“Nobody will be able to look past what you’ve said,” Jonathan Nolan advised his brother Christopher Nolan about what really happens at the end of “Inception.” The spinning top smash cut that concluded the blockbuster movie is one of the more bravura moves in a summer movie in quite some time, and while the director isn’t revealing anything else about the fate of Cobb, he has recently talked about the movie and used it as a metaphor for graduates at Princeton.
“In the great tradition of these speeches, generally someone says something along the lines of ‘Chase your dreams,’ but I don’t want to tell you that because I don’t believe that, I want you to chase your reality,” Nolan said.
“I feel that over time, we started to view reality as the poor cousin to our dreams, in a sense. … I want to make the case to you that our dreams our virtual realities, these abstractions that we enjoy and surround ourselves with. They are subsets of reality,” he continued, moving into an analogy centered around “Inception.” “The way the end of that film worked, Leonardo DiCaprio‘s character Cobb, he was off with his kids, he was in his own subjective reality. He didn’t really care anymore, and that makes a statement: perhaps, all levels of reality are valid. The camera moves over the spinning top just before it appears to be wobbling, it was cut to black.”
“I skip out of the back of the theater before people catch me, and there’s a very, very strong reaction from the audience: usually a bit of a groan,” he continued. “The point is, objectively, it matters to the audience in absolute terms: even though when I’m watching, it’s fiction, a sort of virtual reality. But the question of whether that’s a dream or whether it’s real is the question I’ve been asked most about any of the films I’ve made. It matters to people because that’s the point about reality. Reality matters.”
Basically, make your reality your dreams (or something), but in the spinning top of your life, it’s not what happens the moment it topples over that counts, but what’s going on while it spins. At least that’s my interpretation.
So, no new light, particularly on the ending except perhaps it’s a lesson in zen and that chasing memories (or dreams) like Cobb might end in ruin, or asleep on an airplane stuck in layered memories. Read more at The Hollywood Reporter including Nolan’s explanation on why Princeton graduates are better than Batman.