The Illusionist

Director: Neil Burger
Screenwriters: Neil Burger

Institute History

  • 2006 Sundance Film Festival


Are you the kind of person who scrutinizes magic tricks, or do you surrender yourself to the thrill of the moment? Either way, The Illusionist will keep you on the edge of your seat and transport you to a time that embraced the supernatural. Set in 1900 Vienna, this stunning romantic thriller is the story of Eisenheim, a brilliant mysterious magician bent on solving a puzzle that has eluded him since childhood. His ability to mesmerize crowds and his apparent attraction to the crown prince's fiancée—Duchess von Teschen—threatens the prince and ignites suspicion from Chief Inspector Uhl. When the duchess is murdered, Eisenheim summons extraordinary powers in a desperate attempt to overcome Uhl, prove the prince guilty, and bring down the monarchy before it destroys him.

At its heart, Neil Burger's film is about social position and the will to challenge it. Eisenheim, a cabinetmaker's son, iconoclastically dares to love a noblewoman and ridicule the prince. Uhl, on the other hand, believes royal fealty is his only ticket to power. From Eisenheim, he learns to listen to his inner sense of justice.

With its glowing amber palette, splendid spectacles, and nuanced performances, The Illusionist explores art and technology as populist forces. Eisenheim's otherworldly conjurings, which create a "protocinema," stir his audiences to question authority, while he enlists acts of magic to serve the power of true love.

— Caroline Libresco

Screening Details

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