Reviewed by: David Criswell, Ph.D.
THE OCCULT—What does the Bible say about it? Answer
What is the Occult? Answer
Should I save sex for marriage? Answer
How far is too far? What are the guidelines for dating relationships? Answer
What are the biblical guidelines for dating relationships? Answer
What is true love and how do you know when you have found it? Answer
How can I deal with temptations? Answer
What are the consequences of sexual immorality? Answer
|Distributor||Yari Film Group Releasing|
“Nothing is what it seems.”
Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “When word of the mysterious stage magician Eisenheim’s (Edward Norton) astounding illusions reaches the powerful and pragmatic Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell), the ruler attends one of the magician’s shows in order to debunk Eisenheim during the performance. But when the Prince’s intended, Sophie von Teschen (Jessica Biel), assists the magician onstage, Eisenheim and Sophie recognize each other from their childhoods—and a dormant love affair is rekindled.
As the clandestine romance continues, shrewd Chief Inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti) is charged by Leopold to intensify his efforts to expose Eisenheim, even while the magician gains a devoted and vocal public following. With Uhl doggedly searching for the reasons and the man behind the trickery, Eisenheim prepares to execute his greatest illusion yet.”
“The Illusionist” is the first of two movies coming out this year about magicians. The other, directed by the man who did “Batman Begins,” has already had large promotions and billing, while this film has critical acclaim and poor distribution. Indeed, should you desire to see this film you may have to wait for DVD. So poor has the distribution of this film been that Karanous, the man who was supposed to review this film, was unable to find it at any theater near him. Thus, I was given the review.
Let me begin by saying that the movie is first and foremost a drama. It plays at fantasy and even a touch of horror, but that is its charm. The movie is really nothing more than a drama with fantasy dressing. Set in eastern Europe in the late 1800s, a detective sets about investigating the murder of a crown prince’s fiance. The woman had been having an affair with a stage magician who has been conducting apparent séances. The spirit of the dead woman appears on stage calling for justice.
Cinematically, the movie works very effectively. Those who love romance and drama will be most pleased. Those who are looking for horror or fantasy may be disappointed. The directing is stylish and the acting top notch. The sets and designs also give the movie the feel of Victorian England, even though it takes place in eastern Europe.
For the Christian, the movie does pose some problems. First, the hero and heroine are shown having sex on what amounts to their first date. They did know each other as children, but haven’t seen each other for years. Naturally (for Hollywood) the first thing they do when they get back together is roll in the hay. The scene is done without any nudity (just bare backs and close-ups of skin) or explicit sexual movements, but it is nonetheless a typical and disturbing trend that Hollywood knows of no other way to depict love. For Hollywood, romance equals sex.
There is also some violence, although nothing that one doesn’t see on television daily. There is, however, a shot of the woman’s dead body that might disturb some.
The greater problem is the fact that the Illusionist is conjuring up the dead. This is called necromancy and explicitly condemned in the Bible (Deuteronomy 18:11, see also Isaiah 8:19, Isaiah 19:3). Indeed, King Saul was sentenced to death by the Lord for consulting with a medium (1 Samuel 28:7).
At one point in the movie, there is even an explicit reference to the religion of “spiritualism” and its revival under the Illusionist. Spiritualism, for those who do not know, is an occult religion in which the dead may wander aimlessly without a guide. Mediums are used by spiritualists to conduct séances so that they may contact the dead, but Isaiah asked, “Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?” (Isaiah 8:19). God condemns all such contact, even if it be possible. Jesus Himself declared “if [men] do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31). This alone is reason enough to reject spiritualism. Moreover, the Christian knows that when mediums do contact “the dead,” it is more likely that it is a demon imitating a loved one (assuming it is not a fraud).
Of course, in fairness, part of the appeal of the movie is wondering what is real and what is illusion. After all, is he not an illusionist? The movie does not seem to actively promote spiritualism so much as exploit it (although no spiritualist would object to it).
This movie is based on an award-winning short story (“Eisenheim the Illusionist” by Steven Millhauser), which explains the quality of the script. It is, as aforementioned, well made and effective. The ending may also surprise some people, and Christians will probably enjoy the ending in particular since it relates to the matters discussed above. Do not expect a “shock” ending like the “Sixth Sense,” but remember that with an illusionist, nothing is what it seems.
Violence: Mild / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: Mild
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.