Monday, May 16, 2011

Blog #48 - Interpretations of Inception

I am glad that we watched Inception together as a class because our discussions afterwards confirmed my initial feelings about the movie when I saw it last summer - that this was a movie that could be like The Matrix and be both entertaining and work on several different levels of philosophical interpretation. I'm going to toss out a bunch of questions for you to consider, and please pick two to answer before Tuesday's class.

Questions to choose from (pick two):

1. Near the end, Mal (or her projection) in limbo makes a pretty good case that Cobb is lost in his own dream and can't tell one reality from another. Do you think that this is a plausible alternative?  Why or why not? 

2. This blog from outlines six different interpretations of the film (and also five plot holes - see next question). Read it for more details on each of the six interpretations, but I'll just list each of them below. We have talked about some of them in class.

** If you decide to tackle more than one interpretation of Inception, this will count as your two questions.

a. All of Inception is a dream - are we ever really shown reality? Whose dream is it, anyway?

b. Everything after the test sedation is a dream - after Yusuf's chemical test, do we see Cobb spin his totem and see it fall properly?

c. Saito is the architect and pulls a Mr. Charles gambit on Cobb - instead of a job audition like Saito said, maybe Saito is trying to extract something from Cobb?

d. Ariadne is Cobb's therapist trying to help him get over Mal's death - This is an interesting and plausible take on the movie - found here

e. We do see reality in the movie (first train ride in Japan, Paris, Mombasa), but Cobb is in a dream at the end - could this explain why the totem never falls at the end of the movie? This interpretation apparently hinges on the idea that the children don't appear to have aged. Plus, we don't see how Saito and Cobb get out of limbo.

f. What we see is what we get - that we are presented with a reality at the beginning of the movie (train ride in Japan) and that Cobb is back in the U.S. at the end of the movie.

3. What do you think were the movie's biggest plot holes? We had discussed a few, and I wasn't satisfied with a couple of the answers - which sounded like filmmakers' excuses instead of decent rationales. Provide one or two examples (you might want to read the blog link mentioned at the beginning of question #2 to help you out if you forgot) and explain how these holes do or don't affect the movie.

4. Evil genius theory - we had discussed this in class and it didn't get much traction, but I wonder if it's possible to show that either Saito, Mal or Cobb could be the evil genius manipulating everything we're seeing. Or could it be the film maker Christopher Nolan?

5. Is Inception really just an extended metaphor for films? In a previous blog from last semester, I posted a link from Wired, and I traced it back to its source, so I'll quote the author's take on Nolan's film:
"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."

Here's a link to the whole post:

My question is, do you buy this interpretation of the movie? Why or why not? What kind of implication does it have for us as film watchers - this shared "dream space" of watching a movie together? Did Christopher Nolan just perform inception on all of us because it's now an idea, like a parasite that won't go away? :)

6. Comparing the dream/reality rules in Inception and (if you've seen) The Matrix, why do you think they're vastly different? How does Descartes' dualistic theory about the mind and body being separated work for one movie but not the other?

7. When Saito asks Cobb to take a leap of faith, he's asking Cobb to believe in him and Saito's ability to fix Cobb's problems. In some ways, Saito almost acts like a deity in this movie because through him, almost everything is engineered to work. He is the Prime Mover or causal agent - Cobb and his team are sent on their mission because they failed to extract vital info from Saito for Cobol Engineering. They are tasked to help destroy Saito's biggest competitor (Fischer), and when it's all said and done, Saito returns from limbo after many many years (remember, Mal and Cobb didn't look like they had aged when the train ran them over after just 50 yrs together, but Saito was wrinkled and withered) and supposedly sweeps away Cobb's murder warrant. What is Saito, really? Is he just a very powerful man or is he something else? Why?

8. Those of you with AP Psych experience, help us out on some of the brain / dream logistics. The way that they explain the dream rules in the movie sound plausible, but what is realistic w/ regards to dreams? Shared dream space isn't possible, is it? Any other psych insights would be greatly appreciated here.

