Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Illusionist -- a Study in Cinematic Language

Went to see the Illusionist today. Excellent film, a little slow starting, but the pace grew quickly. It was, of course, a bit predictable, but the story is probably a better one than The Prestige from a literary stance.

I won't give away any spoilers here, but the cinematic language used in The Illusionist is fascinating. The manner in which the plot is communicated visually, even down to some unusual costuming choices, telegraph the plot to you if you are prepared to receive it. There are, in fact, two scenes, with no dialogue, that disclose the entire plot. There are also a handful of scenes that provide more discernible clues, but the action and dialogue are very good at not giving away too much. At the same time, there is no cheesy use of cinematic special effects or illusions to hide or disguise the actual plot.

Cinematic language, from the interplay of characters in frame and out, to the precise angle of a mirror in a scene can be most telling if you learn to expect it, keep an eye out for it, and interpret it. In the Illusionist, I found the use of such language to be quite precise. it was very well done.

The hilarious bit is in one line where the lead character (Ed Norton) is taking to the Police Inspector (Paul Giamatti). Eisenheim asks, "Are you totally corrupt?" and Inspector Uhl replies, "Not totally, no". It was great.


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