Monday, August 9, 2010


Dreams. We all have them. Dreams can be categorized into two categories, the conscious ones and the subconscious ones. In our lives we try our best to fufill our conscious dreams, more commonly known as ambitions. But what about our subconscious ones? How do we deal with them? I believe most of us will either take one of the 2 approaches:

1. Decode it
2. Forget about it.

Most of us would choose number 2. I would. Decoding your dreams isn't really practical. There are a million and one ways to explain what your dreams really mean. Even if you can finally understand what that dream mean on the millionth and second attempt, you might have to go through this arduous process again and again until a pattern can be drawn. Most of us would just forget about our dreams, since we will wake up with the feeling that "Hey I had an awesome dream, but I can't really recall it". However, if you were Christopher Nolan, you would choose secret option no. 3. Make a movie out of it. From the depths of his mind, Inception is born.

Dreams are precisely what Inception deals with. I will not waste any time here explaining the plot to you. You can read it up in Wikipedia. What I can share with you are some of the things I liked about Inception and the parallels between the movie and reality.

1. Dream Theory

There are quite a few things I've discovered in the movie that are fascinating. Besides the fantastic film sets, is the accurate description of how it feels like to be in a dream. Quoting Cobb (DiCaprio),

"You never know how you ended up in a dream. You just know that you're here"

I'm sure most dreamers would agree with this. Whenever we dream we always imagine ourselves to be in a certain place at a certain time, but we always do not know, and most interestingly never question how we ended up in here. All you know is that you're there. Also, it's also fascinating how you can use your conscious will to decide what actions you are going to take in your subconscious dreams. For example, if I had the ability to fly in a dream I would be able to decide how high I want to fly, and to fly in which direction. However, I never ask myself "How did I have this ability to fly in the first place?". This is something that we experience, but we have never really given much thought over this. The film brought my attention to details like the one mentioned above.

Besides that, the fact that the only way people could wake up from a dream is to either die or have that feeling of falling. This is how Cobb and his team goes back to the real world in the film. Yet another truth which we all cannot deny. How do you wake up from a dream? It's either you naturally wake up or when you suddenly wake up due to the fact that you have either died in your dream or you had the feeling as if your soul just fell right back into your body.

The film highlights certain facts that are similar to our own experiences in dreaming. Dreams are a personal thing, something which you rarely share with others. This is why Inception left a deep impression within me. It made me think "Whoa, that's like.... what happened to me. How come I never thought about this?".

2. Dream-Within-A-Dream

The movie had 5 levels of dreams in total, including limbo. I personally feel that the levels of dreams are an abstract representation of your subconscious. The whole idea of Inception is to plant an idea deep within one's mind, until it becomes a natural thought. In order to do that in the film, one has to bring the target into the deepest parts of the subconscious. Just as how the dreams, gets more and more violent and horrible with each deeper level, I believe the violence actually represents the defense mechanisms of the mind kicking in to guard the secrets of our subconscious. Let's say you have a dark secret hidden deep within you, one that you never speak of to anyone, not even your parents. Now let's say somehow wants to extract that secret from you. The closer that person gets, the more aggressive you will become.

Similarly, the first level of the dream consists of a city filled with mercenaries. The second level consists of a hotel filled with armed bodyguards. The third level consists of trained soliders. The fourth and fifth level consists of your worst nightmare. In Cobb's case, it's his wife. The deeper one ventures within his/her subconscious, the more aggressive it gets as it gets desperate in its attempts to stop you from extracting that idea within you. Psychology, I guess. The fact that the closer you are to someone's secrets the more hostile they become.

3. Inception

Another characteristic of Inception is that once an idea is planted, it grows within you. Just as how Cobb's wife died because Cobb performed inception on her, sometimes when you store certain memories or unhappy incidents in your subconscious, you may soon forget about its presence. However, that particular thought is growing secretly. You may not know it, or be aware of it, or even know that it exists until one day that thought comes back to you. Hard. It gnaws at your conscience and rips you to pieces when you attempt to deal with it. Inception is reflected in real life too, except that the inception is done by yourself.

4. The Ending

The Straits Times even had an article that discusses the ending of Inception. How the screen smash cuts to the credits just as Cobb's totem begins to wobble. I believe there is no definite ending to this. Just like the Shakespearean play "A Midsummer Night's Dream", the director is just trying to highlight the blurring of the line between dreams and reality. It's Art. Trying to figure the difference between dreams and reality will just drive you crazy. I believe there is no need to figure out what really happened to Cobb.

5. Conclusion

This film is one of the most disturbing films I have ever watched, because of the way it deals with your subconscious and messes with your mind. The whole dream-within-a-dream-within-a-movie is confusing sometimes. A word of warning: Never dwell too much on the film. Now I'm trying my best to forget some details and thoughts after I post this. The film messes with your mind. Alot. I would recommend this to KI students, and those who love, pardon the vulgarity, to be mindfucked.

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