Sunday, November 19, 2006
The Illusionist - /* everything you see is an illusion */
The illusion is real
In turn of the century Austria a young boy and a young girl from different strata pledge eternal friendship - he is the son of a carpenter with a difference and a penchant for magic - she is destined to become the Grand Duchess Sophie van Treschel. Their symbol of friendship is a secret locket he designs for her - a heart with a twist.
He goes away on a long journey and comes back to Vienna as the great Eisenheim. A magician. who has gone to the far ends of the earth and unlocked the dark secrets to bend the laws of nature to his will. His renown on stage grows which catches the attention of the Crown Prince. At a performance attended by the Crown Prince, He asks for a volunteer from the audience and the Crown Prince Leopold volunteers the Duchess. On stage their eyes meet and she recognizes him - thus is rekindled their childhood romance.
The Crown Prince vows to expose Eisenheim and under his direction Chief Inspector Uhl and his men keeps the magician under constant watch.
It is a battle of politesse. Uhl himself an aficianado of magic puts the pressure on Eisenheim asking for some basic tricks, to which he obliges as in exposing which hand holds a coin after being held to the forehead.
The real tricks are reserved for the stage for an ever growing awaiting audience - no mere sleight of hand - Eisenheim is alone on stage, no mechanics up his sleeve, it is mirrors and smoke - a globe of glass lights in the palm of his hand, an orange tree grows out of nothing to full fruition - . In a special invited performance at the house of the Crown Prince where is determined to have Eisenheim debunked before his chosen audience of experts, Eisenheim dares to cross swords with Leopold, bringing him down a notch before his subjects. The Crown Prince is an ambitious man, and a dangerous man to cross for he has power and a temper - and designs on even greater power - his father's throne. And for this he needs the Duchess at his side - a Duchess falling out of love of him to a boy she once knew and now known as a man named Eisenheim, a man Uhl is determined to bring to light, to reveal him as a fraud and arrest him.
With Eisenheim's and Sophie's passions ignited and feelings exposed, their meeting by day in a coach is noted by the police and revealed to the Duke who is furious. After Eisenheim and Sophie's feelings culminate in an assignation by night, Eisenheim asks her to leave the Duke for him.
The understated yet sharply acuitous Edward Norton and the elegant mannered Jessica Biel with the gleam in her eye and the locket in her bodice are the two star-crossed lovers who must defy the powerful Grand Duke and the predestined marriage.
The aftermath leads to the greatest illusion of all. The magic between the couple is the appeal, Paul Giammati's canny Inspector Uhl is the dogged bloodhound of truth set to by a dashing yet dastardly Rufus Sewell as the Crown Prince all splendid in his uniform. The regal feelings and intrigue of the court are well-displayed and the heightened feelings between the lofty Leopold and the underdog Eisenheim keep the story on edge.
The Illusionist is mystical, it's a mystery, it's an intrigue and the illusion is real.