I always thought that in The Prestige Angier, like Borden, cloned himself just once, and then, for his 100 performances, again like Borden, used that one clone for the show.

I did not think that he cloned himself every time, because if he did, there would be 101 Angiers at the end of the shows. So when Angier drowned, I also did not think about him setting up Borden, I actually never thought about that. I just thought that he, the real Angier, had set up the show so that there would only be one Angier in the end (not just end of the show, but end like during his retirement).

We also do not know how many shows there were out of the 100 before Angier died, so did Angier want to go through with all of his shows, or just some, until he could get Borden? I thought that he would be the one appearing at the prestige, and his clone would drown.

If he used just one clone every time he performed, did he use the machine every time? What machine would he have used? If he didn't and used the machine every time to clone himself every time, how did he know that it would work every time? Like Tesla said, "An exact science is not an exact science." How did he know it wouldn't stop working on him like it did for Tesla? But some things are made clear when I think about what Angier said,

Every night, I did not know if I would be the one in the box, or the one at the prestige.

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    You seem to be on the wrong assumption that Borden also got such a machine from Tesla and used it to clone himself, which is just wrong. The movie makes it clear, that his secret had nothing to do with Tesla and this was only to distract Angier (nobody knew Tesla could really build such a thing). In fact Borden's secret was a rather simple one, but maybe too simple to grasp, since "it's the trick that impresses the people, the secret doesn't impress anyone"...
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 9:46
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    ...His secret was, that he just had a twin brother for all his life. So both of them lived half a life to conceal the trick's secret and, to quote the movie again (and draw a connection to the old Chinese magician at the beginning), "that is his real trick and true dedication to his art". Whereas Angier just went the easy (and pretty dirty) way.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 9:48
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    Check this out: quora.com/… Commented Dec 1, 2018 at 18:11

7 Answers 7


Quite a few questions but here it goes:

The movie clearly shows one Angier always drowning. He used the machine each time he performed the show to clone himself and then killed the Angiers that stayed on the stage to prevent multiple Angiers from walking around at the same time. This is part of his vanity as he wanted to get all credit. He could have cloned himself once and done something like Borden but that's not in his nature. In the last scenes of the movie, you can also see the past dead clones in their tanks at the storage.

As for the revenge part, framing Borden for murder was clearly part of the plan all along. He still hates him for the death of his wife, and is very keen on being the best magician. The two go to extremes to get the credit.

Considering the exact science remark: I don't think that was a comment on the fact that it might stop working one day. It had to do with the progress and functionality of the machine at that point in time.

  • Yeah, Origin is totally right. I didn't see the one man vanity arc, that's brilliant. Angier's method may also show that he is overall the lesser magician, because Gordon was better able to live the illusion with greater conviction.
    – Matt
    Commented Feb 24, 2013 at 18:25
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    @user4197 If this was the correct answer to your question, then accepting is the correct response.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 9:43
  • And while Borden was the better magician, almost none of the characters are in fact good people, as even Borden/Fallen's story show what the cost of living such a life is along with Angier's inability to ever forgive "Borden" for the accident (and that this accident didn't assuage any of them to stop) points out a theme of obsession of needing to entertain, when in fact their real lives are empty and full of no magic at all. Commented Sep 7, 2019 at 17:40
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    Also note the first time Angier meets his (first) clone. He's first just talking to the clone, but then very quickly realizes something and kills the clone immediately. He realized that if he can think about killing the other Angier, so can the other Angier think about killing him. Every time he uses the machine after that, he ensures that one of the Angiers immediately dies to prevent having two Angiers who are trying to murder each other.
    – Flater
    Commented May 29, 2020 at 16:41

A couple of points from my understanding:

  1. Angier was doubled every time, and every time went into the water. This is demonstrated in the scene with the blind stagehands putting the box full of water and Angier's corpse into a warehouse with a large number of suspiciously similar boxes. This was the sacrifice that Angier made. He never knew which one he was going to be (the one below the stage, or the one in the reveal), because he was always going to be both, which meant that a version of him died in each performance (hence, limited run).

  2. Tesla never made anything for Borden. He says as much, and that the entire Tesla clue was a wild goose chase intended to waste Angier. Borden's trick was as Cutter said it was, they were twins all the time, but ones that lived the same life. This is where the Borden/Fallon thing comes from, and why Sarah says that he only loves her "sometimes". Borden was always living a double life, one loving Sarah, one loving Olivia. The trick he pulled off was the double life. This is the significance of the section with Chung Ling Soo, the magician that Borden was convinced was faking his frailty. That section shows the characters. Borden is convinced that Soo is faking his off-stage life for the sake of his on-stage one, while Angier is convinced that there's a technical trick or explanation.

The whole film is based around sacrifice. Borden and Fallon both sacrificed half of their own lives to keep up the image of the trick. Angier sacrificed himself every night for the trick, while keeping is off-stage life.


Everyone in this answer section has been fooled by the genius of Chris Nolan, who played a magic trick of his own on the audience.

