12/09/2016

Inception - What Dreams Look Like

Thoughts On: Inception

Cobb, a specialist in stealing secrets from people via their dreams, must implant an idea into the mind of a to-be leader of a huge corporation.


This is a good film. Is it great? Ummmm... I think not. In fact, the more you rewatch and actually think about this film, which it kind of urges you to do, the worse it gets. The great things about this film are the plotting and editing - they are truly exceptional as they keep the narrative flowing at a tremendous pace (which kind of distracts you from the constant exposition, but that's not too bad). Moreover, we have some great bits of acting, and few brilliant set pieces. However, Nolan's direction throughout isn't great as it lacks emotiveness, and is rigid in a detrimental way, in a way unlike Fincher's style, that tries to be something like Kubrick's, but ultimately falters due to the action elements that require aggressive, invigorated camera movement that Nolan doesn't capture well in the frame, let alone emotively. In other words, direction is competent but nothing exceptional. But, as said, the editing is amazing so that kind of makes up for things. However, the most prominent aspect of Inception is that it holds the Nolan trope of being complex - but in the end it's not too dense - I'm not that smart and I got it on the first watch. Nonetheless, the biggest downfall of this movie is that it's not complex enough, is that the complexity of the human mind, not as the plot of a movie but a real organic thing, has been overlooked. And it's this that what I want to talk about: essentially what Inception could have been. To do this we have to quickly go over exactly what the rules of the game are as presented by the film. Actually, before that...


Paprika. This is the far superior take on the idea of dreams present in Inception. But, I won't delve into who stole what idea, which is better - not now anyways. Paprika is, from a writer's perspective, a much better film as it essentially does all that Inception should have in terms of surrealism, consciousness, themes of sexuality, childhood such and so on. But, to get into that with Inception we still need to delve into its rules. So...

1. People can share dreams with a special dream machine thing.

2. This machine puts you in a shared space that is be designed by an architect. This space, when dreamed in, is perceived as well as created at the same time.

3. Time compounds in the dream realm. Moreover, you can dream within dreams compounding time further, but, if you go too far you can be stuck in an infinite subconsciousness - limbo.

4. You can interact with a dreamer's (host's) subconscious in this place as it is populated by their unconscious mind.

5. This realm can be escaped by riding out the time, experiencing a kick (reflexive jump to make you wake up) or by dying in your dream. However, if you are too deeply sedated, you can find yourself in limbo again.

These are the basic rules of the game, and there's a whole lot of issues here. We'll start with points 1 and 2. People sharing dreams is a very interesting idea, but how would we achieve that? I suppose you'd have to connect our brains as to host a collectively conscious experience in a realm of pure imagination, in a realm that is unfathomably entwined within the fabric of human capacity, in a place where imagination is tangible, in a place so deeply spiralled into the human mind that... fuck, I have no idea. There's a plethora of devastating issues with this. Firstly, what would the world look like with this technology? What would the state of social media be like? What would scientists know of human psychology... too many question... I just can't fathom. But, think of this one: would lie detectors have gotten any better? If they had, then Cobb would simply have to tell the truth about his wife killing herself, lawyers would be a bullshit concept and the justice system perfect. Moreover, if we knew people's minds to such a true and fundamental level, and Cobb had tapped into this network of information, wouldn't they (anyone who's got computer smarts) know his mind - have his every detail of his consciousness on some server somewhere? Wouldn't they be able to predict everything he'd do? Oh! And what the fuck about A.I?!?!?!? If we know so much about how the human mind functions to be able to manipulable imagination into a tangible, liveable space - and in something the size of a briefcase(!!!!!!!!!!!) - then what the motherfuck else would we be capable of???? We'd have to be able to create something near artificial intelligence, we'd have ability - no, the obligation to - revolutionised EVERYTHING, ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING, about the world and society.

