In The Illusionist, Eisenheim performs a last trick where he calls a soul onto the stage. When policemen tried to arrest him, they saw his body fade and disappear just like the called souls.

How did Eisenheim achieve this?

  • Hello. Can you add some details about what you are asking : what movie are you talking about? What precise scene of the movie?
    – Kalissar
    Jul 8, 2013 at 12:50
  • 1
    I assume you are referring to the American 2006 film, and not the French one from 2010.
    – phantom42
    Jul 8, 2013 at 12:51
  • I am asking about the illusionist,and particularly the last trick where he calls a soul into the stage and then when policemen tried to catch him,they saw that he is also the soul not a body
    – Ritzz081
    Jul 8, 2013 at 13:16
  • Are you asking how the special effect was done, or an in context answer as to how the trick would have been performed?
    – Monty129
    Jul 8, 2013 at 13:31
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about a movie which is not a supported genre. There are no supernatural elements to The Illusionist, it is not fantasy. There are no science fiction or steampunk elements to it either. It is a period piece or a drama, perhaps with elements of a heist movie.
    – John O
    Jul 8, 2013 at 21:09

1 Answer 1


From the details provided, I'm going off the idea that you are talking about the American movie that stared Edward Norton and so this answer will be tailored off of that.

Based off a 20 page short story by Steven Millhauser called "Eisenheim the Illusionist", the 2006 movie "The Illusionist" was a fantastic movie that captured some of the best sequences of illusion performance, and better yet even explained how many of them were performed. The movie is unique that they didn't just rely on modern special effects to create the sense of wonder. In fact, the director stated that in order to capture the sensation of illusion, they used as little of CGI and other movie tricks and instead attempted to actually perform the tricks as they would have been done back in then. (See the interview at the bottom of this page for that http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5671504). However, many of the tricks used (though historically accurate) were embellished a little to suit the tastes of modern audiences (Many of the tricks used back then would not be magical enough by todays standards) So, it must be realized that though actual tricks were performed, and that generally there were no major "cop outs" of "supernatural magic" in the movie, they are still just slightly out of the realm of the believable. A good example would be that of orange tree illusion that has its basis in Rober Houdin's own performance of a slightly less elaborate, yet still incredible act. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Eug%C3%A8ne_Robert-Houdin) So, in order to answer your question correctly, we need to go on the basis that Eisenheim is a significantly better illusionist then his historical counterparts who was capable of building on already complex tricks and pushing them a few more steps forward.

Many of the tricks were explained, however it would seem that perhaps this most crucial illusion has its explanation lacking. (For those of you wondering what exactly it was it can be seen in the following clip)

To answer your question about the MAJOR PLOT line aparition trick which Edward Nortons character performs is never revealed. (MAJOR SPOILER ALERT) I scoured the movie itself but came up empty as, though most of the major plot points are revealed in the following sequence which Paul Giamati's character realizes he has been had and the entire curtain is finally pulled from his eyes, none of those images show any part of the final illusion which shows the supposed characters as "Ghosts".

Since the movie doesn't give any significant clues I switched to looking for historical tricks like the apparition one which the character Eisenheim might have embellished on (because of his nature of being some kind of illusionist savant). The closest thing I found is the "peppers Ghost illusion" which projects a light source and image off a series of angled mirrors and probably some smoke (To give a hazy apperance) to create the illusion of someone who actually isn't there physically. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pepper%27s_ghost_illusion) This doesn't really answer just HOW Eisenheim was capable of making it so utterly convincing, but then that is part of the mysterious ability of Eisenheim to take things one step forward which we have established as part of the characters nature. Several opinions I have read in my research of this think that Peppers Ghost illusion would have sufficed back in the 1800's (Which is probably true) and that it was merely an attempt to give us the same shock and awe that leaves us with so many issues with the "enhanced" version of this illusion. However, no matter what, we can discount any supernatural ability as (SPOILER ALERT) the boy who delivers the inspector his package towards the end of the movie is the exact same boy whose "soul" was called up during one of the performances.

I think the best elements of this movie are not only the rich historical setting of Vienna in the time of aristocratic politics or the utterly unique method of escape, but the fact that Edward Norton actually LEARNED every trick that was used in the movie and they were actually performed before the camera (Look under the section "The Magic" http://www.edward-norton.org/illusionist/illusionistprodnotes.html.) This actor is incredible and its a shame that he is almost always associated with "Fight Club" and has kind of fallen off the radar in recent years.

I hope that this at least helped answer your question. It's a little frustrating to not be explained everything and I can feel that, but perhaps it's for the best that a movie about fantastical magic in the real world should leave us wondering at least a little bit. At least we didn't have Morgan Freemans narration rehashing each detail about the movie in case we were to thick to realize the major plot points (i.e. Every movie Morgan Freeman is in). However, at the very least I hope this gave you a better understanding of a movie that I personally think is one of the better ones of the last decade (even though in recent years the critics have become a little more harsh with it).

  • 1
    Can you provide alternative link to the videos? Seems like youtube has removed them
    – jerrymouse
    May 23, 2016 at 13:49

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