io9 – Want to understand Inception? Read the screenplay!

by InceptionEnding

in Inception Shooting Script

“…Inception: The Shooting Script came out a little while ago from Insight Editions. Most big movie tie-in books are more focused on cool images and fun observations about the challenge of bringing the special effects and key action sequences to life. But Inception gets the art movie treatment, with a really nice paperback edition of the screenplay. There are eight pages of color concept art, and a ton of storyboards — plus a few of Nolan’s own handwritten notes and diagrams. And there’s an ultra-revealing introduction, in which Nolan gets interviewed by his brother Jonathan. For anybody interested in the creative process behind this film, this book is pretty much a must-have.

So what can you learn about Inception by reading this book?

First of all, that Christopher Nolan was fascinated by the themes that fill Inception from early on. In fact, he had two different ideas — a story about dreams that he’d been working on forever, and a corporate thriller that he’d been working on for about a decade.

In the introduction, Nolan also explains to his brother that he couldn’t crack the ending ofInception for a long time, because in earlier drafts of the script, the figure that Cobb keeps meeting in the dreamworld was a former business associate who had double crossed him. “His partner in crime, who had betrayed him and so forth. But that didn’t lead anywhere emotionally. It didn’t have any resonance. And as soon as it became his wife, that flipped the whole thing for me. That made it very, very relatable.”

And Nolan cops to having a running motif in his films of dead wives and dead girlfriends. “I’ve written quite a few dead wives, that’s true. But you try to put your relatable fears in these things.”

The most fascinating two pages of the whole book are one diagram which Nolan made, in which he tries to keep track of all the different dream levels and the stuff that happens in each of them.

You really have to get the book to see it properly, but this sketch shows how Nolan was struggling to make all the pieces fit. It’s full of little notes. Like a list of “linear narv. elements,” that include “dream extraction of combination,” “planting of combo,” “letter in safe,” “Fisted own letter/crack own safe, Take own letter to Browning (Perhaps as part of hostage exchange),” and more. And you can see that one point he thought the “dreamer” in the hotel level would be Eames and the “dreamer” in the hospital level would be Arthur, instead of the other ways around.

He also seems to have considered two choices: if the “heist” and “escape” were separate, then “sends must be part of linear dream narrative, kicks must be parallel action building to coincident climax.” But if the “heist” and “escape” could be made “as one,” then the kicks must be both “part of the linear dream narrative AND parallel action building to coincident climax.” He reminds himself, “The linear dream narrative is paramount, the kicks are the visceral icing on the cake.” And there’s another note: “Every dream TRENDS CHAOTIC.”…”

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