:

    Aarti I haven't, though it did seem to me that it might have worked better in the original short story. Amazon says it is in the collection called The Barnum Museum

  5. Carl V. says:

    And see, I loved this. I didn't need a whole lot of characterization from Norton's character. The show was as much or more about Giamatti's character as it was about anything else. I loved it as a love story with a magical backdrop.

    And didn't they show the film equipment, etc. that sort of points out how they did the ghost illusions?

  6. Fence says:

    Giamatti's character was the best bit in the film, and I did think that he did a great job.

    As for the film equipment, yes, and no. Because <spoiler> the kids that walked through the audience couldn't really have been created with the film stuff available at the time. Maybe if they'd made them a bit wavier or something</spoiler>