Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Unit 7: Narrative - Review - Christopher Nolan's Inception

Figure 1. Inception Poster Art

It is fair to say that Inception has many underpinnings yes on one hand we are looking at the interpretations of dreams. However what one tends to toy with after the first watch is whether or not the film itself was the actual dream. Before one can even contemplate answering that question they are forced to look at themselves and ask who am i?

•Directed by: Christopher Nolan
•Written by: Christopher Nolan
•Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio as Cobb, Ken Watanabe as Saito, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Arthur, Ellen Page as Ariadne, Marion Cotillard as Mal & Tom Hardy as Eames
•Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure, Mystery, Suspense, Science Fiction & Fantasy
•Duration: 148 Minutes (aprox)

Figure 2. "You create the world of the dream” - (Cobb, Inception)

The viewer is rather quickly slung into the midst of a dream with Cobb and his trusty companion Arthur in a rather dire situation of trying to perform the feat of "Inception" planting a seed (or idea) in a person's brain while they are in a dream state, ultimately tricking their mind to believe an idea they had was their own when it was in fact planted. Everything screams perfection in terms of architecture , mostly pristine with classy decor. It is quite easy to consider as the story is relayed and even makes sense to a certain degree, however it is not without its madness. Loss Angeles reviewer Kenneth Turan observes:
For "Inception" is not only about the dream state, it often plays on screen in a dreamlike way, which means that it has the gift of being easier to follow than to explain. Specifics of the plot can be difficult to pin down, especially at first, and guessing moment to moment what will be happening next, or even if the characters are in a dream or in reality, is not always possible." (Turan: 2010)
Probably what makes Inception a certain treat is its downfall specifically when one considers the post modern. We are lead to believe throughout the films duration that ultimately there is no singular truth there are only many truths, there is no discernible overlord of logic there are many states of reason as we jump from one hosts dream to another. The dreams function as layers which change depending on the dreamers unconscious and the deeper the mind goes it has to return to each layer and exit securely to avoid limbo (or in reality a coma). What Nolan has created here is a quest into the topic of fiction (dreams) to create Inception (ideas) to ultimately influence reality.

Figure 3. "We bring the subject into that dream and fill it with their subconscious” - (Cobb, Inception)

One could go further to say that what Nolan has created here is a rather careful glance at his own personal point of view into the film category, a category he displays to us while we watch and wait for definitive answers that simply do not exist. Everything Nolan incorporates has in some way been influenced onto him from something in his past, this is clearly shown in the character Cobb (played by Decaprio) who drags his estranged wife to every dream, a looming husk resembling only his guilt for her tragic demise. Unable to get past her Cobb cannot see past his demons believing them to be real in every fictitious sense of reality. Reviewer J Brady posted the following on Inception and Postmodernism:
“In this case, Cobb, who breaks into people’s dreams, represents the director. Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who is the researcher, represents the producer who sets everything up. Ariadne (Ellen Page), the architect, represents the screenwriter who creates the world that the dreamer will enter. Eames (Tom Hardy), referred to as the forger, represents the actor, who assumes the form of other people in the dream world. Yusuf (Dileep Rao), the chemist, is the technical guy who furnishes the chemicals necessary to create the shared dream state. I would go even further to say that Yusuf is the cinematographer – where the camera is the dream-sharing “apparatus” and the sedatives used to facilitate the dreaming could be considered the actual film in the camera.” (Brady: 2011)
Taking Bradys comment into consideration let us examine a specific moment in Inception: Cobb sits down with Robert Fischer (the dreamer he is to perform inception on) and convinces him that he is trying to protect him when he is in fact the foreign invader. This is no different than a directors decision on set telling a paying audience later don't believe them believe this person through suggestion acting ever so discretely as our subconscious. The same instance can be considered to any of the "roles" mentioned above by Brady. At this point one could even question if we could trust in the reliability of any of the actual on screen cast in Inception when they could be hijacking our dreams right now leading us to trust one of their "Invader Nolans", discretely telling you to buy Inception on DVD and as luck would have it... you do.

