The Prestige – explained

Ever since I posted my review of The Prestige way back when, people have been ending up on our site after searching for keywords such as “The Prestige movie explained”, “Prestige explanation”, “The Prestige movie”, “What happened in the end of the Prestige?” and “what happened at the end of the Prestige.” I’ll agree, the movie was a bit overwhelming the first time we (Christine and I) saw it in the theater, and we left asking each other a ton of questions, almost to the point where we turned around and went back in for a second showing. However, the second time we watched the movie, most of the confusing parts made perfect sense.

Since there seems to be so much confusion over what happened, I’ve watched the movie two more times (my fifth and sixth viewings), and made notes of various “clues” throughout the movie, and hopefully explain what happens in the end. So, if you’re curious or confused, read on:

We know that The Prestige is told out of order, which in itself can be partly to blame for the confusion. Christopher Nolan (the director) likes making jumbled up movies. If you’ve never seen Memento, you should check it out, especially if you liked The Prestige. So, since the movie itself is told out of order, I’ll straighten it out, which may help a bit.

The very beginning of the movie is “today”, so to speak, the murder trial part. This is what’s considered “now.” However, the majority of the movie is told through a flashback. Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) is in jail up until about an hour and fifty minutes into the movie. Borden’s in jail for murdering Angier (Hugh Jackman), in a magic trick gone wrong. All of the flashbacks are shown as Borden reads through Angier’s diary entries, which were provided to him by the assistant of Lord Caldlow.

Within the flashback (Borden reading Angier’s journal), Angier reads Borden’s journal. I think this is the part that confuses everyone. So let’s untwist the entire movie. I’ll explain in details how we come to the conclusion(s), after the explanation.

This is a summation of the events of the movie, in the order in which they happen on-screen, not necessarily the order in which they actually happened for the characters.

