Film Education

INCEPTION: A film by Christopher Nolan
July 27, 2010, 3:27 pm
Filed under: Film Musings

“INCEPTION” A film by Christopher Nolan

I would like to start with Nolan’s own words about his initial inspiration behind “Inception” and how it developed into the movie it is today.

I’d always wanted to make a film that addressed dreams, and do something set in that world. About ten years ago I focused in on the idea of a technology that might allow people to share their dreams, and the uses and abuses of that, and came up with this idea of doing a heist film set in the world of dreams where somebody could use a technology to penetrate a person’s subconscious.

The idea was always to tell a large-scale action film with an unusual twist to the world in which it takes place.

Christopher Nolan

The above points at two key elements which are

a) The basic idea behind the film

b) The treatment of the film

The idea behind the film which is the world of dreams, the mind and its infinite possibilities is exciting. Once that ‘idea’ took root in my mind I was greedy and felt the film did not want or rather did not choose consciously to leave the audience with a contemplative pause of a deeper nature, it was more concerned with the unfolding of the plot. But having said that it definitely offered the audience more than a regular formula Hollywood film.

Instead of the perfect heist,

Cobb and his team of specialists have to pull off the reverse; their task is not to steal an

idea but to plant one. If they succeed, it could be the perfect crime.

But no amount of careful planning or expertise can prepare the team for the

dangerous enemy that seems to predict their every move. An enemy that only Cobb

could have seen coming.

This summer, your mind is the scene of the crime.

The intrusion of the individual’s mind with the dream as a tool is happening at three levels. At one very personal and emotional level of the key protagonist Cobb with who we identify with and at the other level with the main heist which is the framework story on which the plot of the film is strung on (ofcourse this is if you don’t get into the endless readings of the film which the nature of it has opened up to various eager audiences one of which is the film itself is a dream and nothing is real). So the film explores a personal and human story of intrusion of a loved one and also uses a very different kind of theft, and public intrusion which is entering someone’s mind without their consent at the level of the framework story. The third level of intrusion is the mind of the audience.

The personal level does dwell on the dangerous track of the real and the unreal and the thin line between sanity and insanity but it does not touch upon the other side of the potential of the subconscious and I would like to discuss that.

What kind of dreams are we exposed to, there seems to be the use of a phenomenon called the lucid dream that is taking place in the film. And here I will take the liberty to talk about this for a moment. A lucid dream is a dream in which the dreamer is aware that he is dreaming. The dream usually becomes more vivid and memorable. Through controlling the dream, the dreamer can do anything possible, and most things impossible. Lucid dreamers use these to inspire, introspect and entertain.  In early ages of history, lucid dreams were usually dealt with a lot of mysticism, and were usually associated with divine revelations. Actually, Indian shamans would be recognized by them having a lucid dream, as it was associated with the spiritual world. Further on, Tibetan Buddhists were practicing a form of yoga responsible for making a person stay conscious while dreaming. The first person to use the term “lucid dreaming” was the psychiatrist Frederik van Eeden, describing them as when someone would have the insight of being dreaming.

Lucid dreams are possible and if I am not wrong Nolan himself has experienced lucid dreams. But when asked if he could imagine that if we’ll ever have the technology to access another person’s dream? He says and  I quote “I don’t think we will, no. While I enjoyed playing with the idea for the story, I came away with the realisation that the fact our dreams are private is very important. I came away feeling like our minds aren’t understood fully by science, and that kind of technology just couldn’t happen.”

Despite the fact that lucid dreaming is a profound state of consciousness, and is a metaphor for enlightenment, or spiritual awakening by some like the Tibetian Buddhist monks does the film explore that aspect of reaching a more profound space in the dreamscape or could he really within the confines of the heist plot he had structured for the film. What is the state of limbo that the film talks about. Is the film presenting a particular philosophy or psychology of the mind is an interesting question to ponder over.

