The Prestige Movie Essay

Are you watching closely?

The following is a close reading of Chistopher Nolan's masterpiece The Prestige (2006) based on Todd McGowan's amazing analysis in the relevant chapter of his book The Fictional Christopher Nolan. You don't have to read the book to understand what I'm about to say since my article is meant to stand on its own feet. I just wanted to acknowledge my inspiration in this regard since Todd has been and continues to be my biggest influence in the world of film theory. Thank you, Todd.

The Prestige follows two rival magicians, Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) and Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) on their quest to create the world's greatest magic trick. As with many of Nolan's non-Batman films, the story does not unfold chronologically and instead is told through each man reading the other's diary. For your comprehension as well as my own, and to make sure we're both on the same page, I've made a strictly chronological account of what takes place in the movie. Major spoilers ahead.

Borden, Angier, and Angier's wife work as stagehands for another magician until something goes wrong with their signature trick and Angier's wife drowns. Angier blames Borden for the incident, and the two magicians separate and begin their own competing shows. Angier gets Michael Caine as an ingénieur (illusion designer) and Scarlett Johansson as an assistant, while Borden's ingénieur Fallon is secretly Borden's twin brother in disguise. Each magician attempts to sabotage the other's show, and while Borden loses two of his fingers, Angier merely loses some of his reputation. So far it looks like Borden drew the short straw—although he does get to marry Rebecca Hall.

Alfred Borden (left) and Robert Angier (right)

Borden's luck soon changes as he unleashes his Great Trick on the public: The Transported Man. Angier immediately becomes hell-bent on discovering how he does it, unaware the Borden simply uses his twin brother as a double (Angier doesn't know he even has a twin brother). Angier sends his assistant to find out Borden's secret, and one of the Borden twins (the one not married to Rebecca Hall—who, by the way, also doesn't know about the twins) falls in love with her. Together they concoct a plan to send Angier on a wild goose chase by delivering him Borden's diary (which doesn't have the secret in it) and telling him that the secret to both the diary and his method is the eccentric inventor David Bowie.

Unfortunately for Borden, Angier does manage to catch a goose on his chase. He has Bowie build him what is supposed to be a teleportation machine, but turns out instead to be a cloning machine. Angier uses his machine to create a "better" version of The Transported Man (in order to make the trick work, Angier drowns a clone version of himself every time he does it) in an effort not only to show that he is the better magician but also to frame Borden for murder. While in prison, Borden is coerced into giving up the secret to his version of the transported man in exchange for his daughter's safety. In the process he learns that Angier is still alive (living under a different name), and has his twin find him and kill him. One of the Borden twins is hung for Angier's murder and the other lives happily ever after with his daughter.

Now that we're all up to speed with what happens in the movie, it's time for a theory break. Here I'll cover the three main concepts we'll need for my close reading of the narrative: identity, desire (objet a), and sacrifice. Next I'll discuss how they're related to Lacan's distinction between the subject of desire and the subject of drive. As I go through I'll apply all this to the characters of Borden and Angier to show why we should be rooting for Angier even if Borden is the one who lives to tell the tale. For now, get ready for some walls of text.

I just really like this image.

Quick side note here for clarity before we begin. For Lacan, there are two main types of people, the subject of desire and the subject of drive. The majority of people fall into the less ethical category of subject of desire, and are characterized by the feeling that there's something missing and the desire to fill this lack (most commonly by buying nice things). This is the worse of the two positions because the subject of desire doesn't understand how their attempts to fill the lack only address the symptoms and not the cause. The subject of drive on the other hand is more complicated and involves a specific relationship with this lack that re-envisions it as something other than a disease. For now just keep in mind that for Lacan the subject of drive is ethically prior to the subject of desire.

The first concept I want to go over is identity, and for this (and all the rest of the theory) we're going to turn to our old friend, Slavoj Žižek. He explains how we understand our identity with reference to Lacan's ideas of ideal ego, ego-ideal, superego, and the law of desire.

Lacan introduces a precise distinction between these three terms: the "ideal ego" stands for the idealized self-image of the subject (the way I would like to be, I would like others to see me); the Ego-Ideal is the agency whose gaze I try to impress with my ego image, the big Other who watches over me and propels me to give my best, the ideal I try to follow and actualize; and the superego is this same agency in its revengeful, sadistic, punishing aspect... What follows from these precise distinctions is that, for Lacan, superego "has nothing to do with moral conscience as far as its most obligatory demands are concerned": superego is, on the contrary, the anti-ethical agency, the stigmatization of our ethical betrayal. So which one of the other two is the proper ethical agency? ... [F]or him, the only proper agency is the fourth one missing in Freud's list of the three, the one sometimes referred to by Lacan as "the law of desire," the agency which tells you to act in conformity with your desire.¹

The place from which Christian Bale sees himself?