  • NOW – Voice-over explanation of how magic tricks work. (Michael Caine’s voice-over)
    Borden watches Angier drown.
    Borden’s on trial for murdering Angier.
    Borden goes to jail.
    Borden is approached by Caldlow’s assistant (Owens), looking to buy his tricks, specifically the “Transported Man” secret.
    As a show of good faith, Owens gives Borden Angier’s journal.
    Borden reads Angier’s journal while imprisioned for murdering him, awaiting his death.
  • FLASHBACK (Colorado) – Angier’s reading Borden’s diary, while in Colorado. Angier is in Colorado trying to figure out how Borden did his trick “The Transported Man.”
    Angier tries to see Nikola Tesla, to create him a machine to do the “Transported Man” trick.
  • FLASHBACK (England) – We go back to the first time Angier and Borden worked together as “plants” (people stuck in the crowd, but are really part of the show). The woman they tie up, who does the trick, is Angier’s wife Julia. Borden sets up his “masterpiece” by saying, “No one can do my trick.”
    Cutter sends Angier and Borden to see the Asian magician, to see who can figure out how he does the “fishbowl” trick. Borden figures out the trick, that the Asian magician isn’t really old and fragile, that it’s part of his act, so that he can bring the fishbowl out on stage, between his legs.
  • FLASHBACK (England) – Borden is performing as an assistant to Cutter’s friend. He meets Sarah, and her nephew. When Borden shows the canary to the crying boy, the boy asks, “But where’s his brother?” (Possible foreshadowing to the end of the movie)
    Outside, Borden tells the little boy, “Never show anyone, they’ll beg you and they’ll flatter you for the secret.” (Another possible foreshadowing event to the end of the movie.)
    Sarah goes inside her apartment, and locks the door. Borden appears inside her apartment.
  • NOW – Cutter shows the judge Angier’s machine. Cutter asks if he can prevent Caldlow from getting the device. He explains it’s too dangerous, and that there is no trick, that the device is “real.”
    Cutter shows the judge the tank that Angier drowned in, and that the trick lock was replaced with a real lock.
  • FLASHBACK (England) – They perform the “woman escaping” trick again. Borden ties a different knot. Julia’s unable to escape, and drowns. (I know what you’re thinking, why didn’t anyone give her CPR? I wondered the same thing, and thought that maybe CPR wasn’t around in the late 1800s, but according to Wikipedia, it was.)
    At the funeral, Angier asks Borden which knot he tied, he says “I keep asking myself that.”, “I’m sorry, I just don’t know.” Borden leaves, Angier yells at him “You don’t know?!”
    Sarah meets Mr. Fallon, who speaks his some of his very few lines of the entire film. (I had not noticed this until just now, and am watching the movie so I can be sure these notes are accurate.) When he speaks, his mouth barely moves, and you don’t notice him speaking. He sounds so much like Borden, you assume it was he who spoke.
    Sarah tells Borden she’s pregnant, his first words are, “That’s great. We shoulda told Fallon.” Foreshadowing? I think so.
    He says he loves her, she replies with, “Not today, you don’t.”
  • FLASHBACK (England) – Borden is performing his tricks in some little dive theater, being booed. He performs the bullet-catch, and a disguised Angier slips a bullet into the gun, and shoots off two of Borden’s fingers.
  • FLASHBACK (Colorado) – Angier reads that Borden wrote “I told him the truth, that I have fought with myself over that night. One half of me swearing blind that I tied a simple slipknot, the other half convinced that I tied the langford double. I could never know for sure.”
  • FLASHBACK (England) – Borden’s fingers are bleeding, again. The baby is crying, so we know this is months and months later.
  • FLASHBACK (England) – Cutter invites Angier for a drink, tells him he wants to book Angier to perform. He settles on the name “The Great Danton”, and begins working on tricks. They hire Olivia (Scarlett Johansson) to be Angier’s assistant.
    The Great Danton performs his tricks, Borden shows up, and repays him for shooting off his fingers by sabotaging Angier’s trick. The theater owner throws them out after a spectator gets hurt on stage.
  • FLASHBACK (Colorado) – Tesla’s assistant meets with Angier, and tells him Telsa can see him. Angier tells the assistant that he wants the same machine that Tesla built for “another magician.” Tesla’s assistant shows Angier the work that Tesla’s working on.
  • NOW – Borden’s daughter visits him in jail. Fallon tells Borden that they’re taking his daughter away to the “workhouse.” Borden says it’s okay to sell the secret to Caldlow, so that his daughter can be safe.
  • FLASHBACK (Colorado) – Angier meets Tesla (played by a wonderful David Bowie), who agrees to build the machine that Angier wants.
  • FLASHBACK (England) – Angier is putting on a disguise, to see Borden perform. We see Borden perform the “Transported Man” for the first time, and it stuns Angier to the point of obsession.
    Cutter says “He uses a double;” “It’s too simple,” Angier says. Olivia agrees that he’s not using a double.
    Angier and Cutter start setting up their version, and find a double for Angier.
    Borden buys Sarah a house. She says “I asked you about this last week, you said…”; Borden replies, “You caught me in a wrong mood.”
    Angier performs his trick “The New Transported Man” with his double. They celebrate.
    Angier tells Olivia to go work for Borden, to get his secrets.
    Olivia goes to tell Borden she wants to work for him, and that she’s going to doublecross Angier, because he sent her away.
    We learn that Borden was the one who told the double that he could demand more, which is why he begins sabotaging the “New Transported Man” trick. He tells the double “I used a double.”
    Angier shows up at Olivia’s. She tells him about the disguises at Borden’s, and that Cutter was right, that he “uses a double.” She gives Angier Borden’s notebook.
    Angier follows Borden, Fallon follows Angier. Cutter and Angier trap Fallon in a coffin, and bury him alive. They threaten to let him die if Borden doesn’t give them the secret to the Transported Man trick.
  • FLASHBACK (Colorado) – Angier visits Tesla’s workshop for a demonstration. Tesla attempts to use Angier’s hat for the demonstration, but nothing happens – the machine doesn’t work. Angier is rushed out of the workshop.
  • FLASHBACK (England) – We find out Olivia doublecrossed the doublecross.
    We find out Borden loves Olivia. He says “To open myself to such a relationship, to the dangers of such an affair, I need assurances of fidelity, of love. I had to be sure. I know a way, it’s the only way to know her mind.”
    Angier finds out the journal that he’s been reading was written by Borden specifically to be read by Angier.
  • FLASHBACK (Colorado) – Tesla’s machine does work, and they clone a cat, which Angier finds outside, along with dozens of his top hats, which were the results of the previous tests that they thought weren’t working.
  • FLASHBACK (England) – Sarah’s drinking problem continues, getting worse.
    Borden asks Fallon to take the daughter to the zoo, he says that “Sarah, she knows.”
  • FLASHBACK (Colorado) – Telsa’s workshop has been burnt down, presumably by Thomas Edison’s men, who were his competitors.
    Tesla left the working machine for Angier, who brings it back to England and begins practicing with it.
  • FLASHBACK (England) – Angier works with the machine, and clones himself.
  • NOW – Borden reads in Angier’s journal, “Yes you, Borden. Sitting in your cell, reading my diary, awaiting your death, for my murder.” Angier’s journal was intended for the other to read, just as Borden’s was.
    Caldlow’s assistant explains that the journal wasn’t fake – it truly is written in Angier’s own hand. Borden hands over his tricks, without the prestiges. Says he wants to see his daughter one last time, before he hands over the prestiges.
  • FLASHBACK (England) – Borden and Sarah are fighting. Sarah says “I know what you really are, Alfred.” Fallon takes the daughter away, so she doesn’t hear the fighting. We assume they’re fighting over Olivia.
    Sarah hangs herself at Borden’s workshop.
  • FLASHBACK (England) – Angier meets with Cutter, and tells him he wants to do another show, 100 performances.
    Sarah said she wanted to meet Olivia before she hung herself; Olivia wonders what she would have said.
    Borden says “Part of me loved her, part of me didn’t,” in regards to Sarah.
    Olivia leaves Borden, because of how cold he is about Sarah’s death.
    Angier performs his “Real Transported Man,” Borden knows he falls through the stage to dissappear, but not how he transports across the theater.
    Borden yells at Fallon, and asks “Why can’t you outthink him?”
    Angier’s stagehands remove the tank, while Fallon watches.
    Borden says, “Let him have his trick, I don’t need his secret. So, don’t go back there, leave it alone, both of us. Just leave it alone. We’re done.” to Fallon.
    Bordon examines the machine, and goes downstairs and watches Angier drown. He tries to break the glass, to save him.
    Cutter identifies Angier’s body, who’s now dead.
  • FLASHBACK (England) – Cutter asks if he can buy the Transported Man machine. Caldlow’s assistant says that he can ask Caldlow for the machine.
  • NOW – Caldlow shows up to visit Borden, with Borden’s daughter Jess. Borden says, “I’ve missed you so much, Fallon has too.”
    Caldlow is really Angier, or rather Angier is really Caldlow.
    Borden is confused, because Angier is supposed to be dead, which is why he’s in jail.
    Borden offers to give Angier the secret to the “Transported Man.” Angier rips it up, and throws it away. Angier says “Whatever your secret was, you have to agree, mine was better.”
    Borden promises to bring Jess home soon.
  • NOW (Somewhere in America) – Cutter shows up at Caldlow’s house, and sees that it’s Angier.
    Cutter feels guilty for helping get Borden hung.
    Caldlow says he’ll ensure the machine will be destroyed.
  • NOW – Borden is talking with Fallon in jail, and says, “You’ll go alone now.”
    Borden says “You were right, I should have left him to his damn trick. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for a lot of things. I’m sorry for Sarah. I didn’t mean to hurt her. I didn’t. You go live your life in full now, go live for both of us.” (Another clue from earlier, when Borden told Fallon to “leave him and his trick alone.”)
    Fallon says, “Goodbye”, his second line in the movie at 1:54
  • NOW – They bring Borden to be hung.
    Cutter helps Angier lower the machine into the basement, where his other props are.
    Borden’s last word is, “Abracadabra.”
    Fallon enters Angier’s theater, as Cutter leaves.
    Ball bounces to Angier, Borden shoots him.
    Borden emerges from the shadows, minus two fingers, and removes Fallon’s hat.
    Angier figures it all out. “A brother, a twin” he says.
    “You were Fallon, the whole time.” Borden replies, “No, we were both Fallon, and we were both Borden.”
    Borden explains (with help from flashbacks) how they cut off two fingers of the twin after the bullet catch incident, and how it was “bleeding again.”
    He also explains the situation with Sarah and Olivia – “We each loved one of them. I loved Sarah. He loved Olivia. We each had half of a full life. Which was enough for us.”
    Angier explains his trick. The machine would clone him each time, and he would then kill himself, and live on as the clone. Or, in some instances, he would kill the clone. “It took courage to climb into that machine every night, not knowing, if I’d be the man in the box, or the prestige.”
    Angier’s dropped latern sets the theater on fire. The theater burns down.
  • NOW – Voice-over, Cutter explains the magic trick again.
    Borden shows up, and picks up Jess (the daughter) from Cutter.
    As Borden leaves the theater, we see the water tanks with the Angier clones in them, drowned. We assume that each night he performed the trick, he killed another of himself/a clone, and kept their bodies hidden.

