In Vienna in the late 1800’s, teenagers Eduard Abramovich (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, then Edward Norton) and Sophie von Teschenare (by Eleanor Tomlinson, then Jessica Biel) are close friends who spend all their time together – until they are suddenly and cruelly separated without warning. Eduard and Sophie go their separate ways and several years go by. As an adult, Eduard has become Eisenheim, a skilled illusionist, who travels his entertaining show to incredulous audiences throughout Austria and Europe. During a show in Vienna, a volunteer from the audience joins him on stage to take part in an illusion – he immediately recognises her as his teenage love, Sophie. She is now betrothed to Crown Prince Leopold (by Rufus Sewell) in a marriage of convenience, designed to consolidate the Austrian/Hungarian Empire. The jealous and violent Crown Prince becomes suspicious of Sophie’s activities and assigns his personal Police Inspector Uhl (by Paul Giamatti) to investigate and ruin Eisenheim. Although Eisenheim enjoys public adoration, Uhl is skeptical of his illusions and is happy to find and expose the hidden tricks in the act to maintain his loyalty to the Crown Prince, But the mysterious and charismatic Eisenheim eludes the traps and accusations at every turn which infuriates the Crown Prince further. Little does Eisenheim realise, he is not only gambling with his own life, but that of his one true love …..
I enjoyed this movie. As the highly intelligent Eisenheim, Edward Norton is marvellously charming, suave and stylish – he plays this role very well indeed. The sepia tones of the production enhance the mood of the period piece (with the work receiving a nomination for Best Achievement in Cinematography at the 2007 Academy Awards) and the costume styling is marvellous. Jessica Biel is so beautiful as Duchess von Teschenare, but it is difficult to decide who is the better male, between Norton and Paul Giamatti. As is often the case, Giamatti is marvellous – his portrayal of the ambitious Inspector Uhl is impeccable – and he brings us along through his character’s frustration, curiosity, incredulity and ultimate respect for Eisenheim very realistically. Rufus Sewell is cast very well as the cruel and jealous Crown Prince – he too is impeccably styled, handsome and very authentic in this role. There are mysteries to solve here, a murder, the tricks (or not?) of the illusions … and there is a little romance. Something for everyone here – a very nice movie.
Made in 2006. Directed by Neil Burger