So for Lacan, identity is composed of three parts. The first part, ideal ego, is kind of like that scene in The Matrix where Morpheus talks about Neo's "residual self-image"—it's basically how you see yourself. The second part, ego-ideal, is the place from which you see yourself. So, for example, if you get a college degree because it's what your parents wanted, then your parents might be your ego-ideal. Yes, I know it's impossible to keep these two terms straight, so for our purposes I'm just going to refer to ego-ideal as the big Other. The third part, superego, is like an evil big Other: it's the gaze or agency which looks down on you and makes you feel guilty when you fail to live up your expectations. The most important thing to grasp here is the distinction between internal perception (how we see ourselves) and external perception (how we see ourselves being seen).

The fourth agency, the "law of desire", is the most difficult and the most important as it is the guiding principle of the subject of drive. "Acting in conformity with your desire," as Žižek explains it, does not simply mean "do what you want," and instead involves a more complex understanding of unconscious desire. Buying that new car, no matter how much you think you want it, is not "acting in conformity with your desire" because that sort of "wanting" is caught up in a web of other emotions such as anxiety (about the inevitability of death, about the value of your work), loneliness, etc. Before I get sidetracked though, the relevant details for our purposes are that "the proper ethical agency" is opposed to identity-based agencies (the ideal ego, ego-ideal or big Other, and superego), and that for subjects of the "law of desire" (i.e. subject of drive) the big Other does not exist.

Let's move on to some examples. Borden and Angier (before they part ways) go to see the act of another magician, Chung Ling Soo. After discovering that the trick to his illusion involves pretending to be crippled whenever he's in public, Borden praises what he sees as "a lot of self-sacrifice". Here Borden is identifying with Chung Ling Soo through his own sacrifice with his twin of being two people living the same life. He's saying, "That's how I see myself, my ideal ego looks something like that." Similarly, Angier defends their repertoire of illusions to Borden in an earlier scene by claiming that they're "all favorites," and later on he repeatedly refuses to "get his hands dirty" when working with his ingénieur. Both of these positions presume the existence of a big Other—someone to judge the value of Borden's ideal ego, someone for whom their illusions are perceived as favorites, and someone to witness whether or not Angier's hands are dirty. This is problematic because there is no big Other, and the two are performing (creating delusional identities) without an audience.

Angier using David Bowie's cloning machine.

This changes for Angier when he first uses the cloning machine. He understands that using the machine could have disastrous consequences; but, knowing that the consequences will be limited to himself, he decides to go through with it. He keeps a loaded gun by his side because, as he says, "if it went wrong I wouldn't want to live like that for long." This, as Borden later says himself, shows that Angier is no longer afraid to get his hands dirty. He no longer believes in a big Other watching over him and judging his actions. This is the first step on Angier's path to becoming a subject of drive.

Let's move on to our next concept, objet a. Objet a is a term from Lacan (one of the many not translated from French) which I have alluded to in my comparison of desire and drive. When you feel like something is missing (that your life is incomplete), what you're missing is your objet a (don't worry, we're all missing it). Žižek explains the different way objet a functions between the subject of desire and the subject of drive as follows:

While, as Lacan emphasizes, objet a is also the object of the drive, the relationship is here thoroughly different. Although in both cases, the link between object and loss is crucial, in the case of objet a as the object cause of desire, we have an object which is originally lost, which coincides with its own loss, which emerges as lost, while, in the case of objet a as the object of the drive, the "object" is directly the loss itself. In the shift from desire to drive, we pass from the lost object to loss itself as an object. That is to say, the weird movement called "drive" is not driven by the "impossible" quest for the lost object, but by a push to directly enact the "loss"—the gap, cut, distance—itself. There is thus a double distinction to be drawn here: not only between objet a in its fantasmatic and postfantasmatic status, but also, within this postfantasmatic domain itself, between the lost object cause of desire and the object loss of the drive.²

I absolutely love this cartoon because it does a pretty great job of explaining the basics of Lacan's theories of lack and of the objet a which would fill that lack. Everybody experiences lack. Almost everyone tries to fill their lack with something or someone (these are subjects of desire). What the cartoon doesn't tell you is that even when you get those things or those people, you are still bothered by your lack (the most elementary example of this is the idea that you want what you can't have, Lacan simply adds that you also don't want what you can have). Objet a, the object that would fill your lack, is by definition a lost object ("originally lost," "coincides with its own loss," "emerges as lost"). The transition from subject of desire to subject of drive involves embracing and enjoying loss itself ("loss itself as an object"), which is basically what we get from the fourth panel.

