ListlessInk – Inception Ending and Interpretations

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by InceptionEnding

in Inception Ending

“…Is Cobb still in a dream?

To me, the top seems almost to be a bit wobbly. I think it is very likely it will eventually fall and he is indeed in a “real world” (more on this later). Still, it is just as likely that he might have never woken up on the plane as the top continues to spin for eternity. Either way, I propose that whether the top falls does not matter. In fact, this whole journey, starting from the very beginning, takes place in a dream. Cobb has been caught in limbo for such a long time that his perceived reality is actually still in a dream.

Even in Cobb’s “real world”, there are many dream-like qualities. The movie cuts between scenes rather abruptly. We never see Cobb or anyone going from one environment to the next. They simply end up at the next destination, jumping from the train to the hotel to the lecture hall to the warehouse to the bar to India to the plane and finally to Cobb’s home. There are many other situations common to dreams. For example, when Cobb is trying to escape from corporate assassins, he gets stuck between two buildings; this is a really common anxiety in dreams. Additionally, when Cobb is in the basement of the chemist, Yusuf (Dileep Rao), he takes a really strong sedative, but immediately wakes up. Time inconsistencies is yet another logical fallacy only possible in dreams.

Furthermore, Saito (Ken Watanabe) and his men are ubiquitous, and his power is questionably immense. Perhaps Mal (Marion Cotillard) is on the right track when she asks, “isn’t it strange they chase you all around the world, just like projections?” Saito is possibly a projection of Cobb’s regret. Over the course of the movie, Saito and Cobb repeatedly utters, “do you want to become an old man, filled with regret, waiting to die alone?” The three instances of these words are not necessarily tied to the particular moment in the film, and really suggests that Saito is an inner reflection of Cobb.

Cobb’s reality is questioned even more by the rules of leveled dreams. According to Cobb and Yusuf, if you die when you are too deep, you would end up in limbo rather than waking up. When Mal and Cobb try to return to reality, they actually committ suicide rather than use a kick. Thus, Cobb may have merely gone further into limbo. This also explains why Cobb is unable to dream without the aid of sedatives and the technology. He is so far down that he may already be in a dream within a dream within a dream within a dream… Having yet another dream is impossible without the dream machine.

Another indication that this whole movie takes place in a dream is that Inception never shows Cobb’s totem. The totem Cobb uses is actually Mal’s, which should not be able to indicate anything about Cobb’s reality. Again, Cobb may have gone too far to forget his own totem, and instead take on Mal’s within this limbo.

Additionally, Christian Nolan uses several unreliable narrators to hint at this interpretation. As Mal’s father-in-law, Ariadne’s (Ellen Page) professor, and Cobb’s mentor, Miles (Michael Caine) has a rather important role. At the end of the first meeting between Cobb and Miles, Miles tells Cobb to come back to reality. In addition, Cobb is reminded of this again by the keeper in Yusuf’s basement: “They come here to be woken up. Their dream has become their reality. Who are you to say otherwise?”

Ariadne further hints at this. When Cobb warns Ariadne to never create from memory or she may lose track of reality, Ariadne replies, “Is that what happened to you?” She revisits this idea later, “the deeper we go into Fischer, the deeper we go into you.” It is possible that she means something a little more literal; going down even more levels with Fischer may really be going deeper into his limbo. And maybe there, Cobb can finally realize the deepest truth of all. This is all a dream.

It is also interesting to note Ariadne’s name. In Greek mythology, Ariadne leads Theseus out of the labyrinth with a red fleece thread. In Inception, dressed in red, Ariadne attempts to free cobb of his guilt and his dreams.

Given all of this, I think Ariadne may have gone within Cobb’s limbo to lead him out. The real inception is to plant the idea in Cobb’s subconscious that none of this is real, much like Cobb has done to Mal. Thus, when Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) asks Ariadne after the mission where Cobb is, Ariadne simply says that Cobb will be fine. The idea has been incepted and all that is left is for it to grow. The ending shows that Cobb has returned to some reality….”

http://listlessink.wordpress.com/2010/08/10/inception-ending-and-interpretations/

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Dan B. August 11, 2010 at 2:10 am

While I understand your deep thought process regarding the entire film, and think that Nolan would welcome the arguments, I disagree with your conclusion. I intend to break down each of your arguments using facts from the film, and common sense.

