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Movie Review: The Illusionist

It has been quite a while since I saw a film that blew me away but last weekend, I saw one that did just that. I went into it with no expectations, no idea who the actors were and came out absolutely gobsmacked.

I am talking about The Illusionist, starring Edward Norton. Adapted from a novel titled 'Eizenheim the Illusionist', the movie opens in this dingy theatre. A man is seated on this rather bare stage, dressed in his shirt sleeves and straining in concentration. There's a hushed silence as the crowd watches him with bated breath. Within minutes, a wisp of smoke-like substance is seen a few feet away from the man's fingers and an excited lady in the audience shouts, 'It's her, it is her'. A crowd of policemen stomp down towards the stage and the Chief of Police walks on to the stage and arrests the man on the stage. That was when we learn that he is Eisenheim, the master Illusionist.

Inspector Uhl, who's conducting the investigation then makes his report to the Crown Prince Leopold, who commands the Inspector to find more proof implicating the illusionist. The Inspector starts with the man's background and we are taken back into the childhood of young Eduard Abromovich, the son of a cabinet maker, growing up in the Viennese countryside. His first brush with magic, according to some, are when he came across a magician sitting by himself, under a tree. The magician, after doing a few sleight of the hand tricks for the young land, vanishes into thin air, along with the tree! The young boy is smitten and practices magic tricks. His father is a cabinet maker, in the employ of the local Duke, whose daughter Sophie falls for Eduard. Of course, this is frowned upon by everyone and the Duke's men caution Eduard away from the blah blah. But one evening, whilst in Eduard's secret lair, they hear the guards approaching and panic. Sophie urges Eduard to make her disappear but try as he might, he is unable to do so. The guards come in and take her away and that is the last we see of young Eduard.

He reappears many, many years later in Vienna as Eisenheim the Illusionist and we learn that he has been travelling all over the world, ending up in the Far East, where he is reputed to have learnt even the Dark Arts. After his first trick, wherein he speeds time up so a fully grown orange bush bearing fruits springs from a pip in front of the audience's eyes, the Crown Prince wishes to see the performance. When Eisenheim asks for a volunteer for his next trick, the Prince kindly volunteers his lady friend and therein Eisenheim comes faces to face with his childhood sweetheart. Though the lady is reputed to be the future wife of the Crown Prince, Eisenheim and his paramour resume their relationship and pretty soon, the Prince comes to hear of it. Along the way, the illusionist also pisses Leopold off and they have a regular tiff going.

One day when the Prince is drunk, he confronts his lady love, who states she's leaving him for Eisenheim. An angry tussle ensues, at the end of which, a horse carrying the limp body of Lady Sophie is seen exiting the scene. This is when the movie actually starts. I do not want to let on more about the plot details and spoil it for you but it was a real gripping movie, one that will stay in your memory banks for a good while.

The camera work is astounding - the sepia tone makes it easy for us to transport ourselves to the early 1900's and the scenery is breathtaking. Cinematographer Dick Pope has made Vienna of the 1920's look glorious. I am normally not a fan of the flashback kind of movies but this one transported me to pre-World War I days and I loved it!

Amongst the actors, Paul Giamatti as Inspector Uhl does a marvellous job. Edward Norton is quite decent Eisenheim as is Rufus Sewell, as the Crown Prince Leopold. But the real hero in my opinion, is the camera and the man behind it deserves a major pat on the back. The movie ticked a whole lot of boxes for me and is a must-see.

Posted by DesiGirl 6:30 PM  


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