MindHacks – The labyrinth of Inception

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by InceptionEnding

in Inception Ending

“When you have a hammer, everything can look like a nail and people have been banging the shit out of Inception. The sci-fi movie of the year has attracted numerous ‘neuroscience of Inception’ reviews despite the fact that the film has little to say about the brain and is clearly more inspired by the psychological theories of Carl Jung than by neurobiology.

It’s easy to why the movie has attracted neuroscience fans, including a brain-basedreview in this week’s Nature. It’s a science fiction film, the dream entry device presumably alters the brain, and director Christopher Nolan’s previous film Memento was carefully drawn from a detailed reading of the science of brain injury and memory loss.

While Cobb’s main objective is to get back to his children, his main challenge is to overcome his shadow that causes conflicts in his subconscious. Normally, if you wrote a sentence like that about a film you would be using a Jungian interpretation, but in the case of Inception this is also the literal state of affairs.

This is not the only psychological journey that happens in the film, as Cobb’s journey is paralleled by that of Robert Fischer, the target of the dream invaders. Fischer’s father is dying leaving both the state of the family corporation and the father-son relationship unresolved.

The situation is a representation of the Arthurian grail legend, the Fisher King. In the tale, the king responsible for protecting the Holy Grail is wounded and his kingdom decays in parallel to his damaged body. The knight Perceval learns he could heal the king and his kingdom by asking the right questions.

In Inception, Robert Fischer’s journey ends with him resolving his relationship with his wounded father and saving his ‘kingdom’ by learning that he had always wanted him to be his own man and not try and be his father – which, as we learn at the end – is at the core of his subconscious. Again, this is not an interpretation; it is the literal truth of the film.

There are lots of other subtle pointers in the film which may or may not be deliberate. Is it a co-incidence that the lead character Don Cobb, shares a name with Stanley Cobb, the person most responsible for introducing Jungian analysis to the United States? Or that Ariadne gets the job by drawing a mandala style maze, a symbol that Jung believed was a representation of the unconscious self? Or that Mal’s madness is portrayed as her subconscious breaking through into reality, in line with Jung’s definition?

Regardless of whether these are subtle hints or not, the film is Jungian at its core, and what is most interesting for me is that Nolan is deploying different theories of the mind as themes in his films. While Memento was obviously neuropsychological, Inception is clearly Jungian.”


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  2. Kranzky – Movie Science: My Theory of Inception “I loved Inception, and I’m convinced that, unlike many movies that leave questions unanswered, there exists a single correct explanation of what happened (I reckon Nolan does know the answer, and will have placed enough evidence throughout the movie to allow others to find it). Here’s my theory. I plan...
  3. Chicago Sun-Times – What the heck is ‘Inception’ about anyway? “1. The most straightforward interpretation: Saito hires Cobb and his team to plant an idea in Fischer’s mind. They succeed, and Cobb is rewarded with a trip home, where he is finally reunited with his children. He will never see his wife in his dreams again. The last scene is...
  4. Film School Rejects – The Kicker: 3 Explanations for ‘Inception’ “…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....
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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Mange November 20, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Your site has given me interesting things to talk about at many dinners now and I appreciate it. Thank you!

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Dave Mange November 20, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Your site has given me interesting things to talk about at many dinners now and I appreciate it. Thank you!


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