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The Illusionist: Reality Versus His Illusions

1131 words - 5 pages

“The Illusionist” is a short story by Steven Millhauser, which was adapted into a movie directed by Neil Burger in 2008 which both take place in Vienna. The short story’s plot revolves around Eisenheim and his relationship between himself and the state, which is still featured in the movie. Eisenheim’s illusions also cause him a bit of trouble; in the short story the cause of trouble is an illusion, which produces two spirits by the name of Rosa, Elis, and a boy who appears to be no older than eight. In the movie adaptation, the final straw that causes the Crown Prince to finally pursue persecution of Eisenheim is the illusion that again, produces a spirit, which turns out to be his dead fiancée. Because of Inspector Uhl’s growing obsession of Eisenheim, throughout the movie and the short story, it further ignites the blur between what is the reality and what is his illusion. Uhl’s obsession over Eisenheim and his illusions helps blur the reality around him.
In the short story, the narration appears to be as if a friend were telling you a story, as the narrator does not have any real affiliation with the story, while in the adaptation the narrator is very clearly Inspector Uhl, as the ending of the short story is the very beginning of the movie. In the adaptation Inspector Uhl is shortly after seen walking to the office of the Crown Prince and explaining the situation and the failure to formally get Eisenheim into custody. The Crown Prince, of course, is furious and accuses Inspector Uhl of being inadequate. Inspector Uhl, in turn, reverses the accusations as he now has enough evidence to arrest The Crown Prince of killing his fiancée, Sofie. Sofie, one of the new characters introduced by Neil Burger was not featured by Steven Millhauser – but adds to the plot through providing substance as a love interest for Eisenheim, a reason if not the reason Eisenheim returns to Vienna to perform his illusions. The audience of the adaption, which is recommended to be a PG-13 crowd has to remind themselves that Eisenheim, himself, is an illusionist, therefore knows how to deceit his audience. Through seemingly innocent conversation such as Eisenheim’s Assistant discussing with Eisenheim: “Well she [Sofie] better get used to it” “How’s that?” “Word is she’ll marry him soon” “Really?” “Taking her changes, if you ask me.” “Why?” “He likes to give his lady friends a good thrashing now, and again.” (29:17) While this demonstrates to audience and Eisenheim that Crown Prince isn’t that swell of a guy, it also demonstrates of the public perception surrounding the Crown Prince an important piece that Eisenheim uses to his advantage later on. In a way, this conversation also manipulates the audience themselves, as it gives the audience an excuse to root for Eisenheim, rather than The Crown Prince. Shortly after this conversation Eisenheim is seen making woodwork, revealed that it is some sort of present for Uhl, the two exchange letters, thus, deepening the...

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