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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Theories on Inception

If you haven't seen the movie yet, don't look under the cut because this is going to be spoiler heavy. If you have seen the movie, please feel free to offer up your own thoughts vis-a-vis what the hell is going on here.

There's plenty of theories out there right now regarding the plot of Inception and just what it all means. My belief is that nothing we see is "real," it's all in Cobb's head. A few reasons why:

* Cobb is the only one who seems to be able to bring his personal projections into other peoples' dreams. Maybe that's because Cobb's psyche is the foundation and every subsequent level of unreality is built on top of it.

* The chase through the market place is shot to make it look like Cobb is running through a maze. The process of designing a dreamscape is described as designing a maze and Ariadne's first task is literally to design a maze that it takes more than one minute to solve.

* One of the consistent questions asked throughout the film is "how did we/you get here?" When Cobb meets Ariadne they seem to enter immediately and seamlessly into a dream - maybe that's because Cobb was already dreaming and the dream he's sharing with Ariadne is actually a dream within that dream.

* The ease with which Saito is able to pull things off. He shows up just in time to rescue Cobb at the market place, he buys an airline in order to ensure the team has a 10 hour flight in which to work on Fisher, he makes a quick phone call as the plane descends and magically Cobb's legal troubles disappear. He's a deus ex machina of a character, too convenient to be true.

* The totems. Ariadne is told that her totem has to be something that's familiar only to her, that no one else can touch. Arthur won't let her hold his because the weight of it is something with which only he can be familiar if it's to be effective, and later Cobb reiterates the importance of this principle when he tries to trick Ariadne into letting him hold the totem she's just created for herself. Now think about Cobb's totem - it wasn't always his. It was Mal's totem and he took it from her. By doing so he destroys her ability to destinguish reality from dream because he's corrupted her anchor. Shouldn't it be corrupted for him too, since someone else was familiar with it?

If it is corrupted then it doesn't matter whether is keeps spinning or whether it falls because it's meaningless as a tool to tell reality from dream. If what the film posits as reality is actually just the first level of Cobb's unconscious, maybe the top stops on that level simply because he believes that it's reality and his subconscious acts accordingly. Similarly, perhaps that's what's going on at the end with his children. He can see their faces now even though the fact that they're wearing the same clothes and sitting in the same positions on the lawn as in his memory suggests that he's still dreaming. Earlier in the film he tells Ariadne that he's been actively trying to "correct" his memories - maybe the film is depicting that process and the true task is actually to plant an idea in his own subconscious that the first level of dreaming is in fact reality so that at least he can have the comfort of believing that he's been reunited with his children.

I'm sure there's more but I think I would probably have to see the movie again to pick up on it. I'm equally sure that there's plenty of evidence to support other theories, so what's yours?


Mike Lippert said...

Interesting points although with regards to the first one, it does seem that others can change the reality or the dream as when the Tom Hardy character switches identities and creates a bigger gun, etc.

I think you on to something with the totems. That lost shot of the spinning top reminds me of the last shot in The Prestige where the lines of cloned Hugh Jackmans are revealed, leaving us to question once again if what we are seeing is real or just a trick. I don't really have an answer.

Norma Desmond said...

The totems thing has really been bugging me.

Simon said...

Interesting theories, I was wondering about the totems too. I've given up guessing, now I'm just hoping I end up serving coffee to Christopher Nolan one day so I can ask him.