The movie ends.

Explanation of the higher-level points:Angier’s story: Angier was really Lord Caldlow the entire time, from the beginning of the movie, to the end. He pretended to be Angier so he could perform magic, without anyone knowing who he really was.

His wife was killed in an accident, so he took out for revenge against the man he felt was responsible for it, Borden.

Angier’s trick was performed with Tesla’s machine, which cloned him. The clone would generally take over for Angier, and Angier would be killed each night, as part of the trick.

Borden’s story: Borden had a twin brother. Each of them took turns being Borden, and being Fallon (the assistant). We don’t know which one was really which one, and if their names were really Alfred and/or Fallon.

One of them loved Sarah, the other loved Olivia.

Their trick was performed using a double, exactly how Cutter said it was performed.

One of them was hung in jail, the other confronted Caldlow/Angier, and shot him, leaving him for dead. He then picked up his daughter Jess, and went on with his life.


Clues? There’s a ton of them throughout the movie. And if you want to see them all, watch the movie a second time. Every time I watch it, I find new things that I’d missed before. Here’s a list of all the clues I’ve found, and the times they occur. (The time stamp is according to the Region 1 encoded DVD, and is in minutes:seconds format)

00:45 – We see Angier’s multiple top-hats, indicating that Tesla’s machine works.
02:04 – Angier uses blind stage hands, so they won’t see the dead clones.
02:47 – Angier/clone falls into the water, and drowns.
05:22 – Fallon is seen with Jess (the daughter) in the courtroom.
14:13 – “No one can do my trick,” Borden says, indicating that he’s put his entire life into the trick.
16:41 – “This is the trick” Borden says about the Asian magician. He can pick it out so quickly, because he’s doing the same thing.
19:23 – “But where’s his brother?” Sarah’s nephew asks Borden, foreshadowing that Borden has a brother.
20:20 – “Never show anyone, they’ll beg you and they’ll flatter you for the secret,” he says to the nephew, outside the theater.
21:09 – Sarah locks the door, with Borden outside. The twin brother’s already inside.
27:14 – “I’m sorry, I don’t know” – when Angier asks Borden which knot he tied. He doesn’t know, because the brother tied the knot.
28:00 – When Sarah says she’s pregnant, Borden’s first response is, “That’s great, we should have told Fallon.” Borden reacts this way because Fallon was actually the father.
30:07 – When Borden says he loves Sarah, she responds, “Not today, you don’t.” Sarah knows that the Borden in front of her doesn’t really love her. The other one does.
33:03 – “I told him the truth, that I have fought with myself over that night. One half of me swearing blind that I tied a simple slipknot, the other half convinced that I tied the langford double. I could never know for sure.” – Borden himself isn’t sure which knot he tied. The two Bordens fight over it.
33:26 – Sarah says, “I don’t understand how it can be bleeding again,” in regards to Borden’s two severed fingers. They’re bleeding “again” because they had just been cut off of the other twin.
42:10 – Tesla’s assistant says “Two of ’em,” in a completely unrelated conversation. But still, it’s a hidden clue.
46:44 – “I love you,” Borden says to Sarah, who replies, “Today it’s true.” This is the Borden who does love her.
48:05 – Fallon always wears gloves, to hide the fact that he’s missing the same two fingers as Borden.
51:30 – Tesla asks Angier, “Have you considered the cost?” in regards to the cloning machine. Losing one’s life every night is not an easy task.
54:55 – Cutter says “He uses a double.” It’s his simple explanation of the Transported Man trick.
56:20 – When Borden buys the house for Sarah, she says, “But we talked about this last week.” Borden says, “You caught me in a wrong mood.” She had talked about it with the other Borden.
1:04:30 – Fallon leaves when Olivia enters, so she can’t see who he really is. She would be able to tell.
1:07:58 – Borden admits to Root (Angier’s double) that, “I used a double.”
1:10:49 – “Cutter was right, he uses a double.” Olivia says to Angier, explaining about the “extra wigs” not used in the show.
1:11:10 – Olivia says, “He lives his act, don’t you see?”
1:16:52 – “How does he do it?” Angier asks Cutter, who replies, “The same way he always has.” Cutter insists Borden uses a double.
1:19:07 – “I had a terrible ordeal today,” Borden says to Sarah, as to why he’s drinking. Of course he did, he was buried alive as Fallon.
1:19:30 – “Secrets are my life,” Borden says to Sarah, “Stop performing.” she yells at him.
1:21:50 – When Fallon is taking Olivia home, he stares at her through the glass of the carriage. This is the Borden who loves Olivia.
1:22:00 – “To open myself to such a relationship, to the dangers of such an affair, I need assurances of fidelity, of love. I had to be sure. I know a way, it’s the only way to know her mind.” – Borden isn’t talking about cheating on his wife, really. He’s talking about how one Borden can be in love with Olivia, without Olivia giving away the secrets.
1:25:30 – We see Angier’s top hat duplicated, along with the handful of black cats.
1:26:38 – “I promised, did I?” Borden says to his daughter Jess, in regards to going to the zoo. The other Borden had promised to take her.
1:27:22 – “It’s so much harder when you don’t” Sarah says, in regards to the days that he loves her.
1:27:44 – “Jess wants to go to the zoo, I thought maybe you could take her,” Borden says to Fallon.
1:27:56 – “She knows,” Borden tells Fallon about Sarah.
1:28:38 – “I saw Fallon hanging around today,” Olivia tells Borden. Fallon (that day) was the one who loved her.
1:32:44 – “Olivia means nothing to me,” Borden tells Sarah. This is true; the other Borden is the one who loves Olivia.
1:33:05 – Sarah says she’s going to tell everyone what “You really are.” Borden says, “Sarah, shut up! You can’t talk like this.”
1:33:20 – Fallon carries Jess off.
1:34:07 – “Do you love me?” Sarah asks Borden. “Not today, no” he replies. The other Borden is the one who loves her.
1:38:49 – “I never loved Sarah,” Borden says to Olivia “part of me loved her, but part of me loves you.” The two separate “parts” are two separate people.
1:43:40 – “Why can’t you outthink him?” Borden says to Fallon. Fallon has no gloves on in this scene, the only time in the movie he’s gloveless, however he left hand is hidden under the table.
1:44:53 – “Both of us, leave him alone,” Borden says to Fallon.
1:49:22 – “Fallon’s missed you too, we both have.” Borden says to Jess, while in jail.
1:54:03 – “You were right, I should have left him alone. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for a lot of things. I’m sorry about Sarah” – Borden says to Fallon from jail. At this point, Fallon was the Borden who loved Sarah. The “I should have left him alone” is a big clue, which goes back to 9 minutes earlier, when Borden tells Fallon to leave him alone. At this point, they’re switched. The Borden who said “leave him alone” is now Fallon.
1:54:11 – Borden tosses the red bouncing ball to Fallon, just like he did in the act.
1:57:30 – Fallon enters Angier’s theater.
1:58:08 – The red ball bounces to Angier.
1:58:30 – Fallon comes out of the shadows as Borden.
1:58:43 – Angier figures it out, saying, “A brother. A twin. You were Fallon the whole time.” Borden replies, “No, we were both Fallon, we were both Borden.”
1:59:54 – “We each loved one of them”, Borden explains how they loved Sarah, and Olivia
2:01:59 – Angier shoots the first clone in a flashback, and explains how he cloned himself for the trick to Borden.

