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THE PRESTIGE emerges amidst an intriguing period rarely explored on film—the Golden Age of magic at the turn of the century. It was the ultimate era for magicians as they pioneered the nascent beginnings of mass entertainment. On the cusp of a new industrial society, the public was obsessed with the very concept of magical occurrences—whether on the stage or in the life-changing technological advances and scientific secrets of the universe unfolding before them. In this atmosphere, the best and boldest of magicians became huge, headline acts across Europe and the U.S. While few other than Harry Houdini, who began performing in 1899, are remembered today, back then numerous talented magicians had the chance to become household names and international idols.

"Magicians were essentially the rock stars of their day,” observes Hugh Jackman, who plays Angier, the charismatic front man who will stop at nothing to attain superstar status. "It was very different from today in that a lot of the magic back then seemed truly death-defying to audiences and it seemed there was a lot of danger because something could go wrong at any moment. It was a fantastic time for that new kind of shocking theater which preceded modern entertainment.”

Indeed, the times seemed to be magical themselves, especially with the coming of one of the biggest revolutionary changes in human history: electricity. "Electricity must have really felt like magic to those who didn't understand it yet,” observes producer Emma Thomas. With mechanical objects suddenly able to come to life, the public became fascinated with such mystical subjects as the afterlife, spiritualism and anything that seemed to defy the rational imagination.

But while the Victorian era is yet another layer in the unfolding of THE PRESTIGE, the last thing Christopher Nolan wanted to do was make a typically constrained, demure period movie. "The Victorian Era is often mischaracterized as stuffy and repressive—when it was actually an incredibly exciting time in human development,” he explains. "You had the second Industrial Revolution, the birth of electricity, the birth of cinema, the start of widespread international travel and science being turned on its head by new theories. You also had the beginnings of mass advertising with billboards and posters. It was a period of great adventurousness with changes that are still being felt today.”

To capture this literally electrifying, alternate vision of Victorian times, Nolan wanted to depict the era in a way that would come off to audiences as dynamic, immediate and new. "Every creative choice is opposed to the way period movies are usually done,” explains Thomas. "Wally Pfister shot the film with mostly handheld cameras with enormous energy, and the characters are brought to life by the actors with a very contemporary feeling. The background details are all fairly realistic, but Chris has made it so that period doesn't really matter anywhere near as much as the story.”

Christopher Nolan continues: "I wanted to be accurate to the feeling rather than the details of the period. I think it was one of the first times in which the world felt overwhelmed with visual information. Posters were everywhere, text was everywhere, and there was a lot of imagery assaulting people as they walked down the streets, exceeding even what we have today. So that's the view we give of Victorian London—one that feels very contemporary and immediate, and I think one that lends a more authentic feeling to what it would be like to be living then. There's something about a lot of period films that allows the audience to sit at a remove from the characters. But we wanted to dive into this world in a direct way so it was very important to use the camerawork and production design to bring the audience deeper inside.”

Above all, Nolan wanted<

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