And in that one point, I've hopefully mind fucked you and made clear that this film has many, many, many MAJOR holes. Let's take a step back though and say that this technology is possible as is, and that the ramifications of this tech in society are somehow as the films presents--with next to no effect (???). Let's then look at the idea of someone designing this space of dreaming. This is actually the biggest bullshit nonsense fuck-tard thing about the film. It's said that the dream space can be created - somehow. It's, in fact, a huge slap in the face that Nolan doesn't even think about telling or visualising how this happens. But, having turned the other cheek, we have to ask if this just is possible, then what exactly is a dream? A dream exists in the mind, not a simulated space like a computer programme. However, everything about Inception functions on these rules. What is such bullshit about this is that the dream machine under these rules of unrealistic, manufactured dreams is NO DIFFERENT from being plugged into...


... yeah, The Matrix. In this realm, we have a world designed by A.I, a reconstruction of reality within a programme, one that can be tinkered with, such and so on (forgive me for not delving into the rules of The Matrix). This is exactly what Inception sets up. There's a machine and it puts you in a confined space that an architect can screw with. There's only so many stupid rules layered over this so that Nolan didn't seem like he was ripping the concept off. And he is! The framing of this narrative and the stupid rules are just a distraction from that fact - as well as a way of making a shittier movie, one that is so confined in respect to what it could have been that it almost hurts. To understand the depths of stupidity in this film and the way we can infer that Nolan has essentially ripped off The Matrix is to look at this one shot:


What you have to ask is: how is this place bending? Well, just look at this coffee table inspired by this very scene...


We see that there are boundaries, some kind of ground that has been lifted away as to be bent - like a sheet of paper. The same thing has happened in the dream space, but Nolan cuts it out of the frame. What has either happened a few miles away from Cobb and Ariadne (P.S everyone has stupid names and just to create the bullshit D.R.E.A.M.S thing (it's fucking stupid)). What has happened a few miles away from the two is that the ground has just broken off and lifted. This would fuck a whole lot of shit up and we'd at least hear the ground shake, people screaming, things breaking--it'd be like an earthquake or something. However, it happens smoothly, implying the city folds just like the table, like a piece of paper, as if there's boundaries to the dream space. Moreover, when talking about limbo, they call it 'infinite subconsciousness' solidifying the idea that the levels above are finite, meaning there's boundaries. What this implies about the human subconsciousness is bafflingly stupid. For some reason it (subconsciousness, human imagination) is finite at some points, but infinite at others. How is this controlled, how is this expressed??? Who has the answers to this nonsense!?!?!?! Please, I need some kind of... just... something... someone...

So, with the dream space being finite when the plot needs it to be, we run into a paradox, a weird idea of how things should be perceived in this world. (And I'm not even at the point of comparing how dreams are presented in this film to how we experience them in real life yet). If an architect is interrupting a cycle of perceiving and creating spaces...


... and spaces are sometimes preset, how is the dream space not just a programme like The Matrix? Would that not be so much simpler, would that not explain so much more about what is going on behind this film? Because if the technology is there to do something to the human mind and imagination I can't even fathom, then we are at least creating virtual reality. Nobody can be dreaming, it just doesn't fit into the rules of the worlds. In a virtual reality space you have control. Dreams would be organic mind-fucking spaces. To understand why we need to tackle points 3 and 4...

3. Time compounds in the dream realm. Moreover, you can dream within dreams compounding time further, but, if you go too far you can be stuck in an infinite subconsciousness - limbo.

4. You can interact with the dreamer's (host's) subconscious in this place as it is populated by their unconscious mind.

Point 4 brings in the idea of populating these spaces with the dreamer's subconscious. However, Cobb can also populate these spaces (Mal). What's more, everyone can. They get guns and ammo, cars, clothes and other shit from nowhere. Why not just say it was loaded into the programme? Because the architect isn't giving everyone guns and so on. Just think of the scene where Eames brings out the grenade launcher saying, 'dream a little bigger, darling'.


This is the source of a whole other set of problems, but staying on track what we have done is here bend the rules of who creates what, of who is in control. When so many people have a say over what the world can be like and who can populate it, there'd be absolute anarchy. And you can't forget here that people don't have control over their subconscious. Which is why this happens...


