I am just passionate about Christopher Nolan's work and love discussing it with other film buffs. I just saw "Interstellar" and my mind was blown. I'm writing a Hub on what I think the ending means, but it seems that my idea is a little in the minority; I really haven't read very many critics who have viewed it the way I have. *******Spoilers for all of Nolan's films**************
Not finding my answer, I went on a Nolan binge and watched "The Prestige" again. Almost every critic thought that Angier really did replicate himself multiple times and killed off one of the duplicates every night, but I am convinced that this isn't the truth.
Early on in the story, it had already been revealed that Angier was replicating himself, so why would him drowning himself every night be the prestige--the great ending, where you bring something back. No, the real magician in the story is Cain's character. My idea is that he was really working both magicians so that their competitive nature would be capitalism at its finest; this idea is foreshadowed in the competition of Tesla and Edison. I believe that Tesla's character was a fake, that he never built a real machine.
Here's the killer. Nolan always ends his films with a revealing shot that tells everything:
Batman: you see him sitting in the cafe that Alfred had told him about. He sets it up halfway through the film, when the character says that one day, when the world no longer needs Batman, he hopes to find him in an Italian Cafe, happy, with maybe a few kids. They would see each other and know the other was fine, but they wouldn't speak. What appears to be Batman's demise, is really Bruce's resurrection unto his own life. They share this brief moment where Alfred spies him and Catwoman, it lasts 2 seconds, then the film credits roll. If you blink, you miss it.
Inception: the last shot is of the top and DiCaprio knows he's not dreaming if it topples. The camer zooms in on it, it starts to shake like it's toppling, then the film cuts....so was the end, where he's happy with his family a dream. I would say that the film seems to suggest so, but leave it open to interpretation.
Interstellar: Cooper takes off for Brand's planet. Brand is seen burying her boyfriend. If you don't look closely, you might miss the fact that she takes her helmet off. Was it suicide? Or, did she find a planet that would be humanity's new home.
So, back to the Prestige. Cain's character gives us the same monologue he gave us at the beginning of the film, about the 3 acts of a magic trick. He says that it's not a successful trick if you don't bring it back. Then Borden shows up to see his daughter. Did you notice that he is not mad at Cain's character? Wasn't be backing his "enemy" this whole time?
Borden shoots Angier, but did he really? Angier dies with a smile on his face. What do you think? Just before death, Angier tells him to look around at the room, but Borden has already seen it....that the room is full of water boxes with Angier bodies in them. Borden stops by one of the boxes and sees that the Angier body looks like he is standing up. To me, he looks like he is holding his breath and is watching Borden.
The real kicker is that the hats are shown again. In fact, the hats are shown 3 times in the film....so why would they be the key to the film's meaning. It's too easy to just say that they are evidence of Angier multiplying himself. That seems to go against the thesis of the film: that magic is about illusion and not the real thing. Did you notice that, in the ending shot, one hat looks different from the others? Remember the line said to Angier when he asked which hat was his, "Well, they are all yours, sir."
What tops it all off, is Alfred's final line. "Now you're looking for the secret. But you won't find it because of course, you're not really looking. You don't really want to work it out. You want to be fooled."
If the film had already been explained away in flashbacks and Angier's confession, what would that line mean? My thought is that the whole film is an illusion, and nothing more than Cain getting rich off of a vengeful competition. You are the audience and you want to be fooled by fraud, that is the thesis of the film. You want to be fooled because life is hard and you want to wonder, just like Angier's last speech. Remember that whole speech about being so distracted that you don't see them pull a fast one on you?
What do you think? Go back and watch the end. Is that an air bubble coming out of Angier's mouth? Do you see the hat? Did you see that it was Cain who set up Borden's hanging? He is seen lying the knot.
Here's a question: Why does Cain ruffle his coat, then look both ways at the end. What is the significance of the coat?
Christopher Nolan gets you thinking and then throws you right off the cliff! His work really blows my mind too! I love his movies and I'm really looking forward to seeing Interstellar. Love your perspectives and I agree with your thoughts on capitalism and Prestige.
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