9. Arthur mentioned it briefly on how the technology for the shared dreaming was created - by the military so that soldiers could fight/kill each other without truly maiming themselves in reality. Plus, the character played by Michael Caine, Mal's father, seems to have been the one who taught Cobb how to do what he could do. In many ways, I sense the hints of a "prequel," not a sequel for this movie. Unlike the Matrix (which probably should have been left alone instead of having 2 sequels), it might be interesting to explore how the technology for this type of thing was developed and most likely stolen. If it takes 10 years in between movies like it did with Toy Story or Tron, then so be it. What kinds of possibilities do you see in a prequel or, even if you don't agree with me, a sequel?

Some additional points and counterpoints to theories in the movie -

Blog #48 will be due Tuesday, 5/17. 150 words for each answer, 300 words total.


  1. 4. I think Mal was the evil genius of the film. Not in the typical way, I think she was a kind of unintentional genius. I’m sure when she died, killed herself, what have you; she wasn’t aiming to haunt Cobb for the rest of his life. In reality that’s exactly what she accomplished. She altered the way the dream sequences worked without even being there, like when the train came through the city, or the kids showed up in to hotel lobby. She’s able to ruin the mission without even being present. Or in the opposite sense when she’s in the 3rd level of the dream and drops down to shoot Fischer. Cobb can’t shoot her because he loved her, but with that bought time she was able to kill Fischer first. It kind of makes me wonder whether it’s Mal, or really Cobb who’s his own "evil genius" down falls.

    9. I could definitely see a prequel happening rather than a sequel. I think it would be interesting to go back to the past and see how mal/cobbs father got involved in the dream processes. You could see was he in military? Was he used as one of the subjects to be extracted from? What kind of things went wrong in the process of getting the techniques right, or if anyone was permanently stuck in limbo because of it. I think they could potentially take it all the way up to where Cobb gets his tickets to leave and sees his children for the last time, or maybe up to where he and mal are married, or when they’re born. Did the father stop once the children were present? Or keep going and that’s why they’re involved in the first place. There are just a lot of already available possibilities and it could help clear up the story more.

    -Lauren N.

  2. 4. I think that Saito might be the evil genius behind everything we’ve seen in Inception. The person who perpetrates the crime is usually the one you least assume would do anything. From the very start of the film, Saito seems to be controlling everything. Cobb’s extraction attempt fails because Saito is able to see through his deception, leaving Cobb with few other options then to run. Suddenly, Saito finds Cobb and offers him an extremely generous offer- an unthinkable proposal. For years, or perhaps just months, Cobb hasn’t been able to return to the US due to suspicion of murder. Now with Saito’s help, Dom would be able to skirt around the law (and not just any law— murder!) and live in the US again. Only a man with God-like resources could grant such a thing. Only an evil genius could dream (not a pun) up such a plan. Once Cobb’s mission is complete, he is able to return home… or does he?

    2. e. The last scene of movie, in which Cobb reunites with his children, is a dream. If we look close enough at his home as well as his children, they all share something in common: they look exactly the same! Dreams come from memories. Most of time, we simply base something off of those memories. Cobb’s dream is a mere projection of his memories. He still trapped in limbo, however impossible it may seem. He’s accepted his fate of remaining in limbo, I concur. Instead of building skyscrapers and growing old with Mal, he instead projects his memories and fantasizes about what it’d be like to home again. Think back to when Ariadne and Cobb shared a dream. Cobb stores Mal, as well as his memories, in his mind and keeps them trapped. It seems as though he’s finally let them out.

    Fred Ayres.

