after the rest of the world we went to see Inception. Okay, here’s the
thing. Yes, it’s a very enjoyable, beautifully designed movie. (Actually
that hopelessly understates it; the production design is quite
astonishingly superb.) Yes, the intellectual puzzles in it are very
teasing and enjoyable - and it certainly got me over-puzzling. I did
feel it was rather cold though. I never really hooked into the story of
Cobb and Mal and the children, which always felt to me like a layer of
the puzzle, rather than a genuine heart to the movie. Similarly the
father-son relationship was only sketched in, though there were a bit of
a tug at how the son was being manipulated.
There’s something odd about how
Hollywood does ‘high concept’ movies; genuinely complex thought is never
involved; it’s just a rather sedentary paradoxical thought. The Matrix,
The Prestige, this, I find them ultimately a bit frustrating because
they think they are mind-blowingly clever and they’re just clever. This
thought is the one about the man who dreamed he was a butterfly, kind of
The (high) concept of Inception is that
some people have learned how to construct dreams for people to enter,
and in those dreams people can be fed ideas that can change them when
they wake. It also seems that you can have dreams within dreams, though
this is increasingly dangerous. This team have been asked to go in to a
young man’s mind to plant the idea that he should break up the business
he’s inherited from his father. They do this by going down into (at
least) four levels of dream: a van chase, a hotel, a mountain base, and
Okay but this is where it hooked me in. I
spent the entire movie, pretty much, convinced that the big final
reveal is that the waking state we think is reality is actually a dream.
I’d worked it all out: somehow Cobb is stuck in a dream so someone has
gone into a dream to plant the idea (the inception) that he should kill
himself. The totem that is his link to reality is actually something
he’s got from his wife Mal in the dream, so it’s not actually a reliable
guide to his wakefulness. The dreamer is obviously Mal and she’s trying
to send him a signal to get him back. The scenes in limbo are so
upsetting because he needed to hit rock bottom.
And then it didn’t happen. Or did it? I
discover - again, months after the rest of the world - that there’s a
minor industry producing theories that the waking state is in fact
another dream. Everyone seemed to be looking at Cobb at the end (we know
that the dreamer gets hostile looks); the reunion with the children
felt dreamlike; how did Michael Caine know to show up at the airport?
All of this is quite convincingly refuted by this admirably obsessive internetizen, but I’m still left with a feeling that I’ve been deprived of the last satisfying, completing twist of the rubik’s cube.
Of course this appeals to the Matrix-style (or Descartes-style) believers that we’re all being manipulated by some unseen force. Is Christopher Nolan trying to inspire mass suicide?