DOCUMENTARY: ILLUSIONISM AND MOVIES

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“It is not important the prestige itself, but the trick that hides behind”
The Prestige

The illusionism is a performing art that has always fascinated the public: from articulated card games to magical cylinders from which different kind of animals crop up to levitation of things or people. These feats are called magic tricks, effects or illusions and whatever the magical effect is the result is an excited audience, open mouths and noses in the sky!

This mysterious art has always fascinated the world of cinema from its very beginning. The first movies are “limited” to film scenes of illusion, as if the viewer were sitting on a chair during a performance. In fact, magicians were the first ones to perform the illusionism and the video artifices that over the years, with the technological development, have influenced the birth of special effects.

Moreover, some movies show us “utopian” illusionistic effects and, to the extent possible, overcome the boundary that exists between illusion and magic. We have realized a video that shows the most interesting movie clips, covering the subject of illusionism, and we’ve tried to examine the mode of action on these magic scenes, where it’s possible to reproduce them in reality and where the effect is a result of a computer artifice. We have analyzed the following films:

1) Hugo Cabret
The Illusionist, during his performance, levitates his assistant and demonstrates that she’s not supported by anything, passing a circle around her body. Of course, the support is there, and it’s under the woman’s dress, but during the passage of the circle, the magician is very careful to hide the trick. This is one of the more used tricks between magicians, and certainly it’s not one that needs the support of special effects.

2) The Prestige
In this scene, the illusionist throws his hat across the stage, walks through the first door, on one side of the stage, and re-appears through the second door, on the other side of the stage, to catch the hat. In the movie, this trick requires an double that comes out from the other door, and two hatches that that make the first one disappear and the second one appear. Moreover, this trick is achieved through special effects, because a double don’t come out from the other door but is the same actor.

3) The Illusionist
In this scene, the illusionist performs a last trick where he calls a soul onto the stage. When a policemen tried to arrest him, they saw his body fade and disappear just like the called souls.

4) Now you see me
During the show, one of the four illusionists throws a scarf whirling in space and brings up a time machine, in which a spectator enters and disappears instantly. The trick is completely achieved through the use of special effects digitally made, because the movement of the scarf is unnatural as well as the crushing of man in the machine.

5) The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
The illusionist brings up viewers from a theatre to an open air space. The trick was performed, as it is revealed at the end, transporting the audience physically outside the theater. As we can see, the scene doesn’t need special effects as it’s in fact a parody and to the extent possible not so legal.

To sum up, the scenes were selected and classified according to an order of use of special effects on different levels from the most “feasible” to the more artificial.

Wand Effect
– Francesca Macioce
– Filippo Pramaggiore
– Nicola Farinacci
– Michele Cannata
– Claudia Bertone

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