Figure 4. "Your subconscious is looking for the dreamer” - (Arthur, Inception)

The projections are another thing entirely consisting of Inceptions version of "Agents" (The Matrix, 1999) "they are everyone and they are no one" (Morpheus). We do not trust them and yet we have to because on some level they are us with a primal need - survival. Still what flutters a little bit is how these worlds function when a person's mind is unconscious, shifting antagonists the deeper the invader goes advancing forward as if in some uncanny video game template. The unconscious is no longer a second realm in its own right it is in fact a complete duplication of the conscious. Dan Jardine of Cinemania observes:
Inception treats the unconscious as even more than working in tandem with the conscious. The film presents the unconscious as nothing other than a replication of the conscious, a mechanical template that adheres to the same rational rules of motion, freaky-deaky surreal special effects notwithstanding. With this in place, an infinite number of templates may be cast in the service of the plot, but the result is a bogus technologization of the mind that reduces it to the levels of a video game." (Jardine: 2012)
For a dream state to be so neatly constructed one cannot help but find some truth to Jardines opinion, in the dream world anything can happen and would not be so neatly constructed to form a plot. Most dreams are fragments, it would probably be more believable if the action inside the dreams was more erratic (e.g. because it's a dream who says gravity exists?). Who says that this brain dreams the same as someone else's . This could be a rather clever or idiotic notion for Nolan to project to the viewer. On one hand he is saying that when Cobb and his team invade a dream they are bound by that persons rules one of which could be gravity (this is an example of modernism), however on the other he is saying that certain parts of the invaders subconscious bleed through (I.e. Mal - Post modernism) so therefore who's to say that any particular part of our subconscious would bleed through not just the same projection (in Cobs case Mal). Cobb brought a team of people and they have dreams why would the dream not be filled with numerous random encounters way more vast then freight trains?

"You're waiting for a train, a train that will take you far away. You know where you hope this train will take you, but you don't know for sure. But it doesn't matter. How can it not matter to you where that train will take you?” - (Mal, Inception)

While the point above is valid there is no doubt that Nolan has created something that really reflects the director and the viewer and the viewers view of that director and that directors view of the film to the viewer. Inception is not only the study of dreams it is more importantly a study of the mind, the study of perception, it tells us there is no definitive rule or logic, the world is what we as individuals make it and we fill it with our interpretation in everything that we do. The Last Psychiatrist of observes:
“Inception is the exact opposite. It doesn't matter whether you think it's all a dream, or just some of it, or it's actually someone else's dream, or it's all real. The main point-- and Nolan makes it twice-- is that you can't hide from yourself.” (The Last Psychiatrist, 2010)
The truth is the individuals perception (the dreamer) is just that, theirs alone. They will dream about what they are thinking about conscious or subconsciously. Who's to say that there is a world constructed or maybe there wasn't. Who's to say you can die in a dream (because it's usually followed with you waking up). The dream is about you regardless of logic, you are its director, actor, camera man, you are everyone. There is no place to hide from yourself in a dream state because it's all constructed by you unconsciously, it's how something affected you, changed you or made you what you are.

List of Illustrations

Figure 1. Inception Poster Art. (com) [Online image]. At:
(Accessed on: 18/10/12)

Figure 2. You create the world of the dream (com) [Online image]. At:
(Accessed on: 18/10/12)

Figure 3. We bring the subject into that dream and fill it with their subconscious
(com) [Online image]. At:
(Accessed on: 18/10/12)

Figure 4. Your subconscious is looking for the dreamer (com) [Online image]. At:
(Accessed on: 18/10/12)

Figure 5. You're waiting for a train, a train that will take you far away. You know where you hope this train will take you, but you don't know for sure. But it doesn't matter. How can it not matter to you where that train will take you? (com) [Online image]. At:
(Accessed on: 18/10/12)



Turan, Kenneth. (2010) Movie Review: Inception At:
(Accessed on: 18/10/12)

Brady, J. (2011) Postmodernism At:
(Accessed on: 18/10/12)

Jardine, Dan. (2012) Inception Review At:
(Accessed on: 18/10/12)

The Last Psychiatrist. (2010) Inception Explanation At:
(Accessed on: 18/10/12)

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