Alright, that wasn't so bad since we had a comic to help explain it, so let's get back to the movie. Borden, as a subject of desire, tries to fill his lack with people. He (one of the twins) falls in love with Angier's assistant Scarlett Johansson despite the fact that he (the other twin) is married and the affair will ruin either his marriage, his career, or both. He also gives away the secret to his version of The Transported Man in exchange for his daughter's safety (so that his twin can live with her), showing that he loves her more than magic—his life's work—and thus more than himself. Angier, before his transition, provides an even stronger example in the form of his obsession with Borden's secret. After being unsettled by the loss of his wife, he's willing to lose anything to have the secret (the conversation he has with his assistant when he sends her to spy on Borden is perfect in this regard) despite the fact that his ingénieur correctly informed him as to what the secret is (that he uses a double, it's just a clever double because nobody knows Borden has a twin). Both of these men begin the film as subjects of desire because they think that acquiring something (Scarlett Johansson; Borden's secret) will fill their respective lacks.

Angier later perfectly enacts both necessary portions of the transition to the subject of drive. First, when he finally gets Borden's secret (from Borden himself, not from his ingénieur's coincidentally correct assessment) he rips it up without even looking at it. He has completely lost interest in it (it would have been different if he at least looked at it before destroying it—without looking at it he doesn't even really have it yet and shows that he has given up the search). He then not only gives up his search for the lost object, but embraces loss itself in the way he performs his (final) version of The Transported Man. In order to kill one of the cloned versions of himself, he drops through a trapdoor and drowns in the exact same type of tank that drowned his wife at the beginning of the movie. His loss (of his wife), which he originally displaced onto the search for an object (Borden's secret), is now reenacted every night during his routine.

Borden explaining objet a with regard to magic tricks.

Now that we've gotten through the basics of psychoanalysis we have a solid framework through which to discuss the central theme of The Prestige: sacrifice. Here's Frances Restuccia analyzing sacrifice through the lens of Lacanian/Žižekian psychoanalysis:

Lacan’s "subjective destitution" has nothing to do with sacrifice, which would position the Other as addressee, but is "an act of abandonment which sacrifices the very sacrifice" (Zizek, 1992, 59)... In The Ticklish Subject, as part of a debate with Judith Butler, he clarifies that "to desire something other than its continued ‘social existence’, and thus to fall ‘into some kind of death’, to risk a gesture by means of which death is ‘courted or pursued’, indicates precisely how Lacan reconceptualized the Freudian death drive as the elementary form of the ethical act (Zizek, 1999, 263). And to Zizek, this is "the whole point of Lacan’s reading of Antigone: Antigone effectively risks her entire social existence, defying the socio-symbolic power of the City embodied in the ruler (Creon), thereby ‘falling into some kind of death’ (i.e. sustaining a symbolic death, exclusion from the socio-symbolic space)" (Zizek, 1999, 263). Antigone’s admirable feminine gesture of "No!" to Creon, and in turn to state power, carries value in and of itself: "her act is literally suicidal, she excludes herself from the community, whereby she offers nothing new, no positive program–she just insists on her unconditional demand" (Zizek, 1992, 46). In Enjoy Your Symptom!, Zizek likewise commends Romeo and Juliet for not giving way on their desire: "by means of their suicidal gesture, they repeated the fundamental choice into which they were born by disowning their respective Names, separating themselves from the totality of S1-S2 and thereby choosing themselves as ‘worse’" (Zizek, 1992, 76)... Zizek is also now infamously known for holding up the gesture of Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects of shooting his wife and daughter being held hostage as a way of changing, as Zizek puts it, "the co-ordinates of the situation" (Zizek, 2000, 150). What this act represents to Zizek is a cutting loose from the hero’s most precious object(s), to gain "free action" (Zizek, 2000, 150). The point, to Zizek, is the importance of renouncing "the transgressive fantasmatic supplement" that attaches us to a given social reality (Zizek, 2000, 149).³

Sacrifice by itself, such as the act of committing suicide, addresses the big Other (who doesn't exist). When a subject of desire sacrifices something, they are looking for recognition. "Subjective destitution" (another term which refers to the subject of drive), on the other hand, "sacrifices the very sacrifice". This has a couple of levels to it. The simplest level involves sacrificing your personal existence—your identity ("disowning their respective Names" in the Romeo & Juliet analogy)—as well as your "social existence"—the way you're perceived among your community (the Antigone analogy). The second level involves sacrificing your pursuit of objet a (the "fantasmatic supplement"), or your "most precious object(s)" (The Usual Suspects analogy). Finally, the "sacrifice of the sacrifice" entails sacrificing any belief in the big Other, any belief in the possible recognition of the sacrifice and thus in any possible (external) meaning that the sacrifice would embody. Whereas initial sacrifice may be a literal or material gesture, the sacrifice of the sacrifice is always purely symbolic. In this way, sacrifice of the sacrifice is a "gesture by means of which death is 'courted or pursued'". You could say the essence of true (subject of drive) sacrifice is self-sacrifice, but not the way Borden means it.

