The Illusionist Review
1 Sep 2006
Behind the Scene and other Major Plot Points
Dark Red Liquid
When inspector Uhl and his men are searching Eisenheim’s workshop he picks up a glass bottle with a dark red liquid in it. This is the same bottle Eisenheim placed in the suitcase he gave to Sophie before her ‘murder’. It contained the blood mixture used to fake the murder.
The original story on which the movie is based does not include the artifice of the protagonist framing the Duke for murder. The protagonist gets away with a serious crime and yet is made to seem justified in this film. However, it was stated earlier in the story that Leopold had actually killed another woman to cover up the fact he was abusing her. Also, he was planning to overthrow his father, the Emperor. This would have been considered high treason and was punishable by death, even if you were a member of the royal family. Therefore, Leopold did pay for his previous crimes, albeit in a roundabout manner.
The impetus for this was a tribute to the popularity of the American magician Horace Goldin.
The character Prince Leopold says during a performance of Eisenheim at the palace: “He tries to trick you … I try to enlighten you. Which is the more noble pursuit?” This reference is to a famous slogan the RJ Reynolds tobacco company used in the 1930’s that said “It’s fun to be fooled … it’s more fun to know.” The slogan was combined with adverts showing the secrets behind famous mysteries.
Crown Prince’s Sword
During the scene where Eisenheim is performing at the Hofburg, he places the Crown Prince’s sword upright on the stage. The first officer who attempts to lift it is unable. The second person to try – to whom the Crown Prince says “Not so eager, cousin” – is also unable. That second person was probably meant to be Karl von Habsburg-Lothringen, who succeeded “Crown Prince Leopold’s” father, Franz Josef, as Emperor in 1916.
According to the director’s commentary, Jessica Biel dressed in a period costume for her audition.
Preparation for the role
Edward Norton did many of his own magic tricks, with the coaching of James Freedman. He worked with Norton preparing him for his stage performances and acted as a hand double in numerous situations.
How does it end?
In the last show, when the policemen come on-stage to arrest Eisenheim (as seen in the beginning), he’s a ghost. He disappears.
Inspector Uhl receives a book with the solution to the orange tree trick, and he realizes that Sophie isn’t dead. She and Eisenheim concocted the whole thing. Her murder was staged and they implicate Prince Leopold for it. Leopold shoots himself.
RT/Meta Critic Review
What (director Neil) Burger and his colleagues have done is to entrance us with a richly acted, beautifully produced story.(RT)