This movie is fantastic, and I highly recommend you check it out, if you haven’t already. If there’s anything I missed, or something that doesn’t make sense, please leave a comment, and I’ll do what I can to address it for you. I hope this helps clarify some of the questions you’ve had about The Prestige, I know it was a lot of fun to write, and it’s always great to get to watch the movie over and over again.


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  1. Megan on said:

    While the plot has a million and one questions to be asked about it, I only want to know one thing:
    Why was there a different knot tied concerning Julia’s death? Why did she have to die? And if the two Bordens didn’t know which knot they tied, which Borden really tied the knot? In short, what the crap happened with Julia and why. I need more detail!
    I hope you get what I am trying to ask here.
    On a side note, if you are twin, while the heck do you want to spend your life doing this? When did the Bordens decide on this? Because obviously their birth parents could have outed them at any moment and ruined the illusion. Lol Was the Borden who impregnated Sarah the Borden who loved her? Please answer xD I’m going crazy lol.


  2. Will774 on said:

    How did the Bordens know about Tesla and his research to build a machine that clones?


  3. Royce on said:

    It’s a time travel machine and not a cloning machine. This claim is backed up by the numerous shots of watches in the movie and also the fact that Angier claims in one of his performances that he has travelled into the future. One of Tesla’s real life associates, Arthur Matthews, wrote a book called “The Wall of Light: Nikola Tesla and the Venusian Space Ship – The X-12” which claims Tesla built a machine that could travel through time among other things. In the book Matthews claims he travels to the future.

    Solution: The double is not a clone but a temporal duplicate. An explanation of the phenomenon of temporal duplicates in time travel can be found here:

    To summarize:
    “If a traveler goes to the future, in the original history he will find that he vanished from the universe at his point of departure and was never seen again; if he then returns to the past, he restores himself to the timeline, such that it is possible for his younger self coming forward to encounter him as his older self.”

    Angier travels to the future and vanishes on stage, but when he comes back to do the prestige, he reestablishes himself in the timeline causing him to exist both as a self in the present and one from the future. This is why the trap door is necessary. Although Angier completely vanishes from the world upon travelling to the future, when he comes back he is reestablished in the timeline and his body must be dropped through the trap door.

    But in order to escape having two selves, which would not only shock people but also disrupt the flow of time and the laws of the universe, he has to kill himself off. Angier kills himself every time he does the turn. Hes unsure whether he will experience himself as drowning or himself as doing the Prestige. A repeated message in the movie that torments Angier is that “nobody wants to be the man in the box”, for to be that man one has to suffer the “agony” of drowning.

    Drowning is described by Cutter as being like “going home” or like “agony”. “Going home” is an allusion for going back in time for the prestige. The “agony” is being the man in the box drowning during the turn.

    At the end, when Borden is talking to Angier after shooting him, he condemns Angier for the terrible things, unspeakable actions hes committed. This is a reference to Angier tinkering with the timeline which could end up altering time and physical laws with disastrous consequences to all of mankind and the whole universe.

    Another thing in the film is the idea of an alternate Angier, represented by Gerald Root. Root is from a parallel universe that is slightly different to this one. Root’s nose and ears are different than Angier’s. His tophat is taller. There are subtle differences due to him being from an alternate universe. Root and Angier are used interchangeably throughout the film, much like Fallon and Borden, before Root is even introduced.

    Root is the one present at Julia’s drowning, not Angier. Root is clearly the one that sees all of Angier’s hats and the cats outside Tesla’s workshop. Root is the one who follows Borden and sees his wife and child. Root is the one doing the first show seen in the film with the time machine. Root is a symptom of Angier drastically tinkering with time and the laws of the universe. It is also possible that Root is “Edison’s man”, the person mentioned by the hotel clerk who was working for Edison’s men.

    The name “Danton” could be a reference to the 1914 french novel Locus Solus. In his novel Locus Solus, Raymond Roussel tells a story in which Danton makes an arrangement with his executioner for his head to be smuggled into his friend’s possession after his execution. The nerves and musculature of the head ultimately end up on display in the private collection of Martial Canterel. John Ashbery summarizes Locus Solus thus in his introduction to Michel Foucault’s Death and the Labyrinth: “A prominent scientist and inventor, Martial Canterel, has invited a group of colleagues to visit the park of his country estate, Locus Solus. As the group tours the estate, Canterel shows them inventions of ever-increasing complexity and strangeness. Again, exposition is invariably followed by explanation, the cold hysteria of the former giving way to the innumerable ramifications of the latter. After an aerial pile driver which is constructing a mosaic of teeth and a huge glass diamond filled with water in which float a dancing girl, a hairless cat, and the preserved head of Danton, we come to the central and longest passage: a description of eight curious tableaux vivants taking place inside an enormous glass cage. We learn that the actors are actually dead people whom Canterel has revived with ‘resurrectine,’ a fluid of his invention which if injected into a fresh corpse causes it continually to act out the most important incident of its life.”