Tanks containing the drowned Angier clones.

As I mentioned above, Borden praises Chung Ling Soo for his "self-sacrifice" since he sees his own sacrifice reflected. This is a perfect example of the wrong kind of sacrifice. Both Borden and Chung Ling Soo make sacrifices in order to create an identity, in order to gain recognition from the big Other. Borden sacrifices his twin in order to create his stage persona The Professor and perform his illusion The Transported Man. He sacrifices in order to become famous. He fails to give up his identity (as The Professor), he fails to give up his social existence (as a great magician), he fails to give up his most precious objects (his daughter), and he fails to give up his belief in the big Other (note his disgust when he realizes Angier is no longer afraid to get his hands dirty). Borden is stuck forever as a subject of desire.

Angier, on the other hand, while originally refusing the idea of sacrifice in general (his aversion to getting his hands dirty), transitions from subject of desire to subject of drive (in his relationship to sacrifice) when he begins using the cloning machine. His act of drowning a clone of himself every night contains a suicidal dimension similar to Antigone's since it is not performed for the big Other (even his stage hands are all blind). He gives up everything since he performed the acts "not knowing if [he'd] be the Prestige or the man in the box." He sacrificed all the sacrifices he made to become who he was and to reach the place at which he had arrived.

There's a common misconception about The Prestige that David Bowie made a similar cloning machine for Borden which he used to make his twin. While this isn't supported by the movie itself, thinking about this possibility helps illustrate the difference between Borden and Angier's relationship to sacrifice. Why doesn't Angier just create one clone, an absolutely perfect double, and perform The Transported Man the way Borden did? Because the illusion is more magical Angier's way, because Angier is willing to make the sacrifice (of the sacrifice) that Borden could never manage. Because Angier is willing to get his hands dirty.

This is actually not the final Transported Man.
It is a great .gif though.

If you're interested in Todd McGowan's take on the movie in his book, he sees the movie not only as a movie about magic and a movie about the magic of movies, but also as a commentary on the possibility of the creation of the new, whether it be new art, new politics, etc. His thesis is that "A genuinely new creation is possible, but the source of this creation is not, as we tend to think, the forward motion of time. Instead, The Prestige makes clear that the source of the new is the repetition of sacrifice." The way he gets to this point is theoretically dense but explained clearly enough that anyone who wants to should be able to understand it. Go buy his book if you're interested. It's well worth the read.

Also check out this and this if you haven't seen them.

Works Cited

¹Žižek, Slavoj, How to Read Lacan, W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 2007. Available online here.

²Žižek, Slavoj, Parallax View, MIT Press, Massachusetts 2006. Available online here.

³Restuccia, Frances, Amorous Acts, Stanford University Press, California, 2006. Available online here.

(Happy first anniversary!)

Film Poster. Image: Impawards.

By: Jay Dyer The Pledge For most viewers, The Prestige was a film about rival stage magicians in the Victorian Era, alternately seeking to top one another in the dank climate of emerging industrial revolution and technological wonder.  Lord Caldlow/Angiers (Hugh Jackman) is the secret nobleman who has a flair for the art of illusion, while Robert Borden and his twin (Christian Bale) are the working class stage hands who have devoted their lives to their art.  In the midst of this rivalry, the curious figure of Nikola Tesla enters (played by David Bowie) to interject the element of real magic, titled in the film, "wizardry."  Both magicians are on a quest to sabotage the other, while seeking to perfect the greatest trick of all - the transported man. Stage rivalry and obsession is what The Prestige is about, but it is also about much more.  After several viewings (as is my normal habit), my thesis began to congeal: The Prestige is about Hollywood and film-making itself.  And not only that, it is an industry that is an art of deception and illusion.  The director and the actors are in effect illusion artists, or con men, if you will.  The successful director is able to fool the audience into accepting that what is presented on the screen is real, even if it is evidently fantastical.  The magicians' ingenieure, Mr. Cutter (Michael Caine), explains this principle of film as illusion at the beginning, which is to be applied to the film itself.  Cutter states: "Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called "The Pledge". The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course... it probably isn't. The second act is called "The Turn". The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. 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 know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn't clap yet. Because making something disappear isn't enough; you have to bring it back. That's why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call "The Prestige"."

If you like this analysis, pre-order my book Esoteric Hollywood by clicking this image!