The film opens on the shores of the subconscious and explores levels of the subconscious mind all throughout the film but how is the nature of the deepest layer revealed, what is its quality and nature besides time being slowed as compared to the other layers what else happens, or have I missed something? As a philosophical question what does the deeper level of the subconscious offer man. Why is there an urge among artists and seekers to enter the deeper levels of the subconscious? We were taken to the shores of the sub conscious but maybe not allowed to dive deep into it. But maybe the film tried to stick with reality otherwise the relative reality of what the subconscious mind offers would not be apt to explore for a Hollywood film and it would not be a blockbuster.

Talking about the treatment or style, I feel its closer to a Hollywood film but in that package manages to seep in a lot of food for thought and not a passive experience for sure. It’s an entertaining film and works as an intellectual jigsaw puzzle and touches the emotional chord however not trying too hard to appeal to the soul. Also I felt for a dream logic things were too orderly and except for the few instances like the train rushing onto the road, the laws of physics being played with occasionally, the dreamscape and dream logic was a bit less for my personal liking.

And to end this musing with Nolan’s own words again as quoted below – if this is what he wanted he did a very good job of it with some great performance by Leonardo DiCaprio(Dom Cobb) and my personal favourite in the film Marion Cotillard(Mal) who bought along with her a stunning screen presence and emotional depth.

“I think inception combines a lot of different genre, a lot of different types of movie making I am interested in. Primarily I think it’s a massively entertaining grand scale action film. Its something of a heist movie, its something of a science fiction film. It really combines a lot of different elements. Its also a love story I think at the heart of it. I like to think that its got a bit of something for everybody in there. Certainly for me, my ambition was to create a story and a world that embraced different types of human experience. All the types of grand scale Hollywood entertainment that I like to imagine is going to come on screen when I go to see a movie.”


8 Comments so far
Leave a comment

christopher nolan and caprio @ their best…

Comment by Kaustubh Kumar

thanks for your feedback, but I am not sure what it means in regards my musing, could you clarify please dear.

Comment by oorvazi

Amazing article, very different from what were there on net. I just remembered one more film that one can see VANILLA SKY, an amazing film based on Lucid Dreams, a concept on which a good deal of research is being done in the world.

I want to record my dreams, any technology available?

Comment by Agastya Kapoor

Thanks Agastya for your feedback. Yes hoping it would be different from whats already being said about the film “Inception”. Also I think whats important is that many times the film points at subjects or issues which can be taken forward and are starting points to ponder over. And as you mention it opens up a variety of similiar films to watch on the subject.

Comment by oorvazi

Well,what we perceive to be an ambiguous ending for Inception, ultimately comes down to:

Theory 1: He is still in the dream

He stays to find Saito but we never see how they get out. Leo wakes up on the plane, Saito wakes up, his mind not addled by years of limbo, makes the call, saves the day. Leo meets Michael Caine, they ride off into the sunset, reunite with the kids but it’s all too easy to believe and the totem shows that he chose to create this reality while submerged hidden deep in the subconscious of Fischer’s dream.

Theory 2: He got out.

He does save Saito, and Saito wakes up makes the call and we get the happy Inception ending. This is slightly more believable given Leo has attempted to spin his totem immediately upon arrival at his house and fails.

However with the Inception ending I am never sure and because Leo wakes up without a kick it makes it plausible that the clock on the dream ran down and he awoke naturally, and that Saito has aged considerably although maintaining mental agility.

I think you can make a strong case for either situation, but I think the most important thing is that Nolan was kind of asking the audience to question reality…. what makes what we consider reality,any more real than a dream?

Comment by Joseph

Thanks for sharing your thoughts

Comment by oorvazi

forgot to add,its definitely A great review, Appreciate for sharing.
One great master piece of Nolan, a story narrated simply but with great complexity, the structure remains.

Comment by Joseph

Thanks so much for your feedback and glad to know you liked it.

Comment by oorvazi

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