This is what Angier says to Borden when the latter asks him "What do you know about sacrifice?":

"It takes courage to walk into the machine... Not knowing if I'd be the Prestige or the man in the box."

My interpretation is that the machine makes a clone and his consciousness ends up in one and he doesn't know which one. This means some days he dies. Can somebody clear this up for me? Because there is something wrong with this explanation: The clones in The Prestige are sentient.

  • So how does that work? Which clone is real Angier? Is his consciousness split among the various clones and he feels both dying and being the Prestige?

2 Answers 2


For a perfect clone, down to the quantum level, both would be the real Angier. That is the essence of his fear. The real Angier will be killed every time.

When you download a movie what you are doing is actually making a perfect copy of the movie. Which is the real movie? They all are. This is very different from making copies of film reels where only the original have the quality of the original (each copy adds a little imperfection).

Now, the question The Prestige asks is what if you can make a perfect clone of a person the way you can perfectly copy digital data? In one sense, if we don't want to get too uncomfortable we can always say the remaining copy is now the real data and the deleted copy is not real anymore. But if you really think about it and get out of your comfort zone you will realize that both people are real and what you have done is murdered yourself.

In The Prestige this point is much more clearly made as the old copied Angier becomes the one who is killed. Not the newly created clone. Every time the clone will have only the memory of the surviving Angier. But every time Angier experiences death, only the Angier that experienced death has no way of passing that memory to the surviving Angier so the survivor can never know what dying feels like.

  • 1
    But when there are two, they think different, ryt? What one feels the other does not. So they are different people?
    – ironman
    Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 5:24
  • 1
    @ironman At the instant they were created they must by definition be the same people because they were perfectly cloned. Only the moment after creation do their experiences start to diverge. Consider the multi-universe interpretation of quantum mechanics where all possibilities are considered to exist and only collapse once you observe the result of your decision (the Schrodinger's cat). If you miss a bus are you a different person from if you don't miss a bus? In a way you are but in a way you are also the same person (this is explored by the movies Sliding Doors and Mr. Nobody)
    – slebetman
    Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 21:47

I think that your question really goes to the nature of consciousness. It is a meta construct, a feeling that emerges from the function of material parts. That feeling can emerge from more than one location so long as the substrate (the meat) is the same. This is the case after the cloning process but not for long.

Unlike digital copying the moment a clone is made it diverges from the source, it builds new memories that the original can never have. They are unique entities with the same programming but they diverge to function differently in each path.

Perhaps the challenge is to get to the gun first? The original Angier never survived his initial meeting (his death came after cloning as all later versions did) he couldn't pass on the fear, so the clones are not aware of their mortality. From their continuity (experience of death) they feel immortal.

Each consciousness is unique but for clones it appears continuous. This makes it seem to be split, but it is just subjective. It is a high speed version of the "The Ship of Theseus". The "problem of change and identity" is generally explained with the story of the Ship of Theseus.

  • I think you answer my question, only I don't understand it
    – ironman
    Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 7:08
  • Probably because you are the clone, I told the original you the truth after he went in the box....
    – 3pointedit
    Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 11:38

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