- Spoiler Alert: This is a discussion of the film. If you haven't watched the The Prestige, don't proceed for spoilers.
Remember this part where Angier tested his Tesla machine for the first time?
What happened was that there became two Angiers: one that stayed on the machine and another that got transported.
Let's analyze what's going on. Two Angiers were created having the same memory, memory that until at the instant the first Angier stepped into the machine.
Let's refresh your memory in case you've forgotten. Angier sailed to America to meet Tesla as directed by Borden's pseudo-diary (pseudo-diary since Borden only used it as a misdirection). We know the secret to Borden's The Transported Man magic, he and "Fallon" have long decided to lead a single life. That is, they had long decided to live as a single person. This is what he (let's now refer to the twins as a single person) calls, "living the act". What they didn't expect was that each of them is going to fall in love with two different women. In short, there's no Alfred Borden alone and no Fallon alone. Both twins are Borden and Fallon at the same time. They just chose which time one is Borden and the other, Fallon.
Now, let's go back to Angier. We know how obsessed Angier was of Borden's secret to The Transported Man, more so of his hunger for vengeance that he stole Borden's encrypted diary. Borden used "TESLA" as his secret word to decrypt his diary. With this, Angier mistook Tesla to be the key to Borden's secret. In a twist, Tesla became the key to Angier's "magic".
When Angier went to Tesla, he was looking for Borden's secret for The Transported Man. What happened instead was that Angier was paying Tesla to create a machine that will transport him. We knew what happened to that. The machine inevitably "clones" the original object.
So then begs the question, which is the original and which is the copy?This is the part where I believe it one way. I believe that the original Angier was the first Angier that got transported on the other side of the room. Now, let's pause for a moment for a suspension of disbelief. This film is a total science fiction, so don't worry yourself about the plausibility of it. What you need to focus on is the fact that Angier went to Tesla for him to create a machine that will transport him. Like what Angier said,
What you're about to witness is not magic. It is purely science.
Tesla did create that machine, not knowing that the kink was a copy will be left on the spot while the original gets transported somewhere else. Since Angier asked for a machine that will transport him, then in Tesla's calculations, the machine was designed to do exactly that, that is to transport him.
Now that it's established that the machine's original purpose was to transport the object, let's look at the effects.
Robert Angier has long been dead.In his first human trial of the machine (using himself), the original Angier managed to get himself killed. He left a loaded gun on the outer part of the machine to straighten some kinks in case he faces some trouble. His clone has that exact memory. It was his first clone that shot the original Angier dead.
None of Angier's clones know they are clones.Obviously. Each of them just assume they are Angier. Since they all have the same one-track mind, they didn't have a problem of the idea of obliterating "the other". In the diary, when "Angier" claimed to have the bigger hand in making the ultimate sacrifice by risking himself in not knowing where he's going to come out: either plunged down on the water below to drown (man in the box) or transported in the room safe (the prestige), he was entirely wrong in the assumption. Machines always do the same thing over and over again. Like Angier, the machine is one-track-minded. The original is always transported in the room.
In the end, Angier died without knowing Borden's secret.Before the last Angier's death, Alfred Borden revealed himself to be alive, leaving Angier in his last minute to contemplate that Borden obviously has a twin. The problem with this is as stipulated above, Angier has long been dead. In short, Borden revealed his secret to the wrong person.
The first clone was the one living all along until he was shot by Borden.After the first clone shot the original Angier, this new Angier devised a mechanism that will drown the copy in the moment of his "transportation." He did all that without knowing that it's always him who will come out alive.
Now, the first time you've watched the film you should have noticed everything right from this scene:
It's not just about the hats being copied multiple times (non-living thing), it's about how there are then two black cats (living thing). If you've missed that, then it's very easy for you to miss the things I stated above.
So, what did I miss?