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Film: The Illusionist
"Nothing is what it seems."

A 2006 Period Drama loosely based on Steven Millhauser's story "Eisenheim the Illusionist".

The Illusionist tells the story of Eisenheim, a magician in Vienna in the late 1800's and the childhood promise he made to a girl that someday, they would both disappear. The film begins near its climax and most of the film takes place in a Flash Back.

No relation to the 2010 animated film.

This film provides examples of:

  • Alas, Poor Villain: While the Crown Prince without doubt is a jerkass, the ending lets you wonder whether he really was so evil as he was made out to be, especially because it is revealed that his motive for preparing a coup was not mere selfishness and lust for power, but his sincere belief that his father was unable to lead the Empire into the future. Did he really deserve to be framed for a murder that not only did he not commit, never even happened in the first place?
  • All There in the Manual: While Eisenheim's tricks may seem like a simple Hand Wave of reality for the sake of drama, all of them actually have very clear explanations—but only in the DVD commentary tracks.
  • Artistic License - Geography: Sophie is the Duchess of Teschen, and the Crown Prince is planning to marry her so that he can improve his claim to the Hungarian half of Austria-Hungary. However, Teschen was actually a Czech state populated by Poles and ruled by an Austrian noble family in the Austrian half of the Empire...the only connection with Hungary was that it lay across the border from them. At least geographically; it's possible that such a move might have been shore up dynastic and political affiliations with people tied to that territory/title, but the movie doesn't explain it.
  • Black and Gray Morality: The "villain" is an obnoxious, possibly murderous, misogynistic asshole planning a coup d'etat. The hero is noble, but very extreme in the methods that he uses to get what he wants, up to and including framing the villain for a murder he didn't commit (driving him to suicide) and getting the only really moral character in the film kicked out of his job as chief police inspector.
  • California Doubling: 19th century Vienna was shot in present day Czech Republic.
  • Cassandra Truth: "He's planted everything!" "You're drunk."
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The man seen with Eisenheim at the train station.
  • Chekhov's Gun: There are many: the locket, the orange tree, the sword, and many minor ones.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Eisenheim and his duchess grew up together and are implied to have made a Childhood Marriage Promise.
  • Childhood Marriage Promise: Implied with the locket.
  • Conspicuous Trenchcoat: Sophie is followed everywhere "for her protection." Eisenheim uses this to his advantage.
  • Driven to Suicide: The prince does this after he runs up against both his personal and political problems.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Early in the film Eisenheim runs into a group of street urchins. Instead of simply giving them some money, which he's certainly capable of, he instead gives most of them one coin each with a slight-of-hand trick—except the last one, who he gives an empty handkerchief... Before raining coins down from his empty hands on the last boy and his fellows. This establishes him as a trickster, but a generous and gentle one.
  • Faking the Dead: Sophie, complete with a very convincing temporary Faux Death.
  • How We Got Here: Most of the movie is actually Inspector Uhl's narration of how he ended up in the Prince's study, slightly late.
  • Inspector Javert: Inspector Uhl is a cross between this and an Obstructive Bureaucrat. In the end, he's revealed as one of the few truly moral characters in the film.
  • Idiot Ball: Eisenheim and Sophie, when preparing to run away, kiss at her carriage, in public, in full view of the people they know are following Sophie. This was deliberate because of it was was part of The Plan.
  • Magicians Are Wizards: While The Prestige justified its use of this trope, this film handwaves it. Though methods existed for all his tricks, you never learn about them without the DVD commentary.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Until The Reveal, it is deliberately ambiguous whether Eisenheim does tricks or really has powers. It turns out that he does tricks.
  • Offstage Villainy: We are told the prince is violent towards women and a cruel manipulator, but never see it. What we do see is him backhand Sophie and be generally unpleasant. He's also planning a coup d’état.
  • Pet the Dog: Eisenheim, after his first successful show, playfully and quietly giving a windfall of coins to a few urchins.
  • Prince Charmless: The prince is established early on to beat women.
  • The Reveal: The inspector figures out what's really going on, complete with montage of all the key moments from the film, just too late to do anything about it.
  • Rebellious Princess: A duchess who wants desperately to run away with Edward despite the fact that he's the lowborn son of a cabinetmaker.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: At the end, the crown prince tries to bribe the inspector, inviting him to say what he wants. The inspector replies that he doesn't want anything the crown prince can offer.
  • Shadow Archetype: Eisenheim and the prince are this to each other. Both are well-intentioned extremists in love with Sophie who did what they had to do in order to get what they wanted. Eisenheim frames an innocent man for murder, while the prince is a drunk and a wife beater who is planning a coup because he genuinely thinks it's better for the country.
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: Eisenheim to Sophie.
  • Stage Magician: Eisenheim's job is this sort of performance.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: In-universe, this is the prince's general attitude. If someone can't accomplish what he tells them to—even if it's impossible—clearly they "can't be relied on."
  • Not What It Looks Like: Invoked and inverted in-story not by The Protagonist, but by the man investigating him, of all things; who tells the protagonist that he's prepared to investigate "a discreet carriage ride" with the Duchess (and future empress) not as what it looked like (a sexual encounter), "but what it actually is." (As it turns out, a conversation between childhood friends.)
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: The son plans to overthrow his father because he thinks the "old man" can't properly lead the Empire into the future.
  • Whodunnit to Me: Sophie's ghostly appearances at Eisenheim's shows seems to be trying to get the public to figure this one out.
  • Would Hit a Girl: The prince often does if the rumors about him beating his previous girlfriends are true.

IdiocracyFilms of 2005 - 2009 Ils
Unflinching WalkImageSource/Live-Action FilmsMaster of Illusion

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