Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Prestige

I didn't remember how this movie ended up on the netflix queue, but it did and I'm very glad. Starring Hugh Jackman (of Wolverine fame), Michael Caine, Christian Bale (don't know him), Scarlett Johansson, and delightful appearances by a medly of other actors, including David Bowie (who, after looking at IMDB, I find has been an on-again, off-again actor for decades) doing a fantastic rendition of Nikola Tesla.

The movie was just plain good. Plot twists and suspense galore. The ending was not clear until the end, as it should be. A must see.

But what really stayed with me was a quote by the character Tesla. It goes something like,
Perhaps you've heard the saying that man's reach exceeds his grasp. It's a lie. Man's grasp exceeds his nerve.
How remarkable! I couldn't find anything to corroborate the real Tesla saying anything of the sort, and some googling revealed that the root quote actually comes from British poet and playwright Robert Browning, "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp -- or what's a heaven for?" I better like the Tesla character's twist on this quote.

Man's grasp exceeds his nerve. Yummy. For those of you who don't want to think too much, 'reach exceeding grasp' means people often worry that their dreams, those things people can conceive, are sadly often beyond their grasp. Character Tesla says this is hogwash, for the irony is that the true limiting factor is not humanity's grasp, but rather humanity's nerve. Basically that man is capable of some remarkable things, but we don't have the nerve to seize it. The wikipedia entry of Nikola Tesla is a good read, btw.

So I walk away from this movie with two things: First, a desire to read a Nikola Tesla biography. Second, and most importantly, a kick in the pants -- I often feel that I'm simply incapable of achieving what I desire... perhaps character Tesla is right, though... perhaps I fail to achieve not for lack of ability, but for lack of nerve...

As an aside, I put the 1998 biography of Tesla, "Wizard, the Life and Times of Nikola Tesla" by Marc J. Seifer in the lit queue because Seifer supposedly looked at the Tesla archives in Yugoslavia and used freedom of information requests to get documents regarding Tesla from the U.S. Government. Important because the government apparently took a keen interest in confiscating many of his papers and devices after his death.


Anonymous said...

I perhaps shall simply keep silent

Anonymous said...

Also that we would do without your very good phrase

Anonymous said...

It is remarkable, rather valuable piece