What a real and organic dream space with this many factors would look like would be insane. The only argument against this is that maybe Cobb and Ariadne are really good at world design - and so the only ones capable of creating things - and that would be fine. But, you still fuck up everything with the 'dream bigger, darling' moment. And what's more, you are a projection of yourself in these dreams, you aren't real, so you are allowed to create some shit - and creating humans--yourself, clothes and shit--must be harder than guns. And if this isn't true then that implies that the architect is creating everyone, which really fucks everything up as all the characters would be a projection of either Cobb's or Ariadne's mind. This is a huge grey area that, if it is true, would completely change everything about the film.

Instead speculating how, let's track back to point 3, which is about time compounding. I just want to know... what the fuck!? Who came up with this!? We don't perceive time differently when we dream - even if we did, how on Earth is anyone going to scientifically quantify that!?!?!?!? Moreover, the whole thing about our brains functioning faster when we dream because we only use a fraction of them when we are awake is known BULLSHIT. Either way, we dream during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. We have around 5 REM cycles a night, meaning about 5 dreams. There is of course downtime between these cycles, also, the REM periods lengthen each time you re-enter them. What this means is that one of your last REM cycles before you wake up will be the longest and so will be the dream you remember. This gives reason why, when you don't sleep well, you don't dream much, but when you sleep deeply you have some fucked up dreams. What's even more interesting is the down time. Our brains are just shut off for vast periods of time when we are asleep - and maybe that implies what it's like to be dead.... just a grand nothingness. But, let's not get too existential. Instead, realise that we don't perceive time differently when we go to sleep or dream, our brains stop perceiving at certain points and when we do dream... ummmm... yeah, I don't dream for hours. More like seconds or minutes - at most. So, I have no idea where this time compounding bullshit came in. Next, we jump to the last point...

5. This realm can be escaped by riding out the time, experiencing a kick (reflexive jump to make you wake up) or by dying in your dream. However, if you are too deeply sedated, you can find yourself in limbo again.

Before we jump into kicks and other stupid shit, let's return to the idea of limbo and washing up on the shores of your consciousness...




I know it's a common metaphor, but does anyone else like The Neverending Story???




Pretty similar, huh? It's just an interesting thing I picked up on. Ok, back to the kicks...


This face. This is how I feel about the kicks. I won't even go into the bullshit with the truck rolling down hills and shit, I just want to ask when do kicks work? This concept distorts so much as you go deeper into dreams. They say you have to ride kicks up, but this is made out to be nonsense when you consider the idea of dying. When you die, you wake up. Firstly, why? More importantly, the logic behind dying and waking is a mental shock, is the fact that we don't know what it is to be dead and so have to wake up. I mean, this is why we never see ourselves, or feel ourselves, die in our dreams. We can only really experience and see things we have felt before. That's why feeling like your flying in a dream feels like your falling (which we've all felt) or that wind is rushing against you. You don't feel the actual Gs of what it'd be to fly, unless you're a pilot, or have an actual Iron Man suite that just says fuck you to the idea of physics. What this idea trickles down to is: pain. If we've never been stabbed and we don't know that pain, how can the brain simulate it in the dream spaces? (P.S this is a bullshit plot hole in The Matrix too with Neo spluttering up blood...



... like, what the fuck!?!?!). Anyway, push the idea of pain and simulation further and you have to ask how a whole lot of shit happens in the dream space, things like holding guns, fighting whilst floating and shit. You can't forget that these people are in a shared consciousness, and when you hold on to this fact you have to question this ridiculous moment again...


Ariadne asks about changing the physics of the world... and then just does that shit. When you dream, you cannot construct new faces, new people, you cast your dreams with the people you know or the strangers you pass in your daily travels (kinda makes you wonder about what humans who live in tiny groups (as they did millions of years ago) dream of). With this in mind, how could a college student have the capacity to just FUCK WITH THE RULES OF THE UNIVERSE??? I don't know about you, but I have no idea what would happen if you decided to just turn the gravity on our planet up or down or change its direction just a little bit. I suspect that a lot of shit would maybe fuck up, maybe things get lighter, heavier, but I can't comprehend the true physical effect on the world. What this implies is that in the finite dream space, you are confined not only to your imagination, but to a shade of reality you can comprehend. Meaning I seriously doubt a whole lot of shit that goes on in this film.

