Salon – Everything you wanted to know about “Inception”

by InceptionEnding

in Inception Ending

So if it’s not about dreams, what is it about?

I’m glad you asked. The critic Glenn Kenny has posited that “Inception” is really a movie about video gaming, which certainly provides the inspiration for some of its dopier action sequences. But for me, it makes most sense as a movie about the shared dream of movies, those half-created, half-imagined worlds that are always co-creations of the filmmaker and her audience.

Consider Cobb’s advice to Ariadne about drawing from life without replicating it, which could double as a warning to a budding screenwriter too literally wed to “write what you know.” Or the notion that, in order for the incepted idea to take root in Fischer’s mind, it has to be stripped down to its emotional core, the way an actor will ground his performance by rooting it in his character’s most elemental needs. Eames uses the word “catharsis” to describe the desired result of the inception, a term that whose dramatic lineage goes back to Aristotle.

Cobb and Fischer’s parallel journeys both involve reconciling themselves with their past, coming to terms with it but also freeing themselves from it. If you read “Inception” as an analogue for filmmaking, then Fischer’s journey represents the artist breaking free from the influence of his artistic forbears, taking them apart and building something new from their component parts, and Cobb’s represents the creator freeing himself from the shackles of his own experience, gaining the ability to incorporate pieces of his personal history without being defined by it….

All right, enough waiting. Was it all a dream or not?

Here’s why it matters. If you can’t fall asleep within your own dream, then what seems to be the real world at the end of the movie must, in fact, be reality. We see Cobb dreaming his own dreams twice: First in Yusuf’s opium den, and second in the workshop when Ariadne sneaks into his dreams. If, on the other hand, Nolan only leaves one dreamer behind at each level to prevent us from getting too confused, then the jury is still out. He deliberately toys with our perceptions, repeating key phrases like “leap of faith” at all levels of reality, and filming Cobb’s flight through the streets of Mombasa from an overhead angle that makes the city look like a labyrinth — just like those his team manufactures in dreams.

Here’s why it doesn’t matter. The last shot isn’t directed at Cobb. It’s directed at us. Cobb isn’t watching the top. He spins it and leaves it behind. If this is a dream, he doesn’t want to know. The decision of whether he finally finds happiness or whether he has merely retreated once and for all into his own memories is ours to make. Nolan builds the structure, but he leaves us to fill in the details, the same way the subjects elaborate on the dreamers’ skeletal architecture. We can’t share dreams in real life, but movies bring us close. They tell us a story, or a piece of it, but the characters live on inside our heads after the lights have come up. What happens next is up to us.”

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  1. CHUD – NEVER WAKE UP: THE MEANING AND SECRET OF INCEPTION “Every single moment of Inception is a dream. I think that in a couple of years this will become the accepted reading of the film, and differing interpretations will have to be skillfully argued to be even remotely considered. The film makes this clear, and it never holds back the...
  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. 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...
  4. Slate – Five Ways of Looking at Inception “READING 1: Saito hired Cobb and co. to plant an idea in Fischer’s mind. They succeed, and in the end Cobb really does go home to his kids. READING 1A: Saito hired Cobb and co. to plant an idea in Fischer’s mind, but the ending—everything from the moment Cobb “wakes...
  5. MovieFone – ‘Inception’ Ending and Theories: What Just Happened?! “…• So if it was a dream…? If it was real, of course, then there’s not a whole lot to strain your brain over. But if that top is still spinning on some cutting room floor, then a whole new slew of questions open up. Are the other members of...

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