PsychologyToday – Inception Part III: A Filmmaker Disguised As a Psychologist

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“…Ever the psychologist, Nolan loosely borrows from each of the top, contemporary theories so that he can construct a dream world that is as “real” as possible.

The contemporary theory of dreams most central to Nolan’s plot posits that dreams serve a therapeutic function. According to this theory dreams are the cognitive echoes of efforts to work out conflicting emotions, as negative experiences are dissected, re-examined, and repeatedly experienced in the service of resolving negative emotion and improving coping for future threats (Hartmann, 2006). Nolan uses this idea as the springboard for the crew’s con. In the film, Fischer is put to sleep and the crew gently guides him toward an imaginary confrontation with his distant, recently deceased father. At the end of the dream Fischer experiences (or so he thinks) a positive catharsis in which his familial relationship is clarified and resolved. He awakens, and although he has been manipulated, Fischer’s life is now brimming with the aftereffects of healthy mourning, positive affect and increased meaning.

An equally prominent theory utilized by Nolan proposes that dreams may serve as a training ground for self-preservation in which life-threatening scenarios are rehearsed in a safe and virtual environment so that, later, real-life crises are responded to in a maximally optimal and efficient manner (Hartmann, 1995). Nolan creatively flips this idea on its head. In his brave new world of subconscious infiltration, the mind is most vulnerable when asleep. As such, a cottage industry of subconscious protection has arisen, so that powerful and vulnerable figures like Fischer can receive training in real life that prepares them for life-threatening scenarios in their dreams. Unfortunately for Cobb and his team, much of the film is spent fighting off Fischer’s “resistance,” as gun-totting bodyguards serve the mental equivalent of anti-bodies fighting off a foreign infection/planted idea.

Yet another popular take on dreams, known as the activation-synthesis model of dreams, posits that dreams are simply the product of an innate attempt to make meaning out of the random neural firing of aroused brain circuits (Antrobus, 1993). Much of the film’s comedic moments revolve around this idea. For instance, when the crew enters the chemist’s dreaming mind, they must contend with a violent storm, because Dileep Rao foolishly drank a glass of wine beforehand and now has to pee.

Lastly, Nolan uses a prominent dream theory to explain how the crew members enter and exit the dream world. At any given time, each member must awaken to perform the next step in the con. This awakening process is triggered by music that is played into the specific crew member’s headphones. Such a musical trigger is in-line with the idea that the dreaming brain seeks to interpret external stimuli, as evidenced by the intrusion of real-world occurrences like a blaring television (Antrobus, 1993).

With “Inception” Nolan is imagining a future in which people can be manipulated through their dreams, while pointing to a present in which people are manipulated by movies. This is why there is a distinctly Hollywood feel to the dream sequences, as, for instance, a snowy fortress channels the James Bond films, and a gravity-defying hotel fight conjures up the “The Matrix Trilogy.” Nolan seems to be saying, we as consumers of Hollywood film, are susceptible to subconscious thievery on a more subtle, smaller scale. Movies can implant ideas into the subconscious, feed or fiddle with ideologies and treat people like puppets. By playing with perception and reminding us that he is doing so, Nolan is respecting the line between fantasy and reality, noting the power of projection and reminding us, the audience, of cinema’s sneaky influence. Such a message fosters self-awareness and insight, the primary objective of any good psychologist.”

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  1. PsychologyToday – Inception, Part II: A Psychologically “Real” Dream World “…Below are some of the major dream theories that influence “Inception’s” dream world. The dream theory most central to the plot is fittingly known as the contemporary theory of dreams. Dreams are posited to serve a therapeutic function of sorts. According to this theory dreams are thecognitive echoes of efforts...
  2. FratBrotha – My theory of Inception – SPOILER “My theory is that Cobb is never really awake but is lost from the very beginning in some sort of limbo that he has created for himself. A world that is complete utter hell because from the very beginning he is possessed by his own guilt. That guilt is projected...
  3. PsychologyToday – “Inception” For the Win “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...
  4. 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...
  5. EntertainmentBlur – Inception Explained “Half Reality, Half Dream, End Reality: These theorists believe that Inception was very straight-forward. Cobb put together a team to perform an inception on Fischer Jr. He did so because the one thing he wanted most was to be reunited with his children again, and that’s what the powerful Saito...

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

tagesgeldkonto vergleich November 19, 2010 at 3:15 am

Wow! what an idea ! What a concept ! Beautiful .. Amazing ? I usually don?t post in Blogs but your blog forced me to, amazing work.. beautiful ?


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