I thought that all the illusions presented by Norton's character (Eisenheim) were mesmerising. The actor trained extensively to ensure the look of realism as opposed to using special effects to fudge. The most incredible illusion was the orange tree. Houdini was the first to use real fruit for this trick. I won't describe it as I'm sure some of you haven't seen the film yet. Its origins are thought to be from 18th century Native manuscripts. I loved how Eisenheim seemed so adept at sleight of hand movements. He was so quiet and understated yet steely in his confidence.
We generally tend to think of vintage in a North American way. That's why it was so nice to see Vienna in the early part of the twentieth century. The costumes were breathtaking. The civilian, royal and military wear were meticulously made to historic accuracy. The mustache and beard on Prince Leopold were the perfect finishing touches.
The love scene between Eisenheim and his beloved Sophie was filmed by kerosene lamps only. The shooting had to be done in short spurts as the air in the small room became too smokey. The effect was so romantic as their movements were caught here and there in partial light. This really gave the scene a sense of realism and intimacy. I also like that the director didn't feel the need to show off a lot of flesh or over-the-top sexiness. Just the bits I saw highlighted allowed my mind to fill in the blanks. This chasteness really suited the feel of the movie.
I highly recommend that you beg, borrow or rent "The Illusionist". I loved going on this vintage journey to Vienna.