PsychologyToday – “Inception” For the Win

by InceptionEnding

in Inception Ending

“Having just seen Inception, Christopher Nolan’s latest tour de force, I admit that I’m still processing the complexities of the film’s beautiful and terrifying subconscious dreamscapes. Overall, though, I think the movie succeeds for two reasons. Firstly, by literally taking us into the characters’ minds anddreams, it capitalizes on our ability to engage in socialcognition, most broadly defined as how we think about and perceive others. Secondly (special effects and poignant bursts of brassy music aside), the film at its core has a profound human element in the broken but compelling character of Cobb.

As we are thrust into the enigmatic dream worlds of the film’s characters, we can’t help but be on the edge of our mental seats—our brains hard at work guessing who is thinking what, and what the landscapes and events in a dream might mean for the dreamer, or “subject” as the film terms it. Later in the film, with breaths held and minds racing, we are enthralled as Cobb and his dream team (sorry, I couldn’t resist) attempt to pull off an “inception,” a targeted planting of an idea in the darkest depths of one’s subconscious.

All of these cognitive events happen seamlessly and automatically for the viewer, as our brains are superbly good at stepping into others’ minds. Many studies have shown that specific regions in our medial prefrontal cortex become active and engaged when we “mentalize,” or think about the thoughts and actions of others (See Amodio & Frith (2006) for a review). Of course, this process happens at a distance, since we do not have insider privilege to truly read and know a person’s inner thoughts.Inception invites us in to fully experience the flurry of sights, sounds, and emotions that might populate a mind.

Above all though, this film succeeds because it appeals to our shared humanity. We are presented with a troubled character, Dominic (Dom) Cobb, plagued by mental demons he must confront, even if it means losing a part of himself—a projection of his deceased wife—that he can’t stand to lose. He wants to be reunited with his family; he wants to go home. These fundamental longings of connection and belonging are intensely human and arguably form the crux of our social lives. In fact, these desires seem to fuel Cobb’s decision to take on the risky job of inception in the first place, since he’s promised that he’ll see his family again if the inception is successful.

It’s rare nowadays that a large scale hollywood blockbuster is visually engaging, psychologically gripping, and so illuminating of the human condition. Inception seems to be all of these things, and more. Feel free to disagree, but I think Christopher Nolan has produced a masterpiece that’s worthy of our attention and contemplation.”

Related posts:

  1. StillSearching – Inception “To say Inception is a layered film is a vast understatement. It is about the idea of ideas on so many levels: 1) The plot: A group of hired professionals who plant an idea into someones subconscious via shared dreaming, with the hopes that the seed of an idea–the “inception”–will grow...
  2. 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...
  3. SCI FI TV: Inception – The Alternate Viewpoint “As the film comes to its conclusion. Dom gets what he wants and settles in to live happily ever after. He resolves his issues deep in his subconscious and emerges purged of the ties that bound him into a dream world of recurring guilt and pain. Here, perhaps, is the...
  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....
  5. ScreenRant – Inception Ending Explained (and Discussion) “…At the beginning of the film, after the first job Cobb’s team tries to pull on Saito, we see Cobb sitting in his hotel room alone, spinning the top and watching it intently, gun in hand. This is a guy who is ready to blow his brains out if the...

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