    There are clear parallels with Locus Solus and the movie. A glass cage filled with water and a dancing girl, a cat, preserved heads of Danton that float in water, an invention which causes a “dead corpse to continually act out the most important incident of his life.”

    This is clearly a reference to Julia’s drowning, the event that had the most impact on his life and which drove Angier obsessively for the time machine, both to try and save Julia and to kill Borden.

    It is also hinted that Borden also uses a time machine himself and that Fallon is his temporal duplicate. Borden tells Angier it is a twin, but he is just lying, not wanting to give away the secrets of the trick. It is assumed it is makeup which makes Fallon look older, when in fact it is Borden’s older self from the future.

    Angier mentions to Alley he wants a machine similiar to one of his colleague’s in magic, and Borden is shown doing his trick under a similiar machine with flashing lights at one point.


    • Zachary on said:

      Can i just say that a *Clone* say was created through this machine after the *original* started it up and used it. If you create and exact copy of yourself the only way you would know who the the “FIRST/original” would be one would knowing hes making a clone, thus wouldn’t put the gun closer to the clone.

      Unless he used it for the first time, then would have no idea if it would transport the original or the new clone…..

      seems flawed and based on science fiction too much to obsess over?


  4. Azat on said:

    Quick question. If you were Angier and you knew what the machine did (create a clone), why not create ONE clone, don’t kill the damn thing and use it the way Borden/Fallon used his brother for the trick?


    • SE on said:

      @ Azat:

      Good question, but I think I know the answer. It was his part of his plan to kill his clones, because Angier knew that someday Bordon would come backstage to try to find out how his trick works. Angier was actually waiting for Bordon. Angier knew Bordon would come backstage out of curiousity because every magician wants to know the big secret of his competetor. Angier knew that everyone would suspect Bordon for killing him by changing the locks on the waterbox. It was a set up so Angier could take revenge on Bordon for ‘killing’ his wife in the beginning of the film by using the wrong knot deliberately.


    • ron on said:

      Because Angier wanted to do the real thing. HE wanted to be the greatest magician and so on.


  5. mac on said:

    Hi there!
    i just watched the movie and i think that there are no clones. The scene where Angier kills a “clone” is just narrated by Angier. It doesn´t have to be reality! And the film mentioned more than once, that you should NEVER believe a magician!


  6. mirona on said:

    The movie was great and I received all the answers that I was searching for about the final scene. A very good site!


  7. smartguy on said:

    1:32:44 – “Olivia means nothing to me,” Borden tells Sarah. This is true; the other Borden is the one who loves Olivia.

    1:34:07 – “Do you love me?” Sarah asks Borden. “Not today, no” he replies. The other Borden is the one who loves her.

    You realize this happens in the same scene and is totally contradictory right? How can he be both bordens? ;P

    But in all seriousness, are you suggesting that Sarah knew about the twin?


  8. Joe on said:

    I take that back. Cutter nods towards Fallon at the end of the movie in a similar fashion as if he knew there was twin brothers the whole time.

    I also note that Algiers clones seemed to have the same personality, etc. While the Borden/Fallon didn’t…


  9. Joe on said:

    Borden tells Angier that his “secret method” was the cypher code, and when he wrote the cypher code on the piece of paper it said “TESLA”…

    I think Borden was cloned, too and did not have a twin brother at all.


  10. Brett on said:

    i think tony and mike are stuck on what to call it a clone or a complete duplicate. I’d have to call it a duplicate with the same everything. It’s the same exact person in every aspect including memories etc. etc. However when the duplicate is made it’s creating another angier which means they are now two separate people. So the angier we know is standing in the machine and the duplicate in front of him. The angier we knew the whole movie died long before borden, he killed himself in his trick. Him killing himself doesn’t matter because his magic lives on through the duplicate. Notice when he did the first test of the machine the “duplicate” Was surprised by the others actions before the shot? Angier the duplicate thought he was the original.


  11. allen on said:

    Here’s a major clue. Major!! Remember when Angeir tells Cutter, “I don’t want you backstage on this one. I want you up front.” He wanted him up front so his secret stayed a secret. He knew he was going to frame Borden for his death, because Border allegedly took away what he wanted. That was a wife, family and the spot light. So given the opportunity he took advantage of it. But he did not want Cutter to know how his plan was going to work. Because he knew Cutter would not have wanted any part in someone’s death. Thus Cutter’s reaction when he realized Angeir was alive, but not only alive but with Borden’s daughter. Therefore Cutter helped Borden seek revenge on Angeir because Borden’s brother paid the price with his life. Remember before Fallon dies, he says to the prison guard, “Watch closely”. It wasn’t meant for the guard, it was for the viewers.


  12. Adam on said:

    The problem with the no clone theory is that it doesn’t fit within the narrative.

    The main issue with having the double introduce the act was the fact that he lacked Angiers showman ship. They said this straight out. We can assume that Cutter worked some magic of his own and truly created a great double but that is ruled out because he wasn’t as involved in this trick as he was previously. He was management. Front of the house.

    Also, there was the fact that Angier wanted so much to be part of the prestige. That shot of him finally being able to be the man that steps out of the box is so important in this film. He’s definitely in the Prestige. He HAS to be. Given these two points we automatically see that there is no double involved. It simply wouldn’t make any sense. He speaks in both the turn and the prestige. This goes against everything that went on in the film before that moment.

    And finally theres a line at the end that put some more holes in that theory. “It took courage to climb into that machine every night, not knowing, if I’d be the man in the box, or the prestige.” How does that line work with this “double” theory? How would courage be a factor when Angier supposedly doesn’t ever step into the machine at all? Am I supposed to believe that’s some random throw away line?

    When he stepped into the machine, the original is transported while the clone is left in the machine (“they’re all your hat Mr Angier”). It took courage to step into the machine because if something went wrong and he wasn’t “transported” then he would end up in that tank himself.

    And I think I saw on the last page that Angier had his body dug up so he could put him back in the tank? Uhm… what? To what end? So the viewers at home watching the movie about his life would see that last shot and be completely shocked. The last shot was simple:

    “You just saw Angiers dead body on a slab and now WAIT A MINUTE he’s here in this tank as well.”

