Hello everyone, I don't have a mind to watch too much movies these days, I mostly read, but I had the opportunity to watch - finally - Inception yesterday and I just HAD to talk about it.
This post is a mix of an attempt to review the movie and my personal need to ramble about the story. I promise not to focus/obsess too much on every single detail, even though that in my mind I've done it several times since I saw the movie. I feel like I'm endlessly trying to solve a Rubik's cube in my mind when it comes to finding the truth behind this movie.
For those of you that haven't seen it, move along, go out now and find a way to see it and for the love of god, don't read any further. I would never dare to deprive you from the extraordinary experience that is seeing the movie without any additional info clouding your judgment. It has to be a surprise, a clean start kind of experience. I hope you'll find the time to catch up with this wonderful story. When you see it come back and if you want to that is, read the rest of this post.
For those of you that have seen it, well my friends, I don't know how to tell you this, but Christopher Nolan messed up with our minds purposefully, intendedly and very successfully, if I dare say so.
Technically the movie is, in my humble opinion, outstanding. The cut, the actors, the action sequences, even the sound score and music are impeccable, it is all OH so very good.
And before entering the rambling part of this, let's please rejoice together watching the zero gravity fight sequence again: HERE. (video reproduction of the scene has been, sadly, disabled). It is absolutely thrilling and plainly awesome and it only lasts about 2mim.
So yeah, technically speaking? extraordinary.
Theoretically? in my once again humble opinion, incomparable.
What it is real, what is the dream?
I do have a theory, about what it is all about, as everyone that has seen the movie, I'm sure has... the thing is, even though I like my theory a lot and I have logical reasons to believe that it is the correct one, I'm not sure, I simply can not be. Because there are a number of possibilities presented to us by the plot of the movie but there isn't, deliberately, any final overwhelming answer given to us.
Let's talk Science Fiction for starters. The base to any good science fiction story, as we all know, resides in the creation of a world where you'll have to buy a specific premise defined by a very specific set of rules as well... that would, normally, have a significant exception to them, that even though it is an exception, it is still considerably possible and plausible within the world postulated.
And so we have it... No Neo, you can't bend the whole matrix 100% at your will unless you are reincarnated and you are the "one"; Yes Robot, you can escape the logic of the 3 Laws of Robotics if you rationalize the Zeroth Law by yourself; No Sarah Connor, this already came to pass, there's no way to save Kyle, this things have to happen in order to maintain the time traveling continuum, no need to distress the loop, etc. etc....
See? there's always a way to bend or brake the rules but they always have to exist, and they have to be plausible. These rules have to be logical in order to be realistic, because a story of science fiction is a proposition of a provable/possible occurrence, even when it is unexpected or very strange, it bases itself in the idea of a "it could be" in a world (place) where these X set of rules are provable. That's why the Star Wars universe and the Star Trek universe are both so unquestionable, they have a set of rules and a set of exceptions that are logical and plausible. On those universes the plot grew and thickened but the limits were pre-established and respected. A good science fiction plot can allow the actions to move back and forth within the parameters established, within the presented rules and provable exceptions... usually with one extraordinary exception at least, that will therefore, obviously, reinforce the appearance of the singled out hero, the one that will bend the rules or will at least be the most likely to brake them... Neo, John Connor, Ender Wiggin, Time Traveller, etc. etc. and in this case Cobb.
I believe, Nolan's story is a wonderful story of Science Fiction... If I buy the premise that it is a story of Science Fiction at all...
Within Nolan's story, the one that he is - supposedly telling us to begin with - there is only one rule and one exception for reality, for the "real world" that he is presenting us with... the rule being: in this "real world" technology has advanced so far as to been possible the manipulation of dreams to a very flexible degree but it is impossible to implant an original idea on somebody's mind. And here's where he postulates the exception, in the form of the singled out man, Cobb, that affirms that it is indeed possible to implant an original idea into somebody's unconscious and that he is capable of doing so. So far so good, your common Science Fiction premise in action... but then we get to the dream world and all bets are off.
The set of rules that apply to the dream world are vast and so are the exceptions: If you die in a dream, you wake up, a Kick will wake them up, the further you go into your unconscious the further you get lost and it might get you to the Limbo level, perception of time will increase with every level "below", blah blah, and even those, as we all know, can be bend therefore creating a huge amount of exceptions... The complexity of the rules and exceptions that come from the Dream world have to be the first clue to indicate to us that even the real world, the world that Nolan postulates MIGHT be a dream itself. But, see? there is always a "but" regarding this story... there's ambiguity and congruency coexisting successfully and almost inexplicably for the exceptions. This perfect equilibrium created by Nolan, keep us dangling in the cord, almost finding the truth but never actually grasping it completely, and therefore the possibilities are endless.