“The movie cuts between scenes rather abruptly.”
In general, due to time constraints, many movies (cue James Bond films) do this. It is a way to keep the audience paying attention and keep the action fast rather than showing transportation which would then involve more needless plot (24 anyone?).

“he gets stuck between two buildings; this is a really common anxiety in dreams.”
This can also be an occurance in an area of massive population with buildings close together-such as where the scene takes place. This simply creates drama for effect.

“Additionally, when Cobb is in the basement of the chemist, Yusuf (Dileep Rao), he takes a really strong sedative, but immediately wakes up.Additionally, when Cobb is in the basement of the chemist, Yusuf (Dileep Rao), he takes a really strong sedative, but immediately wakes up.”
This dream that Cobb went into on his own was not shown to us probably due to, once again, time contraints on an already long film. Nolan generally showed the dreams when multiple characters went into them and wanted to save some of Cobb’s internal dreams and past for suspense later in the film.

“Saito is possibly a projection of Cobb’s regret. Over the course of the movie, Saito and Cobb repeatedly utters, “do you want to become an old man, filled with regret, waiting to die alone?” The three instances of these words are not necessarily tied to the particular moment in the film, and really suggests that Saito is an inner reflection of Cobb.”"
You make this assumption about the character, and then make conclusions based on this assumption-We can only work with what Nolan presents for us. Although both characters of Saito and Cobb repeat these words, it does not necessarily imply that Saito would be a representation of regret for Cobb. For Saito, his regret could be that he wanted to do inception and plant the idea in the mind of a person, and as a result he was doomed to limbo for many years. Cobb’s regret is ovbious in that he lost his wife and he lives with the guilt that he was the cause. Both characters could very well be using the repeated words of “regret” simply to remind one another of their relationship, and their mistakes so that they can wake one another up from the dreams.

“When Mal and Cobb try to return to reality, they actually committ suicide rather than use a kick.”
This is because they are both unable to provide a kick for themselves while in the dream. As you watch the movie, the kick must be provided in most cases, from an outside source of a person beind one level above them in the dreams and reality. Arthur kicks Cobb out of the first dream in the opening of the film, and then Yusuf “kicks” them out crashing the van as he is one level up, Arthur kicks them up again in the elevator, and so forth. A death in the dream is the only way to wake yourself up.

“The totem Cobb uses is actually Mal’s, which should not be able to indicate anything about Cobb’s reality.”
It should not only if he does not touch it. This fact is repeated throughout the film that no other individual should know the balance of your object. Because Cobb lost his wife he wanted to still share something with her and the choice of her totem as his own is an ovbious one to cling to as they shared dreams together.

“At the end of the first meeting between Cobb and Miles, Miles tells Cobb to come back to reality.”
He is told this by his father as Cobb seems delusional about being able to pull off inception and be back with his children-potentially not because he is dreaming as in your assumption.

“In Greek mythology, Ariadne leads Theseus out of the labyrinth with a red fleece thread. In Inception, dressed in red, Ariadne attempts to free cobb of his guilt and his dreams.”
In the movie, Ariadne was the only one who seemed to understand Cobb and she did help lead him out of the dreams. She is the Architect behind all of the dreams and hence the labyrinth creator; only she has the ability to lead cobb and any of the characters out-which she does with the telling of short cuts and the like.

“The real inception is to plant the idea in Cobb’s subconscious that none of this is real, much like Cobb has done to Mal.”
This statement would lead us, under your reasoning, that Ariadne led Cobb further into a dream within a dream with a dream…if he was so deep-why would she help lead him another 4 layers down? To the van, the hotel, the snow level, and finally in the tall building? This would surely be leading him further into limbo which would not be wise under your previous argument.

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