    There’s nothing more to it than that. And furthermore, why would Angier motion toward the tanks right next to him when he tells Bordin about sacrifice. “Here… look over here to my left at these dummies. Dont look at the tank over there though. The one with the dug up body of my double. Ignore that one. Look at these dummies.”

    Huh? What? Why?


  13. Gus on said:

    Since Borden used a double to do the transporting man, how did he know Telsa could make a machine that would actually double Angier? because “Tesla” was cypher key word. Was it because they were both at Tesla’s show?


  14. Shane Daley on said:

    Its definatly angier that dies but because theyre copies it doesnt matter which one dies or not theyre both the same person remember when he first tries the machine he is still inside the machine and kills the copy which appears outside the machine!

    So he was the one who drowned then copied himself and appeard at the back of the stage.

    Like the hats that would appear away from the machine in the field/garden and the original staying on the floor.

    It doesnt matter that hes a copy because he would copy himslf again then kill himself……..

    The original angier died the first time the trick was done!


  15. justafriend on said:

    Well we know for sure there were three angiers, the one that drowned and then was sent to the morgue to be identified by cutter, the one that gets shot by borden and the one you see dead in the tank at the end, so that pretty much rules out people saying there were no clones.

    Whether the fact that the original stays in the same spot or transported i don’t know. Id like to think he kills himself every time he does the act just to show his commitment.


    • Hank Smith on said:

      I agree with a previous poster that we should call copies of Angier something other than clones. A clone is a new enity that is born with all of the same physical characteristics of the original. In the book the transporter machine transports the original and leaves a dead mass in the transporter which must be disposed of to make the trick pleasing. In the movie the mass left behind is living and drops through a trap door to be drowned.

      Angier’s comment about some nights you die and some nights you are the prestige is very interesting. In the book Angier refers to all of the dead masses “as his little pretiges”. That coupled with Tesla saying that the machine is very unpredictable makes for a real mind twister.

      On they say there are four possibilities. Angier could die every night, some nights, no nights, and something else. I believe the something else was that Angier just made the one double or just had the one look-alike. In that case the transporter may or may not have worked.

      I believe that the awards that the book won were for science fiction writing. So, I do believe that the transporter worked. In fact, in the book Borden turns off the transporter once in the middle of the process and the transported Angier turns out very faint and never dies. Also, in the book no one kills anyone or gets them hung.

      Christopher Nolan does change a lot with the way the transporter works and all of the people that end up dying in the adapted screen play including Angier’s wife, Borden’s wife, Borden (one of the twins), and Angier.

      It seems like Angier would have figured out a way to do the trick without having to die any night or every night he performs the trick.


  16. tony on said:

    Below is an interview with Nolan:

    Q:Does The Prestige have a hook like Memento?

    A:There are plenty of hooks, yes. I haven’t spent a lot of time talking about it yet because I haven’t made it yet, so we’re still finding it. For me, the main hook is really the extraordinary world of magic at a time when magicians were really the premiere entertainers. A lot of the things really in a funny sort of way were the precursor to cinema and a lot of the things they were doing are now things that happen in movies from special effects and so forth onward. So we get to create a world in which the narrative plays tricks on the audience just the way the magicians are.


    And…the movie is based on the book, NOT a “clone” of the book!


  17. Gio on said:

    I agree with you Mike

    Angier used teslas machine to clone himself multiple times and finally frame Borden. I also first believed that Borden and Tesla both worked together in the past and created a clone of Borden, but the whole twin brother idea sounds like it works as well.

    the only thing i dont get is when angier was talkin bout sacrifice after he got shot he said somethin like it to courage not knowin whether he would be the man in the box or the prestige…

    how did he not know which 1 he would be? i always thought that he had his clone go into the machine and that he would just be waiting up top so that he could be the 1 to see the audience


    • Hank Smith on said:

      I’ve been obsessing over the film The Prestige for the last week after my 5th and 6th viewings. So, I read a synopsis of the book from which the film script was adapted at In the book the transporter machine transported the original and killed the copy/clone. In the movie both the original and the copy/clone are left alive. So, the dilema becomes which one is the original and which one is the clone.

      Initially Angier must have believed that the original stayed in the machine (in the film) because he put a gun nearby the machine to kill the copy/clone. And, since the gun was so much closer to him you must assume that the Angier in the machine killed the transported Angier. This was not an iussue in the book because the Angier in the machine would have died at the instant the other (original) Angier was transported. So, in the film, the first copy apparently kills the original.

      At some point the copy/new original Angier (in the film) figures out that the Angier on stage is the next copy/clone and adds the water tank under the stage to immediately kill the new clone/copy. This step was not necessary in the book because as I previously stated the Angier on stage dies when the original is transported.

      At some point in Colorado Tesla tells Angier that the transporter can be unpredictable. I took that to possibly mean that sometimes the original is left on stage and sometimes the original is transported. So, that would explain why Angier commented that sometimes he dies and sometimes he lives doing the trick.

      The real mind bender to me is trying to figure out whether the original is supposed to end up on the stage or transported. If the transporter makes a perfect copy (which it seems to in the film but not in the book) how can an outsider differentiate the original from the copy. And, from that perspective how can the original and the copy even determine which is which. They both have the same appearance and memories.


  18. manvi on said:

    okay so lets start here: borden gave angier the clue to his trick of the transported man: the sheet with TESLA written on it. this borden was in fact his twin brother: fallon. So how come he – fallon was puzzled at angier’s ‘new transported man’ trick?

    i know its confusing the way ive written it but this has been troubling me for a while!


    • Hank Smith on said:

      Fallon was puzzled because he assumed that Angier had another double. That would explain one Angier under the stage and one in the audience. However, Fallon/Borden could not understand how Angier could have been getting drown at his final performance. Fallon assumed that something had gone terribly wrong and he even tried to save the drowning Angier.

      I believe that this was Angier’s planned final or 100th performance. So, that’s why the transported Angier did not appear to the audience. Instead, the transported Angier had a planned escape route for this final performance. Perhaps Angier had planned for the authorities to believe that he had died in the final performance. And, the fact that Borden was in the wrong place at the wrong time was all the better.

      Since the big differences between shows 1 to 99 and number 100 were that Angier was dead, Borden was under the stage, and Angier’s arch rival made Borden look like the murderer.