Well, all this been said, here's were I think Nolan messed up with our minds BIG TIME and sold us - very intelligently - a mirage of a premise.. A very well created illusion.. where actually I believe that what he wanted to do with the story is to create for us the illusion that Nolan himself is the architect of the dream and you are the one that is dreaming, the dreamer.. you are filling in the lacunas, trying to find plausible explanations for the exceptions... see the beauty of it? It is a dream within a dream within a dream, etc. etc... where the old imperative of a lucid dream-like state is ever present and the first level of the dream might as well been your own "reality".
Let's say I buy the Science Fiction premise, for argument's sake.
Interestingly enough, and in my opinion the absolute most important detail in the story as to Science Fiction goes, simple as it is, the only constant for both the real world and the dream world, a rule without exception, that abides to no exception throughout the story, is the ineffability of the Totem's function. And here is where I think all the ambiguity ends and where the path to the truth might really resides.
You see, Cobb's totem wasn't his to begin with, it is been told to us in the movie, that it was Mal's totem.. it was said to us also, that you are the only one allowed to touch your own totem, if somebody else touches it, the occurrence will defeat its propose... so, there you have it, if it spins unalterably or not proving where you are really at, is the original idea implanted... the idea that even though everything and everyone is telling you that is fallible, you instead choose to believe is unquestionable trough-out the movie and the one that you expect to give you the ultimate truth, till the very end.
Let's say I don't buy the Science Fiction premise...
What I believe to be the true intent of the movie, the metaphor/experience that the director created for us is: Nolan is the architect, you are the dreamer and the characters represent the various particularities of your own mind, conscious, unconscious, defense mechanisms, sense of guilt, fears, ambitions, characteristics of your personality, etc. The possible lacunas in the story and exceptions are not such, because you are trying in fact to explain them after you see the movie, and the original idea implanted is that the totem is the unquestionable pillar of truth from what it all can be somehow explained.
On a practical sense, if you take notice, as I'm sure you did, all scenes of "reality" in the movie, since the very beginning are presented to you with a dream quality to them. You are always in the middle of the action, but you never are presented with the how you got there.
For me, every character in the movie, every dialogue, even Mal's dialogue at the end is actually screaming at us to realize the most obvious and reasonable conclusion to it all, the movie was a dream itself.... Nonetheless, you'll never dare to question the possibility that it is not a dream neither, the rules are all there, the exceptions are plausible, it all make so much sense... because at the very end, no matter what, the only thing you choose to believe since the beginning of the story is that original idea implanted (the quintessential metaphor) that one that wasn't yours to begin with but that you'll choose to believe even after you "wake up"... the one that says that the totem is the only thing that can difference the truth from the dream... So, beyond any reason gathered from the story itself or all the logical thinking you can do, fact is, the truth seems to be only obtain by knowing if the totem stopped spinning or not at the end of the movie but cruelly enough (or brilliantly enough), you'll never know and it will puzzle you foreveeeerrr.... enter the creepy laugh.
The thing is, even tough, for me that is the most plausible explanation, I'm not 100% sure.
Nolan successfully messed up with our minds to such a degree that you can not make a final conclusion in the end, one that will be settled without a shadow of a doubt. It was a dream, it wasn't a dream.. who dares to choose one single possibility and leave out the others?
You simply can't make up your mind, because he didn't allowed us to do so... he made the entire movie so perfectly ambiguous, that everything is possible...: In the story Cobb is actually the one that's adducted and somebody, most likely Ariadne, is trying to implant an original idea in his mind... that is why even though most characters go along with his ideas they all try to stop him at least once (Mal is particularly aggressive towards her)... and those that are against him, are openly "belligerent" against him; The story is what it is, Cobb is in a "real world" and is set to do a last job in exchange for wining his freedom.. take in consideration for example, that Cobb's kids look in fact different in the real world and in the dream world, but purposively so, the differences are impossible to remember, they do have longer hair, and slightly different clothes, but not distinguishably so... the thing is, they never tell you exactly how much time has past since he was away from them; Cobb is dreaming, a non externally altered dream, since the beginning but if it is all a dream, you don't even see the "real world", then rules don't even apply at all, the only thing that we might conclude from it is that Cobb's extraordinary mind is what is creating every facet of the dream and Nolan's intent was to create a metaphor-like experience for you, "a dream within a dream", your dream... plausible, but he has never confirmed said theory;
So, what I think he really was set out to do with the movie was making a movie with such an open, yet perfect plot, you'll will never know for sure, what was it all about. Your options, that even though are great, are closed up in a maze, created by Nolan, it is all there, you just can't get away enough from it as to choose one absolute truth as a definite conclusion.
Congratulations, we've been all played.
Excellent mind-coitusing, by the way.
So, stand up and let us give the master a round of applause. The force is strong in you, dear Nolan :) .
FINALLY. I had to get this out of my head, out of my system. I don't think there is anything else for me to say, I've rambled enough and you will all forgive me for that, if you can.
Bye.. I'll be waiting to see how Nolan's next projects are going to top this one movie.. doubtful, but I'm hopeful.