  3. Inception blog
    2. E)
    Although this take is not the most creative, I think there are some parts that are definitely reality in the film. The first train ride in Japan, the scene in Mombasa, the plane ride from Japan to the States, I think all of that is reality, which the characters enter the dreams from. I think the end scene with Cobb spinning the top and seeing it wobble means he is back in reality, because that is exactly what happens in the real world. As far as it goes for seeing cobb and saito getting out of limbo, I think that it is implied that they killed each other/themselves/cobb killed them both so they could wake up and get out of the state of limbo. I just think this isn’t shown because it would be kind of gruesome. When the whole team plus Fischer wake up on the plane, I think that is totally real.
    I agree that if another inception movie is made, it should be a prequel. The dream technology in the movie is very very cool, but it is never explained how it was developed or how people were trained to use it. I feel some cool things that could be explored in a prequel are;
    The Development of the technology. Maybe there were some failed versions of the technology used to simulate combat, but it ended up killing the users. Maybe the technology was being used by old people to re live their pasts. Maybe it was used by detectives to extract info or confessions from criminals
    The training of Cobb. It’s never explained how Cobb and Arthur and Eames learn how to perform these feats and tricks while in the dreams. It would be interesting to see how they all learned; maybe the man who Cobb talks to who introduces him to Adrianne is the mastermind behind the dreams.

    Kyle A. "offically Inceptioned" Gray

  4. 5/16/11
    Wickersham 2nd hr
    2b) in my opinion, this is the most plausible interpretation of the endings in Inception. I think so because I know for a fact that the beginning of the movie IS reality (since he spins the totem and it falls down), but the ending is a little unclear, with some very big, possibly cleverly and purposely put plot twists. For example, the most obvious point supporting this is that fact that Cobb’s totem was never seen stopping for itself (it good interrupted every time), and this according the rules, means that Cobb is still dreaming. A second reason I think the main part of the movie is a dream is because the children never really seem to age (although we don’t really know how long he’s been gone, we can assume it’s been a while given his desperation and the parents attitudes towards Cobb. They literally look exactly the same and the clothes didn’t seem to change either. One last reason I like this interpretation of the movie is because another one of Cobb’s rules is that you don’t remember how you got to a dream, and in limbo with Saito, Cobb magically leaves without ever seeing the journey back.
    9. I really liked the movie, so honestly I don’t know if I would like a prequel or a sequel, since they almost always seem to mess something up. But it would be really intriguing and a lot more eye-catching (in my eyes) if they were to make a prequel like the X-Men Wolverine or X-Men First Class movies. It would be awesome if we figured out how Cobb and all his partners, and ultimately Cobb’s father, learned the secrets of the dreams and why they decided to use it the way they do. The director left a good possibility to a prequel when he mentioned some military involvement of the techniques of dreaming. Who was the founder in the military? How did they learn about it? Why isn’t the business/ ability kept secret? They have left a blank slate to help themselves accomplish this task of creating hopefully another spectacular movie.

  5. For question 4, I think that Mal could be the evil genius. Mal was Cobb’s projection that invaded the dreams throughout the movie. She interrupted their plan that was set for the dream. In their first attempt at Saito’s dream, she ruins their plan by telling Saito about the plan and they get caught. Cobb felt guilt from Mal’s death and this caused her to come into the dreams. She had a lot of power over Cobb’s conscious. She was evil because Cobb couldn’t kill her because she’s his wife and that made her more powerful I think ultimately Mal was the evil genius because she unexpectedly came into the dreams and changed the plans that were set. She tried to manipulate Cobb into killing himself to join her and the kids. Mal made Cobb more vulnerable and that was part of her evil plan. With his vulnerability she had control over him and the outcomes of the dreams.
    For question 7, I think that Saito was only a really powerful man and not a deity. He had a lot of power because of his company, so he used it to help Cobb, if Cobb helped him. With Cobb’s help, he would gain more power and wealth within his company. In society today, power has a lot of influence and someone who has a lot of money has power and they can do things, whether legal or not and they tend not to get in trouble. Saito couldn’t have been a deity, because he would have then controlled the dreams and avoided his death and limbo. Saito wanted to destroy Fischer’s company, so he could become more powerful. With Cobb’s help, he became even more powerful. The only thing that makes me doubt Saito is thathe looked aged when Cobb met him in limbo, which keeps it a mystery.

