ToryTattler – Inception Theory

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by InceptionEnding

in Inception Ending

“…I believe it tells us that this is Cobb’s story. He is the only multidimensional character, capable of understanding the complex layers of the human psyche. The other characters are mostly one dimensional, and play specific functions within his heroic journey.

But what exactly is Cobb’s story? What is Cobb’s journey? What is the point of it all?

In a word…Cobb’s word…CATHARSIS.

Everything in this film, from start to finish, is a dream. The whole story plays as a loop – like the staircase without beginning or end. In the movie, dreams are described this way too. Furthermore, the use of the totem points to the dream world as well. In the story, each person had his or her own totem – their own link to reality – which was only to be familiar to that person alone. Cobb, however, did not have his own totem…and therefore, did not have his own reality. Instead, he had Mal’s totem, meaning that HIS reality was actually HER reality. And since she is dead – and I do believe she is dead – he is unwilling to accept his reality, and has instead claimed her world for his own. Essentially, Cobb is consumed by his deceased wife…in the emotional, rather than in the zombie sense.

So where does the catharsis come in?

After the mission is finished; that is, after he has reconciled his feelings about Mal and rescued his father-figure (Saito) he is finally able to return his children and see their faces. But as the movie ends, we are led to believe Cobb is still dreaming because of the spinning top totem. I would argue that he is, in fact, still dreaming, and that the purpose of the entire episode is as follows:

Mal, Cobb’s wife, is dead. We don’t know how she died, but we can assume it was suicide…though perhaps not as is shown in the film. He is, of course, torn up about it. He feels responsible and guilty for what happened, and as such, he cannot bear to face his children (in the emotional sense), having in his own mind deprived them of a mother. (Note how Cobb also has no relationship with his own mother). He feels like a terrible father, and is convinced that reconciliation between a father and his children is not possible given such circumstances. However, through his Heroic Journey, Cobb undergoes a transformation. By the end of the trials, having delved deeper and deeper into his subconscious, he is finally able to forgive himself for Mal’s tragedy and he lets her go. He also reconciles with the father figure, Saito, proving to him that fathers can rebuild relationships with their children. He then awakens (from the dream within the dream) to find himself back where he wants to be: with his kids, and at peace. And while we never actually see Cobb wake up to the real world, we can infer that when he does, he will have achieved the peace within his own psyche to be a man transformed.

In short, this entire movie was a dream sequence in which a man, wrought with guilt and suffering under the burden of feeling utterly incapable as a widower-father, seeks peace with his own emotions in order to pick up the pieces and finally begin to live again.”


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  1. 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...
  2. PhyWriter – My crazy ‘Inception’ theory “…My theory about what the true story behind the film is a little out-there, but is, I think, defensible. This line of thinking started when Mike Findlay reminded me of the totem’s wobble at the end of the film. I’d forgotten the wobble. That wobble changes everything. Ok, I’m going...
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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous September 5, 2010 at 9:43 pm

This theory cannot be true for one simple reason. If you think of the scene in the hotel room where they are beginning to dive into the next level, you notice that they “plug-in” Peter Browning, the godfather character, in first. They do this because they are trying to convince the son, Robert Fischer that it is Browning’s dream. However, Browning never shows up in the next dream. Why? Because he is not real. He is a part of the dream, a piece of sub-conscience and thus has no mind to go into other dreams. Since this is so, all of the people that travel in the dreams with Cobb have to be real, not pieces of a sub-conscience. Thus the movie cannot be a dream.


Woody September 16, 2010 at 10:45 pm

You are so close! You almost have it figured out.
The entire movie, almost, is a dream. It is Cobb’s, and only Cobb’s dream. And the purpose of the dream is, as you said, a catharsis. Cobb finally forgives himself for his wife’s suicide. All of the people in Cobb’s dream are perfect strangers to him in reality. They are simply faces he sees as he boards the plane, takes his seat and falls asleep (all this before the movie begins). The movie begins as Cobb starts dreaming and he incorporates these new faces into his dream.
We do see Cobb in the real world, however. Reality begins in the last few minutes of the movie, when Cobb awakens from his dream just as the plane is landing. He is somewhat frazzled when he wakes up as the intensity of his dream leaves him slightly disoriented. Did you notice that when he woke up none of the people (faces) said anything to anyone else? They just smiled, as strangers do, as they exited the plane.
In reality Cobb would have no issues passing thru customs. He was never a wanted man. Only our perception of his paranoia made the customs scene tension filled.
The movie ends in reality as Cobb is reunited with his children.
The spinning top (totem) is the perfect ending for this movie.
The spinning top had paramount significance in Cobb’s dream. However in the real world it made absolutely no difference to Cobb whether it kept spinning or not. As a symbol for Cobb’s total catharsis he realizes that he was not responsible for his wife’s death and that in the real world what has significance to him is his love for his children.
This is one of the best movies I have ever seen!


Gabriel September 28, 2010 at 10:01 am

In fact, the mission was to rescue Cobb, he felt guilty for the death of Mal, and could not face their current reality, preferring to stay pressure in your dreams, everything was planned and architected to rescue him from limbo. The scenes in which Cobb is in the real world, in which are rare, it appears no ring, as in dreams, he appears with the alliance. Everybody’s dream Cobb, trying to help him back, notice the buildings, both in Paris and in Mombasa, show buildings, buildings designed by Cobb, after all is his world, his dream, so I came up as the train in the middle of a firefight, indeed, persecution created by the subconscious Cobb, who tries every way to prevent it from coming back. All characters have an important role in the plot, each with their skills and tasks to help you, and the most important is
Ariadne, for she is the one who can intercede and change the dream of Cobb.
In short, the final scene is real.

Sandro Kretus


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