What are other works like the Prestige?
September 29, 2018 8:53 AM   Subscribe

Spoilers are likely, I guess. I'm looking for more work that's structured like Christopher Nolan's The Prestige. More specifications inside.

I'm looking for more works--movies, books, or television, particularly--structured like the Prestige in two ways:
  • Heavily foreshadowed "twist" that becomes abundantly apparent on second viewing but uses strong enough misdirection that it is very much not obvious that this is happening the first time around.
  • More importantly (like please don't suggest every work with a twist!), a work that telegraphs its unusual structure at the outset--particularly in the opening lines. However, it does this without breaking the fourth wall; the character's speech works on an in-universe narrative level.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi to Media & Arts (26 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Try The Quincunx. It also has twists galore including a central twist, and the book's structure is heavily informed by (and heavily informs) the plot.
posted by Ziggy500 at 9:13 AM on September 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure exactly what you mean with your second requirement, even after looking again at the beginning of The Prestige, so I'm a little wary of "just suggesting works with a twist", but I think the following two novels qualify:

Iain Pears, An Instance of the Fingerpost, another good example of a novel that performs its magic largely in plain sight in retrospect.

Gene Wolfe, Peace, although the twist is buried enough that not everyone catches it even at the end of their first reading.

For movies, I think Memento meets your criteria.
posted by dfan at 9:13 AM on September 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

+1 to The Quincunx (and some other works of Palliser's). As with Peace, some of the (many) twists are buried deeply enough that it's easy to actually pass right over them without noticing them, but they do change the perception of the novel on a second reading.
posted by dfan at 9:15 AM on September 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

The opening of the Prestige clearly lays out what will happen both with Borden and Angier: we're introduced to a man, apparently normal, something extraordinary happens to him (he's hanged because of his rivalry with Angier; he's possibly-murdered by Borden) and then he comes back.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:21 AM on September 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

My apologies, you wrote "Christopher Nolan's The Prestige" (referring to the movie) but I read it as "Christopher Priest's The Prestige" (referring to the book the movie was based on). Anyway, the book is good too!
posted by dfan at 9:23 AM on September 29, 2018 [3 favorites]


Azazel: I wanna tell you about the time I almost died...
posted by Sauter Vaguely at 9:38 AM on September 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin. On first reading the ending of the story may feel a little abrupt, although if you know the ballad you are not too surprised. On each subsequent reading you start picking up on all the foreshadowing and small story points she has layered in.
posted by PussKillian at 9:56 AM on September 29, 2018

This is likely obvious given the director, but I would also recommend Christopher Nolan's Memento.
posted by saeculorum at 10:44 AM on September 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

Ah, The Prestige was quite a movie. I like your taste!

The Sixth Sense is a pretty classic example. M. Night Shyamalan's movies from that period were pretty much guaranteed to have a twist. See also The Village.

The movie 1984, although... uh, no spoilers. I'll just say this is meeting your criteria in a limited way. I call out the movie in particular because of how well the acting performances embody information that is available later in the story.

The TV series Legion won me over so solidly at the end of its season 2 finale with its explanation of previous foreshadowing events. I've committed to rewatching so I can reconsider things I had earlier thought were there for just tone and not meaning.

I wanted to recommend the TV series The Leftovers, because it does such a fine job of tying up inexplicable loose ends at the end. But it doesn't have the misdirection element.

I feel like defending a few of these with explanation, but that would compromise your viewing experience.
posted by ErikH2000 at 11:13 AM on September 29, 2018

Arrival almost fits, but I guess Dr. Banks's opening lines aren't aren't quite in universe.

I used to think…this was the beginning of your story
posted by actionstations at 11:34 AM on September 29, 2018 [5 favorites]

I don't remember the opening narrative, and this may be just too much a tale with several twists, but The Handmaiden is one you should consider.
posted by cameradv at 12:01 PM on September 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

It sounds like The Usual Suspects may satisfy your criteria, in that Verbal Kint’s In-universe lines about Keyser Soze are repeated at the end when the twist has been revealed to hammer it home.
posted by ejs at 1:07 PM on September 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

Iain M Banks' Use of Weapons has two intertwined narratives, one going forward and the other backwards. And is also wonderful in other ways..best approached unspoilered.
posted by Heloise9 at 1:43 PM on September 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

Priest's other novel The Glamour has this in spades.
posted by rollick at 2:31 PM on September 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

John Crowley's Engine Summer.
posted by Zed at 3:49 PM on September 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

A movie currently in theaters that sort of meets these requirements is Searching. No telegraphing in the opening lines, but telegraphing in the first main action scenes.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:28 PM on September 29, 2018

The book that the movie cameradv recommended (The Handmaiden) is based on is Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. It's amazing.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:12 PM on September 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Spierig brothers' sci-fi film Predestination (Based on the Heinlein short story All You Zombies) has an opening scene that's tied to the film's twist in a similar way.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 9:04 PM on September 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Short story: Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™ by Rebecca Roanhorse

Seconding "The Usual Suspects," which ends with that delightful sense of "aw damn now I have to watch it again and see the other story that I missed half of the first time through."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:56 PM on September 29, 2018 [5 favorites]

Gone Girl has this structure as well.
posted by ApathyGirl at 12:29 AM on September 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

Oh yes, Gone Girl is exactly this. Seconded.
posted by ejs at 9:05 AM on September 30, 2018

The Spanish Prisoner
posted by Brittanie at 1:15 PM on September 30, 2018 [3 favorites]

I think Jeremy Saulnier’s Hold the Dark, brand new on Netflix, does this, or at least does something similar. Worth watching either way, but also rated R for grisly Reasons.
posted by Mothlight at 2:32 PM on September 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

Omg what a perfect question! One I didn't even know I wanted to ask until you asked it. I'm watching with interest.

So, my list of movies and books that I've been writing down specifically for their similarity to The Prestige is as follows:

- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (J.K. Rowling)

- Rebecca (Daphne duMaurier)

- Beloved (Toni Morrison)

- Gone Girl (movie and book)

- Memento

- Ishqiya (Bollywood movie from 2010)

- Kahaani (Bollywood movie from the 2010s)

- Unbreakable

I personally do not like Usual Suspects because it's a "and then he woke up to find it was all a dream" ending. At the end of the movie you have no idea whether ANY of it even happened. To me that's an automatic disqualifier for this category. We want foreshadowing, not fore-slate-wiping.

Similarly I also dislike "Primal Fear" type movies where the ending is basically a coin toss and could easily be parodied in movies like ... oh ... What's the name of that farcical satire of a murder mystery where everyone has been wearing realistic masks of other characters?

Annnd then there's a whole bunch of movies that fit the criteria we want but just aren't good enough or clever enough or whatever. I require these movies to have a good and compelling plotline even without the twist! This disqualifies a lot of M Night Shyamalan movies, including Sixth Sense and Village.

As you can tell, I am SNOOTY about this. And as you can also tell, this is something I've thought about for many years! Hope some of my recommendations work out for you!
posted by MiraK at 3:25 AM on October 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

It has been a while since I've seen it, so I'm not sure it fits all of your points precisely, but I thoroughly enjoyed Inside Man, directed by Spike Lee.
posted by jillithd at 2:17 PM on October 1, 2018

The movie Magnolia comes to mind as an interestingly structured film with foreshadowing and something like a twist
posted by Dmenet at 4:03 PM on October 1, 2018

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