CHUD is getting a lot of traction for a rather pompous article on having solved Inception:
I think that in a couple of years this will become the accepted reading of the film, and differing interpretations will have to be skillfully argued to be even remotely considered.
Every single moment of Inception is a dream….The film makes this clear, and it never holds back the truth from audiences. Some find this idea to be narratively repugnant, since they think that a movie where everything is a dream is a movie without stakes, a movie where the audience is wasting their time.
Yes. Every moment of Inception is a dream, because the metatext of the movie is that movies themselves are shared dreams.
This does not mean, however, that the plot must echo this idea exactly.
I believe that Inception is a dream to the point where even the dream-sharing stuff is a dream. Dom Cobb isn’t an extractor. He can’t go into other people’s dreams. He isn’t on the run from the Cobol Corporation. At one point he tells himself this, through the voice of Mal, who is a projection of his own subconscious. She asks him how real he thinks his world is, where he’s being chased across the globe by faceless corporate goons.
Again, this is ascribing metatext to text. This is a product of the modern fanboy for everything to be explained. A dream machine can’t be real so it must be part of Cobb’s dream!
But the problem is nothing in a movie is real. Even documentaries are debatably unreal because they are stories filtered through the filmmaker.
Even the basics of the dream sharing technology is unbelievably vague, and I don’t think that’s just because Nolan wants to keep things streamlined.
OK, this is just an example of Suspension of Disbelief, and it is a critical element of all fiction. To the metatext of the film, this has everything to do with changing the dream world too much, until the projections sense something is wrong and turn on the creator… on in this case, the filmmaker.
To diminish the beauty of this concept — Inception as an allegory of the relationship between auteur and audience in filmmaking — by trying to cram it all into the constraints of the plot itself is just sad, really.1
And as much as the spinning top at the end of the movie can be used to create a plot twist of still being in Limbo with Saito or not — remember, Saito touches the top while they plan the Fischer job, so it could be forged by his subconscious — it is more a “wink” by Nolan.
"You’re an audience. You’ve been watching a movie. You all have invested your emotion, thought and time into this, and none of it is real. Or is it? With this one tiny moment, I’m going to make you think about this movie for days on end — inserting the tiniest doubt that will grow into dozens of real ideas in the real world."
As Dileep Rao said in an interview with New York Magazine about the whole movie being a dream:
The problem for me is that you’re using negative evidence to support a story that isn’t there. I don’t know what to say about a character who only exists before and after the movie. You’re talking about a character who isn’t onscreen.
I agree. I doubt Nolan spent 10 years writing a movie about a person the audience never sees.
[Edited 2010-09-30] I’ve now seen Inception twice, and as it turns out, Saito never touches the top. He sees it when they are in Mombasa, but he never holds it, meaning Saito could only forge the appearance and not the weight of the top, even if they spent time in Limbo together.
It’s also nice to note that CHUD’s blogger only saw the movie once before writing his unified theory of Inception. Truly authoritative, that. I wonder what he missed/remembered wrong.
Michael Caine also added his 2¢ on the ending in an interview with the BBC:
It’s real, because I’m never in the dream.
Lucas decided to explain what the Force was in The Phantom Menace after decades of simply letting it be simple — presumably because he thought the hardcore fans wanted it — and look how well that turned out. ↩