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The Illusionist


Year: 2010 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC PG Cert – Parental guidance 
Subtitles: This film is expected to have certain elements which are subtitled, but it is not expected that the entire film will contain them. 
Directed by Sylvain Chomet 
Starring: Jean-Claude Donda, Edith Rankin, Didier Gustin  
An image from The Illusionist

Be warned: do not confuse this animation with the 2006 period film starring Edward Norton. Even though both films have an element of magic in them and share the same title, the resemblance stops there. The Illusionist (2010) is about Tatischeff, a talented but struggling magician, who travels to the Scottish islands to perform at some events. He meets a girl called Alice who, amazed by his abilities and whole-heartedly believing in the magic, starts to follow him. Tatischeff begins to struggle even more as he tries to give her the gifts she wants.

This is a beautifully done animation that has hardly any dialogue. The conversations are made up of mumbles, and you can only pick out a few words which are in either French, English or Gaelic. The film is very visual, a style typical of the French filmmaker who wrote it years ago, Jacques Tati, who planned to make a live action film but never got round to it. This story is apparently inspired by either the daughter he abandoned or his other daughter, whom he felt guilty towards for not having spent enough time with her. Either way, the plot has a strong bond with his personal life, heightening the emotional context of the film.

This film proves that animations are definitely not only for kids as this truly original creation deftly mixes depression with comedy. It is moving, beautiful, heart breaking, wonderful… The film is also universal in that it doesn’t have a specific language. Arguably, the ending could have been better, but the journey that this film takes you on certainly counts more than the destination.

Megan Lee

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Screenings of this film:

2010/2011 Spring Term (35mm)