You see, this is not a sciene fiction movie. Tesla did not build a cloning machine he just created a normal Tesla coil and gathered some hats and cats to fool Angier into thinking its a cloning machine in order to get his money. Angier then figured this out and finally found out that the only way that this trick could possibly be done is with a double.

This explains why he, disguised as Lord Cal-something, stole the paper containing the secret that Borden gave him when he was in prison. Angier then uses this machine to fool the audience into thinking the machine is real, and does the trick with his double Root. Whenever Borden comes to the show, Angier places a full locked water tank under the spot that he usually falls into and lets Root switch roles with him so that he (Angier) would be at the prestige spot while Root would drown so that Borden would be framed and tried to death. You see there is no cloning taking place after all. This is made clearer with Cutter's speech at the end: "You want to be fooled" and the camera shows only one water tank, which contains Root's corpse.

You might then ask what about the scene where Angier shoots a cloned version of himself that appeared right in front of him. Let me remind you that this.scene is a part of Angiers narration, as Borden is reading from his "fake" diary". You cannot trust what Angier is narrating since he is only saying the things he said in order to fool Borden.

Hats off to Christopher Nolan for this epic masterpiece.

  • 2
    That's...an interesting theory, just I'm not buying it. It seems more contrived than fitting to what is told, yes even when accepting the idea of Nolan trying to fool the audience. Also, that scene at the end shows a ton of water tanks actually and albeit only hinted at faintly, they do contain stuff. However, you do certainly make a good effort of reasoning for your theory, so +1 for that.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented May 29, 2020 at 16:19
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    This is definitely wrong. The timeline is: a Borden twin is caught under the stage by Cutter as {Jackman #1} dies. Then, Cutter is seen identifying a definitely-dead Jackman in a morgue, very likely the same one. The caught Borden twin goes to jail and eventually hangs. During the hanging, the other Borden twin shoots Angier (Jackman #2), then the camera pans away to {Jackman #3} in the water box. That's a minimum of 3 Jackmans (Jackmen?). Unless Angier found a second double, the machine must have worked.
    – James B
    Commented Jul 24, 2020 at 15:30
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    Addendum: just to be clear, there is no possible excuse for why the dead Jackman from your theory, after being identified in the morgue, would somehow wind up back in the water box for the final scene. There have to be at least 3, though the film very strongly implies that the other boxes also contain clones.
    – James B
    Commented Jul 24, 2020 at 15:33
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    @NapoleonWilson They do contain stuff, but it does not have to be Angier clone corpses. The movie makes sense even without the sci-fi aspect, if you don't want to be fooled, of course.
    – sjaustirni
    Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 18:54
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    The point is not whether it is difficult to obtain Root's corpse, the problem is about motivation. Why would he get the corpse to put in the tank? There are a hundred tanks, how would he pick which one to put the corpse in? The only possible explanation is "unreliable narration" or "Nolan messing with the audience" -- and if you're just totally giving up on the movie making any sense or having any internal consistency, then there's no point discussing it at all.
    – James B
    Commented Sep 26, 2020 at 15:10

When Cutter first goes to the address on the back of the card and sees it's Robert, Robert makes a comment that the show has to be huge because Borden 'must come to see it' and try to figure it out; in other words, he's already planning to set Borden up for his 'murder'. The original machine does not have a trap door; Angiers has installed that for 3 reasons; primarily to kill the original (the clone is created away from the machine), but also to provide a gaff that allows a bit of doubt to enter the audience's mind, and finally to steer Borden downstairs thinking he'll catch Angier's secret again; don't forget that's how Angiers broke his leg, when Borden removed the cushioning, and then rode up the other side to spoil Angiers' reputation. Angiers is standing there when Borden not only goes onstage lightly disguised, but walks into the machine and stomps on the floor looking for traps.

There is also the bird in the cage metaphor to be considered, that of getting your hands dirty to do good magic, like the spring box that kills the canary, though the magician produces a second one pretending it's the same bird; there's a murder in the trick, since Angiers has decided he can't be in two places at the same time for whatever reason (me, I'd like to be able to do that). A "person" is drowning each night even though his clone is being recreated, and it's the original Angiers who's dying and knows he's walking to his death each time. That's why the stage hands are blind, Cutter's not allowed, and the box (covered) is quietly taken from the performance house to the derelict stage each night; there's a dead body in every box though the blind stagehands don't know it, created while waiting to lure Borden, and you see at least 8, probably more, surrounding the two men at the end when the surviving Borden shoots Angiers/lord whosis. The very last shot of the film is a pan to one of the cadavers, still in his drowning box, off to the left.

The machine itself never needed a trap door; recall that the hat never seemed to leave, and the cat just walked away; it wasn't until Robert was in the woods that he saw there had been dozens of hats and at least one other cat replicated; nobody until then realized the machine was doing something. However, instead of teleportation, it was a replicator. So the film makers are suggesting that this machine actually worked, was not a stage prop, and the magician (being who he was) shaped its capabilities into a magic trick (as opposed to, say, a doctor maybe could clone a spare body for a rich person to have as parts in a medical thriller, or a Star Wars villain could clone an army).

