“…What follows is three different explanations for the film. You can decide how correct any or all of them are.
The Jungian Archetypes
Rich Knight at CinemaBlend offers a great portrait at what the characters of the film may represent personally to Dom Cobb by using the age-old Jungian archetypes. Knight asserts that Cobb is asleep through the entire film and that these characters are the subconscious manifestations of a mind slipping away. Arthur as the hero of the story, Mal as the dark shadow, Ariadne as the female presence in the male mind. It’s a fascinating read, and it seems spot on from the casual psycho-analyst’s perspective.
The site also has a great set of rules for the film’s world alongside a glossary of terms.
Inception as a Metaphor for Filmmaking
In what might be the best exploration of the film, Devin Faraci at CHUD offers a graceful breakdown of the characters and situations as they relate to the world of filmmaking, and the catharsis of a great story. Even the audience has a role to play. He, too, asserts that Dom is dreaming throughout the entire film, and that he’s billed himself as the director in order to have some control over the entities around him. Leonardo DiCaprio likened his character to the main man in 8 1/2. Could Inception be Christopher Nolan’s autobiographical waking dream?
A Half-Remembered Dream
As for my personal take on the film, I choose to believe that Dom and the rest of his team are all real people inhabiting a real world where dream-infiltration is possible, and that Dom has truly joined the waking world at the end of the film.
While I loved reading the other explanations and while I think there’s a certain beauty to Devin’s piece, they ignore the true genius of the film – it’s ability to project different truths at the same time. There will never be a singular accepted reading of the movie because it offers something different for everyone. There will be strong arguments heading in several directions, there will be hangups for each interpretation to explain away, but the we’ll never know if the top kept spinning.”