    Riam K.

  6. 2. f) When watching the movie, it was a lot of time times hard to keep up, especially in the technical stuff about totems and dreams within a dreams and what have you. But one thing that at least I felt was clear throughout the movie was how they made the changes clear between dreaming/reality/different levels of dreams. I guess you could also say that they made this clear so that they could hide the actual secrets in the dialogues themselves too, but that wasn't the feeling I got. (I'm not the brightest star in the sky though, so who knows).
    Anyhow, my take on it is that they made it in a way so that the movie would be very open for interpretation after it was over - different turns in the movie, technical conversations, not showing some parts of the movie happen. But, that the truth is that they all along didn't intend for the ACTUAL truth to be nothing more than:

    Intro - Cobb is not dreaming.
    Middle - Everyone is dreaming around like crazy.
    Ending - Cobb is back in America and the dreaming is over.

    9. I would looooooooooooooooooooove for a prequel to happen. One of the things I love most when watching movies, is when things about the past is revealed. It gives you so much more interest for the movie, and you get more involved. Great examples of this are Lord of the Rings 1, where they show the great battle that happened 2000 years earlier and also Star Wars episode 1-3 which was released after episode 4-6. Mm mm mh! Anyways, back to the topic.
    I truly believe there will be a prequel, especially since the movie was such a success - probably 85% of the classroom had seen it.
    I think that if there is one, I think the Mal's father will play a key role. You really got the feeling that he had a major role and knowledge in the dream machine's development. Maybe he was part of the group who developed it for the military and later broke loose and showed it to his son-in-law?

    - Who knows!

    Rasmus Sundqvist

  7. Question # 1. No I do not think that this is a plausible alternative because there is always the totem which he can use to determine if he is in a dream or not. As Mal is just a projection of Cobb’s subconscious, he must still however hold doubts. I think Cobb almost wants to believe that he is wrong and Mal was right about reality being a dream, yet he knows that logically it is not a dream. I don’t understand how Cobb could even become confused in the first place when he has a totem; does he believe that at some level of dreaming the totem will be able to fall? Or maybe Cobb doesn’t care any longer whether he is in reality or not. At the end of the movie rather then wait to make sure the spinning top falls, he walks to his children and is perfectly happy whether he is dreaming or in reality
    Question # 3. As I choose to see the movie at face value, with reality being on the train, in Mombasa, and at the end when Cobb reunites with his children, I am riddled by a few major plot holes:
    1. If the dreamer's body's sense of gravity changes and it alters the gravity in their dream, why then does the van's free fall only alter Arthur's gravity in the hotel? Shouldn't the rest of the team suddenly become weightless in the snow covered mountainside?
    2. Why is Saito such an old man in limbo, whereas Cobb is still young?
    3. How does one wake up from limbo? It seems to me that all you need to do to get out of limbo is kill yourself. why is limbo such a threat? How can it ever cause someone's brain to scramble?
    4. If portions of the film are real and Saito is really a key player in the same energy industry as Fischer, shouldn't Fischer have recognized Saito?

    Michael Schwartz

  8. 2f.) Let me start off by saying I really am not a fan of Inception. I cringe when I hear people rave about its complexities and interpretations. Therefore, I believe that Inception really is a "what you see is what you get" scenario, or at least, that's how it was written. Lately, it seems to be en vogue to create open ended, mind blowing, messes of films to sell tickets; a brilliant gimmick considering the public will eat it up...never mind the fact that writers were too lazy to address the plot holes which plagued the movie....DID YOU LYKE SEE HOW MANY LEVELZ OF DREAMZ THERE WERE?! It's really depressing that we as a consumer base fall for this every time. I myself fell victim to the gimmick, only to be extremely disappointed and disgusted by the fact that the plot was literally ripped straight from another Leonardo DiCaprio film that came out earlier the same year. Shutter Island had almost an identical premise, a mentally unstable protagonist tortured by a psychotic female antagonist...constantly questioning what's real and what is fake. Take this film at face value and maybe writers will stop regurgitating plots.