Director Christopher Nolan explains in "The Making of The Prestige" this is to be applied to both directing and the film itself as theatrical illusion: "For me, The Prestige is very much about film-making.  It's very much about what I do.  It is also intended to suggest to the audience some of those ideas about how the film itself is spooling its narrative out to the audience.  You want people to be aware of the effect the film is having as it's unfolding before their eyes."  The Prestige follows this same tripartite structure, as it draws you into an ordinary story of human rivalry and obsession, the "Turn," where the audience is looking for the secret of Angier and the Borden's trick, but not truly looking, because like film, stage magic operates under the audience's suspension of disbelief.  The audience "wants to be fooled."  And in the end, the transported man must come back - reemerge or resurrect, as the final climax of the show.

Keep ya bird in her cage, mate.

The Turn In order to properly understand Nolan's film, we must consider the same principle elucidated concerning David Lynch films - twilight language.  Researcher Michael Hoffman defines “twilight language” as follows in his Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare:  “The path to unlocking this gnosis was centered in “twilight language,” a once nearly universal subliminal communication system used in Egypt, Babylon, the Indian subcontinent and among the Aztecs, consisting of a combination of numbers, archetypal words and symbols, which in our time are sometimes embedded in modern advertising, and in certain modern films and music…. In Oriental Tantra, the mantra (including dharanikavacayamala, etc.) is sonically calculated to induce a particular action.  It forms part of the original sanskrit concept of sandhyabhasa(twilight language).  In Tantra, ‘Sandhyabhasa…is a language of light and darkness…in this higher type of discourse, words have another, a different meaning: this is not to be openly discussed.”  (pg. 207)
Film Poster. Image: Impawards.

Like Kubrick, Lynch and Hitchcock, Nolan utilizes this same pattern, where certain words, images and phrases will stand out as ciphers to the film on the deeper level.  This is a tricky process, as it is not always a simple science of picking out which clues and words are key, but it can be done with experience.  This is one of the more controversial aspects dealt with at JaysAnalysis, so I intend on providing other examples of the same in other arenas to help convince skeptics. Hoffman continues:

“Ritual is obsession in motion.  Obsessive people are walking rituals and they attract “coincidentally,” aids to their obsessions.  If this is done consciously and the obsession happens to coordinate with the trend and tendency of the time, a lot more “coincidental” magnification will be forthcoming.  Coincidence can be summoned.  It is a matter of attention and timing.  First you must be aware of – believing in and observing – the mechanism of coincidence when it agrees with your work, then you coordinate what you’re working on with what you were predestined to do.  When you start to see the pattern of coincidence and it becomes a language for you, you have either become an initiate or a schizophrenic, take your pick, because you lose the protection of materialism – our own protection against the disordering of the arrangement we’ve given to the world to make it manageable.” (Ibid., 130)

Sandy Hook in The Dark Knight, prior to the Sandy Hook event.

Nolan’s films are replete with uses of Jungian archetypes and synchronicity – another Jungian concept.  In my Inception analysis, I wrote:

“The other crucial element is that the story is not a linear story, just like a dream is often non-linear.  The film concerns essentially the “architecture of the mind,” as director Christopher Nolan described it.  Jung’s theories involve the idea that the individual is a disparate instantiation of the collective unconscious, and thus fragmented from the collective. The collective conscious manifests itself in images and archetypes in our deepest selves – the lowest of the subconscious. It is here that we hide out most intimate failures, sins and fears. We guard this sensitive part of our selves, and have defense mechanisms by which we hide and guard these deeper, more elemental ethereal truths about who we really are. For Jung, being the gnostic he was, the goal is to overcome all purported fragmentation, work through the so-called self-realization/individuation process, and thus escape dualities. The masculine “side” must reconcile with the feminine. One notices here familiar themes found throughout the history of alchemy, and Jung was known for his penchant in such arcane studies.”

The above quotes thus solidify a central concept in my analysis of The Prestige – the film is not just about Hollywood illusion and twilight language, but the usage of that power through the illusion of the stage/screen to produce an effect in the consciousness of the viewer.  In my Eyes Wide Shut analysis, I claimed the film was an attempt to initiate the reader, whereas with The Prestige, the film seems to delight in fooling the audience.  It is an exaltation of the fact that most of the viewing audience will not understand the connotations, thinking the film was only about rival magicians, while being unable to place the usage of Nikola Tesla.  It is also crucial to remember that Nolan’s Batman Trilogy included numerous examples of archetypal symbolism and conspiriana, the most famous of which being the Sandy Hook reference on Bain’s map of the city, prior to the Sandy Hook incident in 2012.  Given that level of planned “synchronicity,” we may infer that nothing in Nolan’s films is accidental, especially not Tesla.  Nolan is telling you something.

Wireless transmission of energy.

