Inception – the film

Inception – the film
Wikipedia: ‘Inception means the beginning or creation of something.’

It’s rare that I go to a movie twice, and certainly unusual that I go twice in two days. I did so because I was sure that in the first viewing I had missed things. And the second viewing confirmed it: the details creation of worlds is remarkable. And I am still finding bits that I missed. The film buffs (as below) heap praise on the exercise of the craft that has produced this movie. It is visually stunning, and executed in the creation of several environments. I recognize that this film draws on other films. I noticed, of course, ‘The Matrix’ and James Bond movies; Michael Caine’s presence evokes ‘The Italian Job’ in reverse – this is a heist movie where, instead of stealing, the task is one of implanting. Others point to the film noir (which I did not know) ‘Dark City’ [‘where humanity has no future’] – [See below] .

There are questions hidden in this movie. The first is posed by the difference between dream and reality. Plato’s Cave is an obvious reference. Does the film begin to suggest (as did Existenz), that we end up not knowing what is real and what is mere shadow? Is life really a phantom? The final scene of the movie suggests just that.

Another question at the heart of the movie: how can we be released from the dream into what is real? In The Matrix, as I recall, it is Trinity’s kiss and declaration of love, and then Neo’s self-belief, that provide the key. In Inception it a person is killed in order to make the transition from dream to waking life: with tragic results, when the beloved confuses dream and waking!

Towards the end of the movie we are brought into the cost of such confusion: Dom begins to realize that difference in relation to his deceased wife and lover: the image he creates of her (after her death) just cannot match the complexity of the real person. His creation of her is a fantasy, much diminished. Odd, then, that it I her very shadow self who wields the knife and sends him back to the surface in the plane.

Water is another key image in this movie: no doubt reflective of a ‘Jungian’ view of the subconscious, and of a collective unconscious. The water is at times pounding and corrosive, almost drowning, at other moments still, reflecting a former life. (Is there a possible baptismal point to be teased out here? The does seem to be little hint of any such Christian metaphor in the film. This movie is closer to classical Greek mythology than Christian.

NAMES: a thought about names: In the world of drama, we expect that the names will tell us something of the chacter’s meaning. In The Matrix, there are Trinity, ‘The One’, Neo, and sacrificial acts; here we have Ariadne, Dom and Mal. What are these to suggest?
DOM: According to Wikipedia, Dom can be 2,5-Dimethoxy-4-methylamphetamineor DOM/STP, an hallucinogenic drug; it may refer to; Dom (disambiguation); or in the computer world: Document Object Model, is a way to refer to XML or (X)HTML elements as objects; also: Disk on module, an alternative to traditional computer hard disks; and Directed ortho metalation, a chemical reaction mechanism; and again: Differential object marking, a linguistic phenomenon.

Or in ecclesiastical usage; Deo optimo maximo, Latin for “to the Greatest and Best God”, originally Jove, later the Christian God; in German it refers to a cathedral.
I don’t suggest we are to choose here, merely to observe that the simple name has multiple references, many of which have to do with change,- but, also, love.

Ariadne is the presence who opens up Dom’s passion and fear of his wife’s memory. She brings the viewer to the love between Dom and his wife Mal. Ariadne is a cooler presence, but provides the keen intelligence which both builds the labyrinth and offers a way out. According to Wikipediia, Ariadne is a powerful figure in Greek mythology, who provides the way out of the labyrinth:
…‘ a young man who volunteered to come and kill the Minotaur. Ariadne fell in love at first sight, and helped him by giving him a sword and a ball of red fleece thread that she was spinning, so that he could find his way out of the Minotaur’s labyrinth.’

WEAPONS: A key feature is the use of weapons – guns mostly – in dealing with (that is, killing) opposing ‘projections’. We are in the middle of a computer game here – remember that these have their origins in military scenarios. It seems that most major works put a character in some sort of quest, a situation of danger, often facing enemies of great power: then the tables turn and weapons are taken up to defeat the enemy. The Matrix did this with ‘guns!); it is equally true of Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (film: 2005) -…. The Narnia story was intended by CS Lewis to be a Christian metaphor. What does such violence have to do with a self-giving death? Is it possible to conceive of confronting the projection, the threat, the enemy, without resort to such violence?

IMAGE AND REALITY: A scene that stays with me is Ariadne’s manipulation of the cityscape, culminating in the creation of two large mirrors that create multiple images to infinity. Then, suddenly, she lets it fall and the image fragments. I am reminded of the way we look at a computer screen and see a ‘reality’, in reality an illusion of depth. The actual work of the computer is going on under the key pad and in the CPU. (It was an unnerving experience in the 1980s shifting from typewrites that worked mechanically, where the keystroke led to a direct action of letter striking the rolled paper – to a PC in which the hitting of a key is only indirectly related to the image on the screen.) It took an act of will and courage to turn the computer off, trusting that the work done in that session would be retrievable.

In some ways Inception requires a similar act of trust. And, if I am on a search for biblical echoes, we come to the notion that a person dies in order to enter new life. That is where a baptismal note does kick in. And, even more radically, it takes us to the metaphor of the seed which dies and is raised to new life. Perhaps in spite of itself, the film takes us to the classic Jewish-Christian expectation of ‘resurrection’, in which there is real death: the seed dies in order to give the resulting plant, life. I don’t mean the pale notion of ‘immortal’ life in which the spirit – as a wisp of the former self – simply escapes the body. Far more, it is akin to husband and wife lying together, heads on a railway track, waiting for the train!

Wes Campbell
Notes 3 August 2010


Review by James Berardinelli:…

Wikipedia: ‘Inception’ is a 2010 American science fiction action film written, produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard, Tom Hardy, and Cillian Murphy. The film is inspired by the experience of lucid dreaming and dream incubation.[5] The film, a variant on the heist genre, centers on Dom Cobb, an “extractor”, who enters the dreams of others to obtain information that is otherwise inaccessible.

INCEPTION – A REVIEW: Dustin Hucks on July 15, 2010 |
…. What seems to be a routine extraction turns into what the entire film ends up being; a question of what is what, when, and who is aware. Much of the groundwork is laid early on, though true to fashion, Nolan makes sure we’re not aware of it.

INCEPTION – A REVIEW: © 2010 Matthew Georgehttp://scififantasyfilms.suite101….
Like dreams themselves, Nolan’s film bases its existence on things we’ve seen before. Calling to mind films as diverse as The Matrix, Dark City, The Sting, Heat and James Bond, …. final shot is one last flourish, a knowing wink to the audience from a filmmaker at the height of his powers

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