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The Illusionist

The Illusionist title card

Year - 2006
Studio - Yari Film Group Releasing
Stars - Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, Jesica Biel, Rufus Sewell, Eddie Marsan, Jake Wood, Tom Fisher, Aaron Johnson
Director - Neil Burger
Writing Credits - Neil Burger(screenplay), Steven Millhauser (story)
Music - Philip Glass

Synopsis

Eisenheim (Edward Norton) is a successful stage conjuror in 19th century Vienna. As a boy, he had learned his craft traveling to master magicians throughout the world, after being forcibly separated from his childhood sweetheart, Sophie (Jessica Biel), because he was below her social standing.

His performances are so popular that Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell) invites him to perform at his castle. Eisenheim discovers that Leopold's fiance is Sophie. The Crown Prince is bitter than he can't detect Eisenheim's methods, and is insulted when the magician performs an Excalibur-like stunt with his own sword. He orders his Chief of Police, Inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti) to shut down Eisenheim's show.

The Illusionist poster

Sophie and Eisenheim meet secretly, but are observed by the police who report it to Leopold. He confronts Sophie, who vows she will never marry him. Waving his sword, he chases her to the stables where she emerges slumped over her horse, running to the countryside. Her body is later found in the river.

Eisenheim accuses Leopold of murdering Sophie, but Inspector Uhl has another man arrested and imprisoned.

Eisenheim opens a new show, in which spirits of the dead apparently materialize on the stage. Many in his audience believe the spiritualism is genuine, not illusion. Leopold attends a performance and the spirit of Sophie appears on the stage, announcing that her murderer is in the room. Inspector Uhl begins to suspect that the Crown Prince is indeed guilty of the crime.

Show Spoilers

It might be argued that The Illusionist is not a film blanc because, as Eisenheim himself, explains, everything he does is an illusion. The film qualifies because the illusions are fantastic and it is never clear if supernatural means are involved.