Coming back to the kicks, the result of this idea of perceiving what you know is linked to death - and that death is tantamount to a kick. What on Earth distinguishes the two!?!? This is such a confounding question I can do nothing but leave it at that. Where is the sense in these weird rules? Staying on death, we've got to come to Saito and his being shot...


... and this is where shit starts to get really fucked up. Saito is shot on level one, but is still injured on the levels below. If he is re-creating or re-projecting himself on each level, why does he keep the wound, how does he manipulate them to not be so bad? How the fuck does he die!?! If the answer is that he carries the idea that he's been shot, then... ummm... ISN'T THAT INCEPTION!?!?! Saito being made to believe he has been shot and is dying in the dream world is the huge struggle of the movie. If he could let go of that idea, not have it planted in his head, then why doesn't he just recognise he got shot in a dream and that he's not in that space anymore - that he is actually dreaming? In fact, why isn't there logic like this throughout all levels and constantly? If you know you're in a dream, if certain physics can change, then why don't they just do superhuman shit??? What's more!!! What's more is that their subconscious is there to protect them! If your mind knew that there was a way to feel better, then it would fight for that, it would manipulate the dream space, go on fight or flight mode, and figure out a way to change the world around (as is possible) to protect itself. That means that the argument for not fucking with shit because the dreamer could realise you're there is negated. When your under so much stress your mind would tell your senses to fuck itself and just stitch up its own wounds. Why wouldn't it...


... when you can just materialise guns? The stupid rules here are getting pretty tiring, aren't they? Well, hold on, we still have quite a bit to go through, and this all culminates into something very intriguing, so stick around. Staying on this image and the idea of manipulation...


... we come to this mother fucker and Eames' ability to just become him. WHAT THE FUCK!?!?!?! How does this shit fit into the rules!?!?! Remember how we were talking about stitching wounds, well, whilst Saito is bleeding to death, Eames is completely transforming his body. And staying with Saito dying. If he is really tricked by some form of inception that he is dying (which can be the only reason as to how it happens) he essentially convinces himself to die - he is tricked into inception in the easiest way. That makes you wonder about this complete shit heel...


... right? Well, we're going to come to him in a second. As we were just talking about... Eames and his dumb ass transformation. (!?!?!?!). If his body isn't actually morphing and he's just tricking other subconsciousnesses into seeing him as Browning - as this shot implies...


... then is this not, again, Inception!?! You are making other subconsciousnesses believe in an idea - but then are able to break that illusion. In fact, by the rules of the film, Eames' transformation is the start of inception as it begins to convince Fischer--and the idea actually takes!! But, how is this not effective enough,?? How can you convince people you are a different person, just as you can convince them that a dream space is reality, and not say it's true inspiration? This is such bullshit, and I'm screaming at my T.V as I have to endure this goddamn movie, that I...

Image result for head explosion gif

 Anyways, moving on...

We've touched on physics quite a bit and how it is stupid to assume you'd be able to change them. Well... how on Earth do totems work???


Their physical state shouldn't be able to change if you are not the architect of the dream space, they should in no way be tools of figuring our reality. But, reality is a huge question I think we'll come back to it later. Before that, I think we should touch on limbo again. And here's where things really open up.


Firstly, why is this place empty? If you can populate upper levels with your subconscious, why not here? I assume you wouldn't want to live a world alone, but what's more, it's not like you have a choice as to what your subconscious does. If it wants to show up, it'll show up.


If you do have control at this lower level, if there is leeway to be a 'God' then... why is the place so shit?? How could you be miserable in this place? This starts to move into the realms of the main problems with The Matrix, so if you want to get into that, follow the link. Instead, let's move onto the nature of this place, both physically and in terms of dreams. Let's say people have the capacity, in infinite subconsciousness, to be Gods, to create and do whatever they want, wouldn't you be living in a utopia where each caress of wind hits you with wave after wave of the best orgasms you ever felt, orgasms that get better with each hit? Wouldn't you change the physics of the world so you could at least fly, forget infinite and exponential orgasms, just flying??


... apparently not.

