Classic Magic Movie

Last week I watched a classic magic movie that perfectly encapsulates an element of magic theory. No, I’m not talking about The Prestige or The Illusionist, not The Great Buck Howard nor The Sting. No, I was watching that Dreamworks masterpiece The Prince of Egypt.

Setting aside the religious aspect of the movie, there is one scene in particular that gets me. It is when Moses first confronts the pharaoh and asks him to let the Hebrews go. To prove he was sent by God he performs a miracle, and the pharaoh has his priests respond in kind. (Apologies for it being in two pieces, I couldn’t find a single video of the whole segment.)

Now there are a lot of questions about magic’s role in religion and it’s relationship with faith and belief, but I want to look at something a lot simpler: two magicians (Moses and the Priests) perform basically the same effect (turning staffs into a snakes) in two very different ways (Moses’ is a literal miracle, while the movie implies the Priests use sleight of hand) but with two very different presentations (Moses simply does it, while the Priests dress theirs up with theatrics).

I won’t try and beat this over the head, but I think it’s at once a lesson in how a stronger method does not always lead to a more entertaining effect, but also the importance of clarity in creating effects (I almost missed the Priests even changing the staffs the first time I saw it). Just some food for thought.

(Also seriously some of the music in this movie is great, so go listen to it.)



Four Suits