Recall as well that Nolan’s 2005 Batman Begins was entirely a conspiracy-themed plot, lending credence to my thesis that all of his films may legitimately be assumed to be “written” twilight language.  On Batman Begins, I explained about the League of Shadows, the dark eastern cult that had become Batman’s nemesis:

“It is also relevant to consider that the drugging of the water supply, an old Soviet and Nazi tactic, is, in fact, still practiced today, as much of the United States’ water supply is purposefully drugged in order to chemically attack the masses, reducing Iqs and causing sterilization. See this video.  Psychoactive drugs have also been proposed for addition to water supplies, as well as actual antidepressants, rocket fuel and radiation, turning up in samples. Drugs are also being sprayed in geo-engineering and “chemtrail” programs. For the League of Shadows, the purpose is mass insanity directed towards an engineered social collapse. Again, art mirrors reality. The hallucinogen mind control chemical is developed by “Scarecrow” (Cillian Murphy), who is a doctor specializing in mental health and brainwashing. Scarecrow represents the pharmaceutical complex which works in tandem with the military industrial complex to engineer and control society. The Scarecrow character brings to mind the famed MKULTRA program which did experiment with various methods, including drugs, to solve and control the human mind.”

In The Prestige, dualities play a tremendous role.  Borden has a double, his twin brother, who shares his life as the family man, as well as Angier having his initial double, Mr. Root, the drunken failed actor.  As the rivalry intensifies, Borden and Angier become doubles in a way, each seeking to top the other and obsessing over the other.  Both Borden and Angier live double lives, not being who they appear to be.  This duality is a common theme in Hitchcock and Nolan is clearly utilizing it.  Dialectical dualism is one of the oldest religious principles, operating as a dialectic in both eastern and western religion and occultism.  Our temporal life in that perspective is seen as one of constant struggle with duality and opposition, with alchemical fusion or other-worldly transcendence seen as the usual escape.  Oriental religions are especially taken up with dualities and dualism and this becomes a symbolic indicator with the old Chinese magician.  Cutter tells Borden and Angier they can have ten minutes of audition time if they can solve the old man’s act.  After viewing it, Borden tells Angier the secret to the routine was that he always played the character of the old magician.  It was all an act, because that is true devotion to the art, and true devotion to the art is the only way to “escape all this” (as he pounds on a rock wall).  On one level, Borden was referring to his life of poverty, but on a deeper level, it is a reference to the film’s continual usage of bird cages, water tanks and boxes.

Bowie as Tesla.

The bird-cage is explained by Nolan as an image of being trapped.  The magicians use of the tank and Angier’s use of “Tesla’s box” exemplify this, too, and the meaning is twofold.  On the one hand, the characters are trapped in their own mental prisons of obsession over both women and their stagecraft.  The obsession leads to the death of one of the Borden’s and his wife, as well as countless clones of Angier from the Tesla machine.  As I will explain later, the amazing technology of Tesla is presented in The Prestige as something wholly other – something no one at that time was able to accept and could only be slowly introduced.  The film presents Tesla as working covertly in Colorado to power a whole town while also conducting secret experiments involving cloning.  I have written elsewhere about the truth behind this idea, that Tesla did do many of the seemingly miraculous things attributed to him, but that his work was confiscated by officials of various intelligence agencies, which is even referenced in passing in the film.  Tesla did work on secret projects in Colorado, and this is significant in terms of twilight language in regard to another famous novel, Atlas Shrugged.

In Atlas Shrugged, John Galt’s rebellion of business leaders against government is centered around a hidden “Atlantis” community in Colorado.  This secret community was based around the philosophy of Galt and was hidden using directed energy beams, or “defractor rays.”  Galt’s idea was a “quantum propulsion engine” that would revolutionize energy markets by pulling energy from the environment – both of which are Tesla-related ideas.  I have written elsewhere about the connection between Tesla’s work and an alternate, hidden metaphysics the establishment is aware of, yet suppresses from the masses, based largely around notions like the aether and quantum technology.  While I am not necessarily saying Nolan had Atlas Shrugged in mind, what is clear is that both stories focus on hidden technology in relation to Colorado, and Colorado just happens to be a recent home to the CIA, as opposed to the more public and historic Langley, Virginia.

Ayn Rand’s novel of secret Tesla-type technology.

The Prestige

But what might be the use of Tesla in the film?  Why Tesla?  A host of scientists could have been used, but Tesla was chosen for a reason.  As the film correctly notes, Tesla is the father of the modern world.  Unfortunately, Tesla’s rather benevolent intention was not what his inventions were used for.  As I have shown by uploading the declassified documents relating to his work, the confiscation of Tesla’s work was done with the full intent of technocratic enslavement.  Back in 1973, longtime Washington geopolitical strategist Zbigniew Brzezinski described the usage of Tesla technology for the dystopian control of large masses of populations in his Between Two Ages:

“In addition… future developments may well include automated or manned space warships, deep-sea installations, chemical and biological weapons, death rays, and still other forms of warfare–even the weather may be tampered with.