If we cut the boundaries off there... fuck, now I'm just depressed... but, let's infer that you live in an infinite dream space confined to some idea of reality, well, now you've got to compare things to the actual nature of dreams. Anyone who knows anything about psychodynamics, Freud and such could tell you that dreams aren't as simple as portrayed. Dreams are, quite possibly, our subconsciousness talking to us, working us through anxieties, feeding us hits of wish fulfillment. This means that dreams are deeply steeped in our own personal anxieties, our pasts, sexual tenancies, desires and so much more. This is in no way reflected throughout the film. And as we touched on with the stupid time rules, we don't perceive our dreams like a movie. Even if the dream machine found a way to induce and prolonged period of REM sleep to hours on end (which sounds very unlikely - even detrimental to the brain) we don't perceive fluid story lines in our dreams. I've been dreaming my whole life, as we all have, and things come at you in snippets, you jump from places, from ideas into non-sequiturs, into random places you couldn't predict. Dreams are also not very visual things. They are often entrenched in emotional communication. Some of the most poignant and powerful dreams I've ever had aren't about something happening, in fact, the imagery is secondary to the feeling I wake up with. We've all had the dreams where we wake up elated, petrified, depressed, mind-fucked. This has happened to me many times over and it has always been an internal feeling as I dream that has driven things forward - the imagery has always been secondary. This means that to communicate dreams you not only need to reference random details of a person's everyday (which always make it into dreams) but account for anxieties, past tortures, memories and then present that in a truly dream-like way (something a little like Un Chien Andalou). What's more, you have to find a way to direct this in a truly emotive way, in a think-feely, psychedelic form that few directors have ever come close to. And, yeah, Nolan is definitely not that calibre of story teller, nor director. This is where I turn to Parprika again and say that this is more like the way you'd approach the idea of dreams and character in a narrative.

Coming back to orgasms and this image really quick...


... would you fuck your subconscious? Could you really resist the urge if your subconscious looked like Marion Cotillard? I couldn't, not even if I lived a life time with her - and even if I had, knowing what the woman you love looks like at 80, growing with her to that age, and then seeing her again at 30-odd... ohhh... boners would burst. What this implies is that this elevator memory nonsense is absolute bullshit. There has to be a floor where Cobb at least walks in on the memory of the best sex he had with this woman. You cannot deny that that must be true. Where is that scene!? At that's safe option, you want to be real about things, then that basement...


... yeah, that's the button you push to get to Cobb's cum-drenched sex dungeon where he cries away the pain in his life, where he exults depressive reams, just reams after reams after reams, of sad little sperm loads over the tear-soaked and supple face of his hotter-than-the-sun wife as she gurgles and splutters, telling him she still loves him and it's not his fault, that after her pussy has been pounded raw they can go play happy families with their beloved children. Oh! It's also here where you really have to question people's abilities in these dream spaces. For some reason everyone is great fighter, a great shot. But, you can't stitch wounds? Run in orgasm inducing winds? Live in a sex dungeon with one of the sexiest women alive who loves you to pieces? Where is the imagination and the fun, Christopher Nolan!?!?

On a more serious note, I think it's time we focus in on Cobb and start to bring things toward a close. The stupidest aspect of this movie is in the way everything begins, with him performing inception on Mal. What I don't understand is, firstly, why the dream space wasn't good enough, secondly, why they grew old together...


... but when this happens...


... they are young again - and this is the moment before they go back. This moment actually happens twice...


... once when they are old, which implies Cobb's memory distorts or that someone fucked up in making this movie. But, at the same time, this may strengthen the idea that maybe you can be what you want despite physics in the dream space. After all, if you've never been old before, and you can't dream up new faces, how can you dream that you grow old with someone??? Another plot hole. But, coming back to Cobb, I think the most important thing about this period is the very fact Cobb thought he had to perform inception on his wife. Why couldn't he just blow him and his wife up as they slept?? They'd just wake up on the floor and Mal would realise how ridiculous she was being for wanting to stay. She wouldn't have the idea implanted in her that makes her believe that the world isn't real. At worst she'd be pissed at Cobb because he took her away from bliss and killed the two of them - but is she really so irrational as to not get on with her life, with her real kids having come back? Or, is Cobb too afraid to find out how she'd react? Is he too afraid to maybe lose his wife? Either way, Cobb is either hugely pussy-whipped and absolute bitch or tragically stupid.

