In The Illusionist (2006), how could Eisenheim achieve those reflections (visions) on the scene? Even in one of the scenes, there was a (ghost) boy walking through the audience. Given that the film takes place in early 1900s, were that kind of illusions possible in that era?

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  • I wonder if this would be a better fit on Physics if you're looking for a real-world type of explanation
    – Tablemaker
    Commented Mar 10, 2012 at 22:24
  • I think the question still fits Movies.SE. Would you mind keeping it open for a while to see the answers? Commented Mar 10, 2012 at 22:36
  • oh of course, not going to close it because of an opinion, was just wondering what kind of aspect you wanted this answered in is all :)
    – Tablemaker
    Commented Mar 10, 2012 at 22:42
  • I am curious whether the reflections are reasonable. I don't want to believe it could be a goof :) Commented Mar 10, 2012 at 22:54
  • Interesting question, I've wondered this myself, but I'm afraid this is one of those things I would attribute to "movie magic" and thus not being possible in real-life.
    – Bernard
    Commented Mar 12, 2012 at 15:41

2 Answers 2


Magical performances comprising of spirits being summoned on stage where pretty common even in the 19th century. The effect was achieved indeed with the use of smoke and mirror. However, a typical tool in usage was the Fantascope aka Magic Lantern. This apparatus is also seen in the movie but can be easily overlooked as normal lanterns.

I found this interesting piece of trivia on IMDB:

The method for creating the ghosts as shown to inspector Uhl involved the projection of a pre-recorded image into a hazy background. Since the ghosts Eisenheim conjured could speak to and interact with the audience, he most likely used a different method popular among magicians at that time. A fantascope was used to illuminate a real person off stage. The image was reflected off of a mirror or glassplate, creating a ghosted image. The lanterns that Eisenheim tells his assistants to leave behind when they are packing up the workshop bear a strong resemblance to fantascopes.

  • Indeed - angled mirrors were used extensively in early film making to superimpose images into scenes, something Coppola recreated for his take on Dracula.
    – Nobby
    Commented Mar 7, 2013 at 15:16

It's suggested in the movie itself that these illusions are possible. A couple of performers (perhaps) demonstrate to the inspector how it could be done using what would be called Smoke and Mirrors (S&M) today. It can be surmised that Eisenheim perfected the technique and used it for his illusion.

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