In addition, it may be possible–and tempting–to exploit for strategic-political purposes the fruits of research on the brain and on human behavior.  Gordon J. F. MacDonald, a geophysicist specializing in problems of warfare, has written that timed artificially excited electronic strokes could lead to a pattern of oscillations that produce relatively high power levels over certain regions of the earth…. In this way, one could develop a system that would seriously impair the brain performance of very large populations in selected regions over an extended period…. No matter how deeply disturbing the thought of using the environment to manipulate behavior for national advantages to some, the technology permitting such use will very probably develop within the next few decades.

Brzezinski’s Between Two Ages.

As one specialist noted, ‘By the year 2018, technology will make available to the leaders of the major nations, a variety of techniques for conducting secret warfare, of which only a bare minimum of the security forces need be appraised.  One nation may attack a competitor covertly by bacteriological means, thoroughly weakening the population (though with a minimum of fatalities) before taking over with its own armed forces.  Alternatively, techniques of weather modification could be employed to produce prolonged periods of drought or storm….(Gordon J. F. MacDonald, “Space,” in Toward the year 2018, p.34).” (pg. 57 with fn)

To bring this back home to The Prestige, the wireless transmission of television and Internet onto magical mirror boxes in most households was long foreseen as a means to “pledge,” “turn” and “prestige” the duped masses of Amerika and the world.  It is my thesis that the film includes Tesla because not only was he the father of the modern world’s technology, his technology would in turn be used by the cryptocracy as the greatest means of propagandizing and tricking the populace through millions of screens broadcasting illusion.  From fake news to fake lives, television and the invasion of the screens has erected an entirely synthetic alternate reality in which people’s minds inhabit, like the birds in cages or Angier in the tanks, in the film.  The meaning of the cloning of Angier to top Borden symbolizes what Tesla says to Angier:

“Man’s reach exceeds his grasp”? It’s a lie. Man’s grasp exceeds his nerve. The only limits on scientific progress are those imposed by society. The first time I changed the world, I was hailed as a visionary. The second time I was asked politely to retire. The world only tolerates one change at a time. And so here I am. Enjoying my “retirement.”  Tesla means that what man attempts, when he overcomes his fear, can exceed what seems possible.  With Angier’s funding, Tesla creates a “box” that results in cloning.  The greatest mystery of western religion – bodily resurrection, is presented as within the possibility of science, but Tesla in the film issues a warning that all of this obsession comes at a price.  Modern scientism is something I have written about at length, and one of the greatest dark secrets is revealed precisely in the figure of Tesla.  Like the Brzezinski quote above, not only has Tesla tech been used for weather warfare, Army psychological warfare expert and founder of the Satanic Temple of Set, Col. Michael Aquino describes the actual usage of Tesla’s ELF/VLF radio frequency attacks upon mass populations.  In his “From PsyOp to Mindwar: The Psychology of Victory,”  Aquino writes in the footnotes towards the end:

“Atmospheric electromagnetic (EM) activity: The Human body communicates internally by EM and electrochemical impulses. The EM field displayed in Kirlian photographs, the effectiveness of acupuncture, and the body’s physical responses to various types of EM radiation (X-rays, infrared radiation, visible light spectra, etc.) are all examples of human sensitivity to EM forces and fields. Atmospheric EM activity is regularly altered by such phenomena as sunspot eruptions and gravitational stresses which distort the Earth’s magnetic field. Under varying external EM conditions, humans are more or less disposed to the consideration of new ideas.

MindWar should be timed accordingly. Per Dr. L.J. Ravitz:  Electromagnetic field constructs add fuel to the assumption unifying living matter harmoniously with the operations of nature, the expression of an electromagnetic field no less than non-living systems; and that as points on spectrums, these two entities may at last take their positions in the organization of the universe in a way both explicable and rational … A tenable theory has been provided for emergence of the nervous system, developing not from functional demands, but instead deriving as a result of dynamic forces imposed on cell groups by the total field pattern. Living matter on has a definition of state based on relativity field physics, through which it has been possible to detect a measurable property of total state functions. (Ravitz, State-Function, Including Hypnotic States” in Journal of American Society of Psychosomatic Dentistry and Medicine Vol. 17, No. 4, 1970.)”


