A paradox of the lure of seeing a magic trick performed, is that it couples the wish to be fooled and amazed by the magician’s trickery, with the reverse-wish to not be fooled, to be amazed by oneself being able to figure out the trick instead! Fooled and you might feel foolish. Yet, not fooled and you might feel cheated. We are hard to please! We want to appreciate both how the illusion was created and how the illusion can be shattered. It is as if a mini quest for enlightenment in the midst of entertainment! Here are three memorable quotes from the movie, followed by analyses on them…
From Thaddeus Bradley, ‘The eye may not lie, but don’t think for a moment that it can’t be lied to. Seeing is believing, but is it truth? Depends on your point of view.’ Seeing wrongly leads to believing wrongly – to delusional clinging to falsehood as truth. Our physical senses are relatively easy to fool, while it is having a sharpened mind that ensures one is not so easily fooled by these senses. Magic tricks, optical illusions and such are useful as tests, to tease and challenge our perceptions – to see how easily fooled we might be, and whether we can just as easily figure out how they are done.
From Lionel Shrike, ‘A magician’s greatest power lies forever shrouded in his empty fist. And the very idea that he can convince the world that he is indeed carrying with him a secret.’ Does the proposed direct or misdirect? Well, if when mentioned is true, now being exposed, it would be no secret already? A magician might then really hold something in his closed fist now assumed empty, or have something else up his sleeve. Magic trickery is then about alternating between direction and misdirection, to fool the audience into thinking they can make sense of what is happening or not.
Now You See Me