And with any of those reasons behind why he made the awful decision to perform inception on Mal we can understand that this is a guy that is really fucked up in his head. He has some real demons. Now, keeping this in mind, there's a small fact you have to hold onto. Mal is always a projection of Cobb's when in the present. That means when she is fucking shit up, stabbing people, destroying the missions, it's actually Cobb's subconscious giving him a jab in the balls. He forces himself to fail time and time again as he's battling a screwed up and very guilty idea of what he did to his wife. These are ideas touched on by the narrative of the film, but I don't think they are expressed to their full extent. What is so wrong with this movie is that it creates so many stupid rules, pretends to explain shit, but just creates the biggest plot holes I've ever come across. To create a better movie (in terms of message) all of the espionage shit should be taken out - at least as much of as possible. The skeletons of the plot as is should be kept as to get Cobb into the dream world, but what should actual have happened once they went in is that Arthur becomes our main character...


Arthur should have set up this whole mission with a few contacts of his as an intervention for Cobb. It wouldn't even have to be a mission this elaborate. The whole process of planning it could have been skimmed over and hidden from us and Cobb so we can get into the dream with Cobb essentially being fooled to go so many levels down and break into his subconscious again to then perform inception on himself. That sounds like a much better movie, right!?! This is kind of what happened anyway!! Cobb goes down so many levels to meet and overcome Mal. This should have been the focus of the movie, a means of Cobb overcoming himself - his projection of Mal. This would have provided so much more character, it may have cut off some of the cooler moments, but they could be filled in by taking the idea of dreams and physics a little more seriously. By establishing better rules, we could have got a lot of action from the surreal nature of dreams, even from the powers Cobb and Mal could have. This wouldn't have to end in something like the last fight of Matrix Revolutions...


The fight could be architectural, it could be a surreal blend of emotions and memories and so on. But, if the whole mission was a ruse to get Cobb to perform inception on himself we'd have a much, much, much stronger emotional basis for characters and what I think could be a phenomenal film with an astounding message.

Having said all of that, there's one more huge plot hole that really fucks things up. What is inception? Cobb makes the claim that ideas are infectious and you can't get over a well placed one. But, this is bullshit. When was the last time you listening to something told to you in a dream? When was the last time an idea like that change your life? The only way you could physically ensure inception worked would be to have the dream and message not just told to you on a subconscious level, but for someone to change your actual brain structure. If you consider the technological advances of a society where this whole dream machine nonsense is possible, I'm sure neurosurgery may be capable of that. However, what's more relevant is that you can't do this in the dream space - as we're told.


We're told that you can shoot the gunners in the dream as they are just projections of a subconscious - that they don't hurt the dreamer. If they aren't destroying memory or fucking up the dreamer, then why would an idea change the way they live?? The truth is that this doesn't happen. Ideas planted don't always take, inception doesn't always work. The only way it does is if the dreamers listen to their dream and assume it is reality - they choose to believe. It's the aspect of choice that forces all questions of what inception actually is. At most it can be a subconscious suggestion characters choose to follow - something like going into therapy and accidentally having false memories implanted in your psyche. What this says about Cobb and Mal is that they are so deeply affected by the power given by the dream machines and the world they create that they decide to abandon reality. Cobb is fighting this urge, this confounding idea of reality, and that is the underlying purpose of the narrative - to have Cobb get back to his kids. And you know? That doesn't have to change.

In fact, the narrative I loosely outlined with Cobb being tricked into performing inception on himself would still have the ending of Inception as is. Cobb would perform inception on himself, be able to go home (a piece of plot that'd have to be worked in - maybe given with a bit of better world building (reference to lawyers and justice system again)). Cobb would come home cured of Mal, his self-hatred, self-destruction, cured of denying his own access to his children...


... he'd come home having performed inception on himself and be happy. But, because inception is really just a suggestion, reality would still be a question. Which means...


... we wouldn't know if the spinning top dropped - but that wouldn't matter!! - Cobb would be happy despite reality.

And there we go, that's more or less everything wrong with Inception, maybe how you'd go about fixing it, but possibly the inspiration for a whole load of your own crazy ideas. Whatever it is, thanks for reading. If you're interested in a similar talk, check out...





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