Looking for the Secret: Death and Desire in The Prestige

By: Stuart Joy

Abstract: Drawing on Lacanian psychoanalysis, this article considers writer/director Christopher Nolan’s treatment of trauma in the context of The Prestige (2006) by analysing the film’s narrative structure and thematic content. I argue that the film communicates trauma through a process of thematic, technical and visual repetition that is linked to the subject of the unconscious that Jacques Lacan (1977) defines as being a ‘lack’ or gap that emerges in the field of the Other (XI, 211). I also claim that the film exhibits the marks of a traumatic experience which manifest themselves in the spectator’s apparent compulsion to repeat and replay the trauma, and thus the film in an attempt to master the subject. Cutter: You wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back.