The part I didn't understand (lots going on in the end) was how Cutter came to have custody of the child to turn her over to Borden, and what the knowing head-nods were between the two of them, unless I assume an unseen alliance formed between Borden and Cutter after Cutter found out Angiers was still alive, maybe out of Cutter's guilt at having testified against Borden when Angiers hadn't really died. There was a certain betrayal involved in that, since Cutter was the eyewitness to Borden being under the stage, and made the assumption that Borden had sabotaged the drowning box lock to not open; however, Cutter was also stooged into providing that testimony by not knowing about all the previous murders. But that still doesn't explain how the child was with him when Borden came for her; he was doing magic tricks for her from the beginning of the film, amusing her while they were waiting.

As to how the clone knew to appear or not; the front apron of the stage was so flimsy, when they were under it in previous scenes you could see the stage lighting through many cracks between the boards. The audience would have been able to hear Borden screaming for help (Borden was down there before the trap opened and started screaming immediately_) and the banging of the axe on the glass while he was trying to break Angiers out. That would be enough noise to alert the clone that he/they had finally trapped Borden and not to come out; no further cues to the clone would be needed. The previous nights, he waited long enough to NOT hear any ruckus and knew to complete the Prestige, but I suppose the ultimate Prestige was presenting the trick in a way that got his rival hung for a murder he didn't commit.


Yes, Angier did kill himself everytime he performed the trick. The machine was a replicator, it copies everything in the standing part and paste it on the other side. Angier set the standing on the stage and the other side is on the upper audience row.

The thing is the plan is really bizarre and also scary at the same time. He knew he would die and the one who keeps living is the clone. Wrong, it doesn't work like that.

It's a simple concept, as I am explaining this, I would call this "selective consciousness". "Selective consciousness" is a concept where a person clones himself then kills 1 of them, it doesn't matter who dies, whether that is the new clone or the original. As the copy and paste progress happen, the consciousness of Angier was duplicated, therefore the result is that at any moment, 10th performance, 100th performance or even 1000th, the clone will always think he has been living all along. That's why Angier never scared of the plan and kept killing the original.

Hugh Jackman really pulled off the surprise, and also scared face of Angier when he realized he was the one who fell into the tank, because in fact this version of Angier thought he had been living all along and something went wrong.

  • This should be marked as the best answer. Angier thinks he's the original because the consciousness is duplicated too. Actually, they are exact dulicates, so, even for us, it doesn't matter who is the original. What matters is that Angier THINKS he will survive every night, and he does... he also dies every night... Both happen to him because he got dupicated. Shroedinger's cat... :D
    – joaorodr84
    Commented Apr 28, 2020 at 13:02
  • Someone in another answer's comments suggested that, the first time he uses the machine on himself, he shoots the clone after a few seconds because both of them realize at the same time that they'd be willing to kill the other one. He knows he'd do anything to win (and thus, so would the clone). His plan always involves killing the duplicates, every time the machine is used, because he knows that he has to guarantee that the new Angier dies right away. He knows himself too well to risk having a "loose" Angier running around.
    – James B
    Commented Jul 24, 2020 at 15:37
  • @JamesB Let's not forget that the movie uses unreliable narrative, Angier claims that is what he did but in reality he realised that Tesla fooled him by selling him a non-working machine based on a bunch of hats and Angier is fooling his audience every night and Nolan is fooling us.
    – sjaustirni
    Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 19:01

My original assumption was that he actually teleported himself, leaving an after image (or clone) behind. As he realizes what happens, he tries to alert the clone as the clone shots him.

Others state it is a dual conscience thing, but I feel it is more then that... The clone realises he killed the original but must keep committing this horror to keep up the illusion to beat his competitor: the true price of "the prestige".

Pretty simple actually, especially if you remember the scene where they are arguing the man with the fish bowl at the beginning.


I think they both think they are the original which is shown when the clone tries to stop him from shooting him but then later it is the clone that survives every next time and is also killed every time the trick is done. The main point to go off I think is his obsession with wanting to remain above the stage being the prestige and not stay under the stage while the clone or double gets the applause which means he had to set it up in such a way that his conciseness always remains above the stage but he knows the one dropping under the stage also thinks he is the original consciousness because the first time he tried the machine the original killed the clone.

As confusing as it is, in the end, he understood that the original will think he is the original and the clone will think he is the original but both will think so separately and individually independent from each having experienced both sides. So therefore I don't think the original conciseness ever died at least in whatever Angier's mind that remained after all the completed experiments. That's why he had to set it up so only one remains or just like the cats fighting they would end up fighting or trying to kill each other both thinking they're the original.

I don't believe in the theory of him killing himself to punish himself for wife because that would go against his whole obsession with wanting to remain the prestige above the stage. So again his conciseness is doubled which ever Angier survives keeps it going from his perspective. Then the tank is just the setup he came up with to best execute the trick.

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