    9.) However, if we continue to fall for this Hollywood gimmick, we will be plagued with another Inception...probably with some other ambiguous name like "Lamp post". They will most likely make a prequel which addresses the development of dream therapy and the sedatives that induce the dream world (they'll never tell you how they're explained scientifically). They'll also explain Cobb's first contact with dream therapy in some farfetched manner, but they'll never fully explain why (remember they don't have to). They'll elaborate on Cobb and Mal's time in limbo, but never explain how they got so far into the dream, or why they only needed one kick to wake up from that deep dream state instead of a plethora of synchronized kicks like in the multilevel dream created by Ariodne in the last sequences of the movie. In other words, the prequel will be a whole lot of nothing...but people will still spend 10 dollars to see it, probably more than once so they can craft their own interpretations of the movie while the writers laugh all the way to the prank in film history.

    p.s. this is all a dream.

    Chris R.

  9. (2b) I think that the movie is for the most part, what you see is what you get. I think that the very beginning was not a dream but it soon became one after they took the sedatives. I also think that it was a dream all throughout the rest of the movie. It was clearly stated totems were what could help you differentiate from reality and the dreams. Like we discussed in class, Cobb's totem never clearly stopped spinning. We also discussed that the kids didn't look like they had aged from the beginning which is unrealistic, plus they were in the same spot that he had left them. I also think whoever wrote the movie wanted to make us wonder if the end was real or not but i feel as though it would have stopped in the amount of time they left. I'd really like to know what the writer had to say about what was a dream and what was not.
    (2d) After hearing about the idea that ariadne could be cobb's therapist to help him overcome mal's death i think that it could be a possible interpretation of the film. Sometimes, i feel that if a person loses someone, or something close to them it could make them do crazy things or ever go crazy. So, Cobb could have been making up a way that he met her up to the point where they go into the dream world together. He could have been imagining that he was the one actually helping her. It seems as though through each level and before they were even supposed to be helping Saito, Ariadne was the one confronting Cobb on everything having to do with Mal. She was also the one in the end who had helped him with confronting her and letting go. Also, if there was a prequel it could show how he went insane after Mal's death. This all kind of ties in with the ideas in the movie of shutter island which Leo was also in, ha.

    -Natalie G.

  10. 2a. In the movie (especially the beginning), we never see how the characters arrive to a scene, like how it is in a dream. Now that I'm starting to read this interpretation, the more it makes sense to me. The big clincher is this: all throughout the movie, Ariadne and the other characters see Cobb as not being able to differentiate being in reality, or being in the dream-world. And in the movie, we can differentiate reality or dreams half the time either! So one thing is for sure, we are in Cobb's subconscious. I think the movie is about Cobb accepting his wife's "death" and finishing his grieving process. If the movie was all a dream in Cobb's mind, then that would mean that Mal had the right idea about falling off of the building and that Cobb was wrong in thinking that it took place in reality. Now, the only thing that doesn't make sense with this theory to me is the purpose of the totems. if the whole thing was a dream, then why do the totems fall in the beginning? One way to combat this could be the reasoning that since its Cobb's dream, he can choose the physics (its a stretch, I know). So, he can choose whether the totem falls or not to trick himself into believing that his dream world is "reality."

    2c. There is one problem I have with the interpretations about the different characters helping/ manipulating Cobb. Why? What makes Cobb so important that they are forced to use inception on him so he can get over his wife's death? They never included in the movie why he was so important (which is what they would need if this theory had any credibility at all), and also a reason why Saito needed to implant the idea that Cobb needed to stay in limbo. Maybe, if there is even a prequel, and also if this is what the director and writers were aiming for, we will find out why. none the less, it does make sense that Saito would be considered the puppet master throughout the whole movie.