“Ionization of the air: An abundance of negative condensation nuclei (“air ions”) in ingested air enhances alertness and exhilaration, while an excess of positive ions enhances drowsiness and depression.  Calculation of the ionic balance of a target audience’s atmospheric environment will be correspondingly useful. Again this is a naturally-occurring condition – caused by such varying agents as solar ultraviolet light, lightning, and rapidly-moving water – rather than one which most be artificially created. (Detonation of nuclear weapons, however, will alter atmospheric ionization levels.) Cf. Soyke, Fred and Edmonds, Alan, “The Ion Effect”. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1977.

Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) waves: ELF waves up to 100 Hz are once more naturally occurring,but they can also be produced artificially (such as for the Navy’s Project Sanguine for submarine communication). ELF-waves are not normally noticed by the unaided senses, yet their resonant effect upon the human body has been connected to both physiological disorders and emotional distortion. Infrasound vibration (up to 20 Hz) can subliminally influence brain activity to align itself to “delta”, “theta”, “alpha”, or “beta” wave patterns, inclining an audience toward everything from alertness to passivity. Infrasound could be used tactically, as ELF-waves endure for great distances; and it could be used in conjunction with media broadcasts as well. See Playfair, Guy L. and Hill, Scott, The Cycles of Heaven. New York: St. Martin’sPress, 1978, pages 130-140.”

“This machine was not built by a magician, but by a wizard,” Cutter explains of the Tesla “box.” Note as well that the box resembles both a kind of coffin and an uncapped pyramid.

Now you understand the reason for the prevalence of television, wifi, and ELF/VLF towers.  The prestige you don’t want to see is staring you right in the face.  The tech grid that is built all around us is erected for the purpose of working in conjunction with the “chemtrail” geo-engineering that ionizes the atmosphere.  The heating of the atmosphere is used in conjunction with frequency manipulation to control mass populations.  While The Prestige is not a film directly about this, this is the use of Tesla, the father of modern communications technology, which brings to the masses the frequency manipulation on top of the theatrical illusion of Hollywood cinema “magic.”  And I have just shown you two high level cryptocracy controllers who openly say it is such.  The world is a stage, but most are spectators in this technocratic drama.

Hoffman writes again of the methods and techniques of the shadow establishment that are equally applicable to the Hollywood illusion machine:

“The Cryptocracy has always operated as a rhetorical system.  In the Kennedy assassination we saw this in the command-words Camelot, Storyville, Shakespeare and Truth or Consequences.  Predictive Programming works by means of the propagation of the illusion of an infallibly accurate vision of how the world is going to look in the future.  This fraud has had a not inconsiderable impact on our reality.  Aleister Crowley, in a statement to OTO initiates concerning one of his books, describes the underlying epistemology behind the glamour and enchantment which causes the occult con-game to become the weird reality we inhabit in America today:

If you like this analysis, pre-order my book Esoteric Hollywood by clicking this image!

‘In this book it is spoken of the Sephiroth and the Paths; of Spirits and Conjurations; of Gods, Spheres, Planes, and many other things which may or may not exist.  It is immaterial whether these exist or not. By doing certain things certain results will follow; students are most earnestly warned against attributing objective reality or philosophic validity to any of them.’ (Liber O)

Here Crowley admits that the OTO is a vehicle for imposing an artificial reality based on nothing but lies and promoted by liars initiated into the art and science of illusion.” (Emphasis mine. Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare, 206)

Although not immediately pertinent to the film, I would like to give another example of twilight language for skeptics.  IMF head Christine Lagarde recently gave a speech in which she made some very interesting comments about numerology that many found baffling.  The video claims to give a prediction about economic issues based on the video’s numerology, which I would caution against.  However, even if the video creator’s interpretation of the dating is incorrect, what Lagarde’s carefully planned speech undoubtedly demonstrates is the very principle of twilight language I have been arguing for.  For her, the numerology is a language that conveys another message beyond the immediate, surface meaning.

The last sentence of Hoffman perfectly describes the theme and message of The Prestige:  “imposing an artificial reality based on nothing but lies and promoted by liars initiated into the art and science of illusion.” Written in twilight language, it is a film about much more than petty magicians: It is a film about revelation of the method itself.  It is a revelation of the method of revelation of the method.  Just as Borden’s diary in the film is written in a cipher with a keyword that turns out to be “Tesla,” Nolan wants the viewer to understand that The Prestige is a film written in a cipher, whose keyword is Tesla.  That is why I have focused my analysis on Tesla, who is the real message of the film, not Angier or the Bordens.   Tesla is the real “wizard” who created the modern world, not the illusionists, with their stagecraft and sleight of hand.  To transcend space and time and resurrect is the goal of modern science and transhumanism, but remember Tesla’s warning – it comes at a price.  This is the message of the film’s twilight language.  In my article, I presented a pledge, a turn and a prestige and today is Nikola Tesla’s birthday: Are you watching closely, or are you wanting to be fooled?

Are you?

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