Few contemporary filmmakers have managed to garner the respect and adoration of Christopher Nolan. It’s been a decade since the release of his beloved film about rival magicians – The Prestige – and yet fans continue to dissect it and draw their own conclusions about what exactly happened in that masterpiece. One new theory has recently begun gaining traction among fans, and we have to say we find it difficult not to see the theory’s merit.
There will be spoilers for The Prestige from this point forward.
Posted by one very observant Redditor, the theory posits that a line read from the diary of Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) by his nemesis Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) fundamentally changes the way we should view the film and its themes:
We were two young men at the start of a great career. Two young men devoted to an illusion. Two young men who never intended to hurt anyone.
Essentially, the theory indicates that while most audiences take the line as Borden speaking to his rival, Angier, through the diary, it’s actually Borden’s private thoughts about his own life. As anyone who has seen The Prestige knows, the secret to Borden’s ability to perform many of his tricks in the film is that he has a twin brother who he shares his life with. They are both "half" of Alfred Borden, rather than possessing separate and whole lives for themselves. This twist makes itself apparent at the very end of the film, but is also alluded to at various points throughout The Prestige. This new theory would have it rearing its head earlier than we ever realized.
If it's been a while since you've seen The Prestige, get yourself caught up on the ending before proceeding:
Ultimately, what this theory does is alter the way in which we, as an audience, view the rivalry between these two men. The entire movie revolves around two men trying desperately to learn each other’s secrets, when in reality, Borden’s secret was in front of Angier the entire time. Boiled down to its basic elements, the theory makes the movie thematically revolve around the idea that our obsession can make us blind to the truth that's really in front of our very eyes.
Of course, there are some holes in the theory. For one, Borden goes to great lengths to hide the secret of his tricks in the film, so for him to so blatantly admit something in a diary that he knew would fall into Angier’s hands doesn’t completely make sense. There’s also the fact that later portions of the diary do in fact read as if they are directly intended for Angier’s eyes. Do you think that they are?
There’s a wealth of evidence that supports both possibilities: the original idea, as well as the new theory. Only one thing is for certain at this point, and that’s the fact that I am about to go throw The Prestige in my DVD player and have my mind blown again, because ten years later it's still an endlessly watchable masterpiece.