The Prestige (2006) Explained: 10th year Anniversary

  • Spoiler Alert: This is a discussion of the film. If you haven't watched the The Prestige, don't proceed for spoilers.
With the 10th year anniversary of the film, I think it's high time for me to discuss plot twists that anyone might have missed. Well, I'm only going to tackle one aspect of that since there's a part where it's like choosing between the red pill and the blue pill. If you don't know what the hell I'm talking about, then let's begin.

Remember this part where Angier tested his Tesla machine for the first time?
The Prestige Angier's First Transportation

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.

One of the unfortunate things that happened was when Sarah could no longer tolerate Borden's seeming split personality, she committed suicide, leaving one of the twins grieving. The twisted predicament was that of the twins, it's Olivia's lover that was caught red-handed (in getting the blame for Angier's death) and therefore hanged. In a twisted fate, Olivia and the other Borden are left mourning, not even the proper partners were left alive.

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:
The Prestige 2006 Cat

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?


  1. Let's put it this way. A clone will be a perfect replication of the the original. In this movie it means that whenever Angier uses Tesla's machine, Angier will be clone into 2 individuals, the original and the clone. Both will have the same physical and mind status up to the point they are being cloned. Physical and mind status will defer after the cloning based on life experience. In my opinion, the Tesla's machine was never a transportation machine, it was a cloning machine. Logically, a transportation machine should always sent an object from point A to point B, without cloning the object itself. It will be like Nightcrawler or Azazel power in X Men. So, Tesla actually created a cloning machine instead of a transportation machine.

    1) Robert Angier has long been dead
    In my opinion, Angier's first clone was the one who got shot. The Tesla machine was a cloning machine, not a teleportation machine. The machine will clone anything within the cage and it will create the clone at a specific pointed location. The location of the first clone was circled down by Angier before he went into the cage (instruction might have been written in the manual provided with the machine to configure the location). Then, the original one went inside the cage with a gun prepared right by his side before he cloned himself, which he then used to shot the clone after it appears.

    Why i assumed the location of the clone to emerge can be configure
    The first clone emerged a few meters away from the original Angier, while during his magic act in the hall, the clone emerged further away, on top of the hall balcony. The original Angier possibly the second Angier to be dead, based on how he conducts his magic act by placing a tank full of water below the machine cage to drown one of himself after the cloning process done.

    2) None of Angier's clones know they are clones
    Basically, all the clones knew that they were cloned because the original Angier knew about it. But, the idea in Angier's head was that the machine was a transportation machine. So he assumes he is being transported, instead of being cloned. So neither of the 2 Angier after the cloning will ever know the feelings of the other, being dead drowned, or being clapped by the crowds for the Prestige, since they are, by then, 2 separate individuals with different mind and experience.

    3) In the end, Angier died without knowing Borden's secret
    The original Angier died without knowing Borden's secret, yes, but the last clone was still Angier himself.

    4) The first clone was the one living all along until he was shot by Borden
    Angier that was shot by Borden was the last clone of his original self.

    1. If you were to choose between the blue pill and the red pill, with the red being whatever I choose to believe and the blue with the majority's interpretation, I'm explaining the red pill. Yes, I've read your interpretation about 5 times from five different writers of big websites. Basically, your opinion is what's been circulating worldwide.

      The film was an adaptation of a book of the same name by Christopher Priest. I didn't read that book. I settled with what I could come up from Christopher Nolan's masterpiece. The reason why I didn't interpret it as that Tesla in the film simply accidentally created a cloning machine was because Tesla was not known in real life to just simply commit mistakes (he's not Edison). He knows his calculations. But like most inventors, they do err but his is not major like inventing something completely different from what he originally planned. If Tesla in the film tried to create a machine that could transport (or technically, teleport) an object, then I believe just like with most of his inventions, he did just that. Only for this film, his machine clones the object in the process.

  2. Same here. Never read the book or knew about it. Just plain opinion from the movie itself. Not sure what Tesla actually did either, only knows he is one of those scientists which contributed a lot on electricity invention. Anyhow, we can agree that the movie is indeed incredible.

    1. Indeed, the movie is incredible. Christopher Nolan is an amazing filmmaker.

      Anyhow, according to some scientists, if only Tesla was money-driven, he would have made more than 2000 patents instead of the recorded approximate of 300. He's a genius whose works were taken advantage of by douchebags like Edison. For a light brush of knowing Tesla, here's a nice infographic by The Oatmeal.

  3. This analysis mirrors my opinion as to the ending.

    The original clone takes Lord "Angier" Caldlow's place. The tanks are never emptied to avoid questions.

    And the trick is replicated until Borden is implicated. Ta-dah!


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