    - Ariel M.

  11. 1. I dont believe that Mal had as of a convincing case as Cobb with regards to the issue about Cobb being lost in his dream, and not being able to tell if he is in reality or not. Cobb was the one who introduced Mal to this whole inception concept, and he said it himself that he convinced Mal that her dreams were a reality. He did this because he wanted to help her out, and they created this whole utopia lifestyle together. So, its plausible to say that he did a good job at shifting her view from reality to delusion because she was so convinced, and so set on killing herself because she thought she was dreaming- she lost her sense of reality, which was not something he had planned to happen, because she ended up killing herself in real life.

    2. I think the Director wants the viewer to believe that the "evil genius" is Cobb. The reason being is because the movie surrounds his dreams, and although Mal manipulated some of his dreams and made him believe that his kids were there, I think he put them there himself because he couldn't stop thinking about his past with Mal, and he missed his kids. I dont believe he ever really woke up, and was still fighting his inner evil genius; it never shows how him and Saito managed to get out of Limbo, so I think that the whole movie was one big dream within a dream, within a dream, and so on. Of course, the director is the true evil genius behind this film because he wants us to ponder these possible questions we have, but sadly we will never truly know.

    Becky Yuditsky

  12. 2a. I think all of inception is a dream and that we were never shown reality because at the end of movie he spins the totem. And it never stopped spinning and in the movie they said that it would never stop spinning as long as you’re in a dream. The person’s dream we are in is Cobb’s because everything that was in the dream revolved around him. The motive of the dreams, the things in the dreams, mal always being in the dreams. Everyone knew that Cobb’s “dream” was to finally be able to be with his kids again. And when we finally see him become reunited with his kids they look the same as before when he had to leave them,.
    2b. Everything after the test sedation is a dream-after Yusuf’s chemical test we do not ever see the totem fall. There is a moment where we think it might fall, but then Cobb snatches it up very quickly. But then after the spins it many times after that moment and the totem doesn’t seem to stop ever. Basically I think the whole dream started when he took the sedatives and that’s when things became unsure if it was reality or not. The kids and the entire environment that surrounded Cobb never really changed. Everything stayed the same and the big thing I think that gave it away was how his kids never changed and it had supposedly been years and years after the last time he saw them and had to leave. The dream started and ended the same way kind of.

    -Anais Woo

  13. Im not sure why but I think that as a class we have over analyzed Saito. I don’t think Saito is an evil genius or anything. I think he is just a powerful man who wants something done and will stop at nothing until the job is done. One thing that I found odd about Saito was that in the beginning of the film Cobb and his team couldn’t extract information from him, Saito seemed to have been trained against that situation. The main thing Saito was used for was his connections and his money. Towards the end of the film he became a vital member of the team while in the dreams. He and Eames go into Fishers self concussion and Saito has the reasonability of watching over Fischer while Eames went out and kicked ass. In the end Saito honors his agreement with Cobb and gets his murder charged removed.
    In my opinion the makers of inception should not make a sequel to the movie, however, I do believe that a prequel would suit this film perfectly. I think it would be very interesting to see how Cobb, Arthur, and the gang found out about inception and where they got the technology to perform it on others. Mal’s father also seems to have some experience with inception. He is the one who trained Aridane and suggested her to Cobb. I agree with what you said Mr. Wic about the technology most likely being stolen, but I think that would make for an appealing plot in a prequel. If the prequel was about how they stole the technology we as viewers may also get to see how the “team” was formed. Does Mal’s dad recruit Cobb? How and why does Cobb select Arthur as the team’s researcher.
    If there was a sequel to the film I think it would be very interesting if somehow some way the writers brought Robert Fischer back. Maybe he’ll join the cast? Kinda of like how in the Ocean’s movie when Andy Garicas character joins the team after they stole from him? Just a thought....
    Mr. Kevin C. Luyckx

