It’s been a few days since “Inception” came out, and spoiler-friendly discussions are occurring all over the film blogosphere regarding interpretations of and theories about the movie’s plot. We posted our own conversation prompt, including discussion questions, when it opened on Friday. At the time I had no definite answer or belief in any single explanation about the ending or much of what gets us there. Since then I’ve seen “Inception” a second time, and I’m still not certain which reading I accept as either the best analysis or even a favorite possibility, though I’m especially down with the idea that for the part of Ariadne (Ellen Page), Nolan was as much influenced by the anime film “Paprika” as the Greek myth from which she’s named. She is quite inquisitive in a therapist sort of way.
Obviously this is a movie that we will be re-watching and contemplating for a long time to come. And the debate about the kids’ casting, ages and clothing will likely continue until — if ever — Nolan clarifies.
So for now I open the floor to the other blogs as we navigate the maze of “Inception” interpretations. Share your own thoughts down below:
Peter Hall at Cinematical shares six interpretations (and five plot holes), though he admits to preferring the first, that all of “Inception” is a dream:
For me it all comes down to a simple question: What is our totem? We learn very early on that the one unimpeachable way to know whether or not you’re in a dream world or the real world is to test your totem; an item whose behavior only a single individual can identify and predict. In the case of Cobb, it’s his wife’s spinning top. Arthur’s is a single loaded dice. Ariadne’s is a precisely weighted chess piece. But what is the audience’s totem?
Hal Phillips, on eponymous blog, explores the idea that Ariadne is leading an inception on Cobb. Though I proposed this theory in my Spout About post, Phillips gives a good argument for it:
Ariadne presents her dream-self to Cobb as someone who will become his confidant. Because she is a neophyte, he can trust her. Because she relies on his guidance, he is not threatened by her. Because she is a prodigy, she can swiftly “learn” everything she needs to know without contradicting the above. And she is recommended to Cobb by Cobb’s mentor and father figure; we are told later that someone’s relationship with their father informs the path to their subconscious.
Adam Rosenberg at MTV Movies Blog takes the same route:
My initial response after a second viewing was yes, the whole thing was a dream. More than that, it was all an extended psychotherapy session for Cobb’s benefit, to help him dispel his demons. Ariadne is either his therapist or a fabricated agent of the same. The strongest proof we have that the reality we’re introduced to is in fact a dream state? Cobb’s kids, who are apparently the same age in both his memories of them and his real life reunion.
The film is a metaphor for the way that Nolan as a director works, and what he’s ultimately saying is that the catharsis found in a dream is as real as the catharsis found in a movie is as real as the catharsis found in life. Inception is about making movies, and cinema is the shared dream that truly interests the director. […] In a recent red carpet interview, Leonardo DiCaprio – who was important in helping Nolan get the script to the final stages – compares the movie not to The Matrix or some other mindfuck movie but Fellini’s 8 1/2. This is probably the second most telling thing DiCaprio said during the publicity tour for the film, with the first being that he based Cobb on Nolan. 8 1/2 is totally autobiographical for Fellini, and it’s all about an Italian director trying to overcome his block and make a movie (a science fiction movie, even). It’s a film about filmmaking, and so is Inception.
Brad Brevet at Rope of Silicon has me a bit confused, which I guess is appropriate:
When Dom and Saito awake from limbo it is in fact reality, and Saito then makes a call clearing Dom’s name. From here what we see is a dream. Dom can now dream again without the dream machine and he’s dreaming of seeing his kids once again with the last memory of them he has. Perhaps it happens on the plane or is simply a dream his mind goes back to now and again, but it is a dream.
Rich Knight at Cinema Blend has Carl Jung in mind:
I think I definitely saw something of Jungian archetypes in all of the characters who interact with Leonardo DiCaprio’s, Dom Cobb, in the movie. So much so, in fact, that I actually think ::Spoiler alert:: that the entire film might actually just be Dom Cobb’s dream and that all of the main characters in it were just different segments of himself that had to concoct an elaborate mission just so he could reach some level of catharsis within himself.
Cole Abaius at Film School Rejects prefers the simple and literal interpretation, that the end is reality, aka the “waking world.” But he also accepts the ambiguity:
Like dreams and their ephemeral meanings, Inception is not something that will fit neatly into any one box or any one interpretation. This may be Christopher Nolan’s vision, but he’s given the audience a lot of toys to play with and a lot of leeway to create what they thought the film was about. Was it about letting go? Was it about the nature of reality? Was it about returning home? Was it about the fulfillment of dreams? All of the above? None of the above?
Finally, “Lost” producer Damon Lindelof, via Twitter, got all Schrödinger-like:
There is a THIRD possibility — It neither stopped… nor kept spinning. The story ended before either could happen. Discuss.