      I think Angier reveled in his good luck that fate had not only allowed him to end his career as a magician but also ended Borden’s life. Angier even came out of hiding and exposed that he was still alive to Borden who was in jail for Angier’s murder. That made Angier “The Prestige” of his own death.


    • James on said:

      if your refering to the part where angier confronts fallon in jail, then fallon was only ACTING shocked about the trick so he didnt expect alfie borden to confront him


  19. Sander on said:

    What about this..
    Cutter is behind everything from the beginning on.

    He is actually the one who had the first doubling device.
    But he had to much competition from other magicians. So to get rid of them, he copied a stage-assistant (angiers wife) which died on stage.. So the magician went out of business.

    There are several more things to this:
    -It would explain the final sentences
    -Isnt it cooincedence that Borden has a twin brother?
    -Cutter says several times that he KNOWS borden has a double

    I actually came up with a lot more things that can explain this theory…just think about it:)


    • Hank Smith on said:

      I don’t think Cutter was behind everything for many reasons. First, Cutter seems as surprised as he can be when he goes to Lord Caldlow’s home with the transporter. Also, the book, “The Prestige”, uses the magician’s (Borden and Angier)diaries to tell the story. The film needs a narrator and Cutter is a good choice to do that.

      While the film is adapted from the book it has differences. But, the differences are more subtle and not something big like Cutter is behind everything.

      In the book when the transporter is used to transport living things the one on stage is killed at the instant the other one is transported. This is easier to understand because you start with one living thing and after the transporter process you have one living thing.

      Since you end up with two living things from one living thing in the film things get more complicated. It seems to me that Angier/Lord Caldlow would have been better off to not kill or be killed each show. How about the Angier with the gun after the first cloning sits down with the clone and outlines a plan.

      We don’t actually see what happens. But, most people assume that the Angier in the transporter shoots and kills the transported Angier. But, since we don’t actually see the killing it opens up other options.

      How about Angier and his clone agree to work together. One falls through the stage trap door into a bunch of pillows and the other sits disguised in the audience. They could have done this for the first 99 shows. The only problem with this theory is all of the dead Angiers we see in the water filled containers.

      For the 100th show the Angier who will be in the audience could have decided to double cross the Angier who will be on stage and move in the self-locking water tank under the trap door to drown the on stage Angier.

      Could the two scenes I’ve suggested be part of the deleted scenes on the new blue ray disc. No, so we have to go with what we are given in the movie.

      So, every show (1 through 100) in the film Angier or his copy/clone gets killed. And, at every show the original or his copy/clone gets transported to a place above and behind the audience.

      To really appreciate the importance of whether the original stays in the machine or is transported above the audience you need to put yourself in the shoes of the magician. On that given night did you get transported or drowned?


      • JG on said:

        Well, i theorize that the two bordens are clones as only clones… sorry, DUPLICATES could coexist and cooperate so efficiently. Both having an exact train of thought. So it would not be entirely considerate to ignore the “Cutter had the first machine” theory. (this being completely disregarding to the book version). This has to be true as when Sarah says to Borden to “tell the truth”, he did,saying he did not love her today and that, in fact, he is always talking about himself when speaking of the other, under the form of a white lie.(also disagreeing with the review we are currently commenting on, the borden who says he feels nothing for olivia, and the one who says he does not love Sarah today are in fact the same as both quotes are placed in the same argument/scene. Meaning that borden did NOT love Sarah as he was only asked to tell the truth after he had said Olivia was nothing to him.)

        However, you are wrong about the part that Angier would sit and have a talk with the clone, since, as an exact replica even in current thought, he would have no need for explanation. Not to mention that we DO see him shoot the first replica.

        One thing i dont get is, while Cutter and Borden/Bordens know about the transporter, that they do not understand how Angier does his trick or is still alive. YES Borden knows because he gave him Tesla’s name. YES Cutter knows because of his reaction to Angier’s desire to seek Tesla and NO neither of them were acting. I also dont get why the borden who “killed” Julia couldn’t just tell the other brother what knot it was. This bringing me to my own theory. What if, somewhere between Julia’s death and Borden’s first confrontation with Angier at the morgue telling him “he doesn’t know”, he was Duplicated by Cutter (having the transporter secret shared between them two only) This having “split” (for lack of a better word) Borden’s memory causing one “half” to think of having done the slipknot, and the other thinking otherwise.

        Food for thought gentlemen… Food for thought.


  20. Bruce on said:

    Wow this also just came up in my head. Borden didn’t lie about his secret. He has no twin brother… its a clone! or maybe not idk


    • Hank Smith on said:

      In the book Borden has a twin. So, it makes complete sense in the adapted film that Borden has a twin brother.

      I like the idea that the Borden’s are real magicians.

      Angier is a magician who is also willing to use real magic. And, in this film real magic exists.


  21. Bruce on said:

    Okay a few things to clarify/things im foggy on. Everything makes sense mostly :) One thing to point out, these WERE clones dying. When Angier flashes back to the first clone there was no reason for him to lie (hes about to die c’mon) also he let his diary stop RIGHT BEFORE explaining what the Tesla did teasin him about being in jail(a clue as to that Lord Whatever is Angier). Another thing, remember how as part of the act when Angier dissapears he reappears within seconds on the ledge? well how come when he died the other Angier didnt announce his presense again among the crowd? After all he wouldnt have known he finally frammed the guy that specific night based on how many bodies we see at the end. and lastly heres the kicker ;) THEY KINDA ARE AND ARENT CLONES HAHAHA ok so prepare to be boggled! Remember the flashback to the first clone? notice the copy is standing right where he was a minute before ;) and the 2nd hint to clarify this… “IVE SEEN THE FUTURE AND ITS SCARY BLAH BLAH BLAH” as he announces to the audience. DAM STRAIGHT PPL HE LISTERALLY TIME TRAVELS!!! By mere seconds but still! Cuz lets be realistic. If it were a cloning machine would it coincidentally port one of em conveniently to the balcony in the theatre just as he wanted? so anywho the movie is confusing so maybe the clone thing makes more sense, but im game to hear how yall interpret it :) great movie either way -brain cramp- :D 7Stars out of 5 for this one :)


    • Bruce on said:

      oh and the clones or w.e in the tanks arent dummies, why would he need 30 dummies? lol


      • Bruce on said:

        oh one more thing to explain about the clones :) despite that Angier was eyes closed on stage while Borden snuk up there. The angier in the crowd probably got a good look and thats how he knew not to announce his presence after the act, he know he finally framed the guy ;)


      • ron on said:

        i think this part (why angier does’nt appear) is a bit of a weak point in the movie, but can be explained. you can see borden shout when he see the clone drowning and you can see that it is heard above. also, in order to be seen a flashlight is pointed in the direction of angier, and it could be that cutter is the one pointing the flashlight and we see that he arrived very quickly downstairs.


