Inception is one of those movies that’s either met with a groan or a grin – or both. The groan because – wow – multi layered dreams are confusing, or a grin because – wow – multi layered dreams are confusing.
Yes, I know I gave the same reason for both.
Really, the grin or the groan just depends on if you like staying on your intellectual toes in a thriller.
All that said, watching Inception for the first time was more a grin worthy experience than a groan inducing one. Nolan, as I’ve said before and will assert again, is a brilliant filmmaker. He weaves stories that engage both the mind and the heart, prompting one to think more deeply about the implications of the ideas he introduces in his films.
This is one of those movies I’ll have to watch over again to fully grasp all the nuances of the themes, but the greatest theme of the story, this idea of dreams vs. reality, introduces a number of implications.
Ultimately, I believe, this idea of what is a dream and what is reality prompts conversation about what is true and false in reality. Dreams are subjective to the dreamer, but reality is subject to none. It simply is what it is. Dreams are not always an accurate representation of reality, they may reveal something truthful about reality, but they themselves are not reality. The ideas conceived in the subconscious of the mind have wide implications. But as Cobb so desperately tried to convince his wife; the dream is not reality.
So that brings us to this point: the dream is not someplace we can stay.
Although dreams carry a semblance of realness to them, no matter how real they feel, they are not reality. And one cannot spend their life in a lie, no matter how true it may feel. That is ruinous, as the storyline of Cobb and his wife reveals.
The emotions of each person are subjective, but reality is objective. It is not based upon the individual, only the individual’s ideas and responses to the truth are relative to themselves.
When an idea takes root, it spreads and has the potential to redefine a person.
An idea is like a virus. Resilient. Highly contagious. And even the smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you.
Cobb and his team understand this to the utmost degree. For inception to work on their subject, they have to convince him that his ideas are grounded in reality. Even though they’re not.
It’s only when Cobb, and also Saito, allow themselves to let go of the dream that they can fully embrace the reality in front of them.
I’m not saying this was the moral of the movie, and it’s difficult to reduce stories to one conclusive moral, but Inception really made me think about the nature of truth in our culture. We have mistaken the ideas we allow to grow in our society, in ourselves, for the truth, and we’ve stopped examining reality as it really is.
So maybe it’s time for us to take a step back and ask ourselves what is the dream and what is reality.