    • Jal on said:

      ….wait….what about the hats?? in the first cloning scene!..i dont think tesla took the hats out in the open did he?..his assistant mentions the part that he didnt figure the collabirations correctly..


  22. Amy on said:

    Is the double they find for Angier a clone?


  23. Matt on said:

    Oh alright I get it now, thanks guys. I was wondering if you could recommend any movies that are similar to The Prestige- thrillers that make you think and keep you guessing?
    Thanks in advance,


    • Mike on said:

      If you haven’t seen Memento (another Christopher Nolan film), you should check it out. It’s amazing, and a mind boggler, as well.

      Others may suggest Inception (yet another Nolan film), but I don’t think that one’s as big of a mind bender as The Prestige.


    • viz on said:

      I’m totally confused. The problem with mike’s clone theory is that its extremely far-fetched that borden names tesla sayin that he’s the secret to the trick (indeed, to fool angier) but that very person ACTUALLY invents a CLONING DEVICE that solves angier’s problem. I feel that borden and tesla had some deal so that borden could fool angier and send him away so that he would hav no competition in angier’s absence, and tesla could use the funds from angier. But when tesla ran away, angier had to save his face, so he invent this story. How could borden hav a deal with tesla? Well we saw borden at tesla’s exhibition, and also when angier tells tesla’s abt a machine tesla had built for his ‘colleague’, he realizes instantly what was meant. We know he had actually not built any such machine for borden, so unless they had a deal, tesla would never know what angier meant. But the dummy theory is also confusing! Why did angier even NEED any dummy? No one saw any dummy. The audience would see two angiers only.


      • viz on said:

        …And both angiers would be alive. Plus, root would hav known abt the dummies, if there were any. And if it was root on the stage, why did he look surprised in the water? It was a part of each of the 100 times the trick was done, wasn’t it?


    • Hank Smith on said:



  24. tony on said:

    Matt, don’t be bummed out. There is nothing wrong with me (or half the folks here who “get” it). You simply don’t. Nolan set out to fool us, mission accomplished, you are the proof.

    The scene where he shoots the clone is like half of the movie, out of one or the other’s diary, the movie illustrates FICTION written by each magician FOR the other magician.

    Think about this: if he could really clone, why not have 3 Angiers show up somehow at a show, creating the ULTIMATE transportation trick? That would surely blow Borden’s mind.

    Alas, he COULDN”T do that, as he had only one double, Root.

    We never clearly see all 100 bodies, just shadows. If you killed 100 people, would you keep them around for the police to eventually?

    But, 100 dummies, why not?, nothing illegal with that.

    We do see one at the end…I believe a single dummy. The blind stage crew just magnified the “trick”. They wouldn’t know the difference between a real dead body in the tank, or a dummy, so to fool them created a stronger illusion.

    All dummies. All a trick.

    At the end, notice how Borden shows no great interest in the “bodies” in the tanks? Because as a magician, he’s figured it out.


    • osun thyruss on said:


      Angier and Root look different. Compare their earlobes and their noses. You always know for sure who is who with them because of those slight differences.

      I hate the use of the word ‘cloning’ because Tesla’s machine would replicate Angier. Cloning would require growing a child from a modified egg, and Angier’s magic act didn’t have time for that. And you can’t “clone” a top hat. I’ll say “double” instead.

      Angier clearly kills a double when he first tests Tesla’s machine. Cats and hats were doubled. When Angier demonstrates the trick with his new machine to land the new show, Rook is not present.

      To suggest dummies in the tanks is completely outside of the story. You could just as easily say God filled the tanks with extra Angier bodies, aliens put them there, or they all were squeezed out of Roger Ebert’s ass. The shadowy bodies in the tanks were made of horseshit and licorice whips, or they were just people having a nice soak. Any of those have as much validity because they are all a viewer’s imagination, not a part of the story.

      Abra Cadabra.


      • tony on said:


        It’s hard for you to believe Root’s nose & ears couldn’t be fixed, dummies couldn’t be made, but a LIVE PERSON could be “doubled”, in an age where they didn’t even have televisions or cell phones?

        As the narrator says. “you WANT to believe…” The hook is fully in your mouth my friend. “Viewers’ imagination?” That’s exactly what Nolan is depending on, that we IMAGINE such a machine could work. I suppose you believe David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty vanish too.

        I’ll assume the “copy” story line for a moment:

        So explain to me why Angier would keep 100 dead bodies around? It only took 1 to put Borden in jail.

        And why don’t we clearly see the bodies at the end? Truth is we only see 1 face. Why not more?

        The Copy machine would have been the most fantastic, scientific discovery of the era, but Angier ONLY uses it for a simple magic trick? One that could have been done with a look-alike, say Root, vs the Clones?

        And the “shooting of the clone” was PART OF THE NARRATION, not “real” life.


  25. Matt on said:

    I just had a question… in the incident where Angier drowns and Borden is accused of killing him, wouldn’t there be a clone in the audience? They never addressed this, and it seems like the murder trial would be different if there was another Angier in the audience while the original was drowning. Does anyone get what I’m thinking


    • tony on said:

      Good thought…but Angier KNEW he was killing his double (Root, the actor), so he knew not to be “seen”.

      No clones at all.


      • Mike on said:

        It bums me out that Tony is so set to his ways about this “no clones” thing.

        Angier didn’t kill Root. Angier killed his clone. What number clone was it? We don’t know. But we know it was a clone.

        If you’ve watched the movie and don’t believe Angier cloned himself, there’s something wrong with you. The movie clearly shows the scene where he clones himself and then shoots the clone because he’s surprised by the clone’s presence.

        @Matt – there likely was a clone (or the real Angier was transported to the audience), but he knew Borden was under the stage at that show, and knew he had to frame him, so he never revealed himself. He just let everyone think Borden killed him.



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