  14. 2. I believe that the plot of the movie is "what you see is what you get." I can understand why people have differing opinions on the movie, seeing as it could get extremely confusing at times, but all in all if you followed closely the plot made sense. The movie starts with Cobb in Saito's dream within a dream, then Saito's first dream, and then reality. They then dig into Fischer's series of dreams and eventually come back into reality where Cobb finally goes home and sees his children. I don't understand any other possible takes on the movie's plot, seeing as I didn't catch any indications of either the whole thing being a dream of Cobbs or otherwise. All I know is that the ending was meant to be ambiguous, and it worked. However, in my opinion, I feel that the ending tried too hard to be mysterious. In all honesty, even if the totem pole stopped spinning at the end, most people still would have been just as confused. The entire movie had enough twists and turns to spin anyone's head around. I feel that the ambiguity of the movie was intended for people to feel the need to see it a second time in order to fully comprehend the plot. I know that as soon as I saw it I wanted to watch it again to find any clues of it all being a dream of Cobbs. Nevertheless, I watched it for the second time in class and my views remain consistent: what you see it what you get.

    4. I believe that Cobb was the evil genius throughout Inception. Cobb is the one who tries to extract information from Saito and then Fischer. He also planted the idea in Mal's head that made her kill herself. It is Cobb's subconscious that is constantly ruining the group's plans. It is the evil genius who sabotages another person's reality, and Cobb does this repeatedly with his intrusive subconscious. Therefor, Cobb is the obvious evil genius. One could dispute that Mal was the evil genius instead of Cobb, but then they would be forgetting that the Mal we see in the movie is actually one of Cobb's projections. Also, Saito isn't the evil genius even though he had ordered that Cobb incept Fischer's mind. If Saito were the evil genius, he would have had to have altered Fischer's reality himself. Instead, it was Cobb who did it.

    -Julia Chesbrough

  15. 7. Saito really had no skills that were required for the type of mission he presented Cobb with but since he was the one who financially supported this mission he was able to come on the mission with Cobb and the rest of the team. It’s no wonder he got the nickname, the tourist. As it turns out he is the one that gets shot and eventually falls into limbo. As far as the movie exposed to us, I believe that Saito is just a very powerful man who has a lot of money and just needs a high priority job done. One thing that does interest me about Saito is where did he get the idea to use inception to bring down his big rival company? In the world of Inception, do all affluent company owners know about using dreams to influence other companies? Have all of them had training like Fischer thought he did in his dream at the bar with Cobb? Some parts of this story are not fully explained but are not fully needed make a good story but who knows… maybe all this and more will be explained in a sequel.

    8. I started doing some research online to see if mutual dreaming could be possible and I found that there are many institutes and dream professors that have studies this. Some have tried to putting several people asleep in an isolated room with an observer and security guard. The people merely fell asleep and woke up without remembering whether they had any special experiences with the other people asleep in the room. Maybe they did have some sort of reaction with other people in the room but they didn’t remember the dream. Other researchers have tried similar experiments and have found results. People had to practice the skill of being consciously awake when the body is asleep. They were able to verify a mutual meeting within in the dream where they saw and communicated with each other. Often people have dreams about certain stuff because something happened to them earlier in the day that sparked that thought in their dream. It could be possible that all three of the participants just coincidently dreamed about each other or is that too far fetched and they did perform a mutual dream? I think that mutual dreaming is something that is very new and may have been sparked by this movie which means there’s probably not a lot more research on the subject then what I found. Furthermore, I think that more research is needed to fully determine whether shared dream space is possible.

    Tim Moore

  16. 2f.) I like to think that in the end Cobb gets back to his children. I understand all of the different theories out there but to me the one when Cobb is in reality back home makes the most sense to me. One of the reasons is that in the closing scene, Cobb’s father is there. To me he was always in reality throughout the entire movie. So the fact that he was there makes it seem like reality to me. Also, although the totem did not fall down at the end, I saw it wobbling. To me that makes it seem like it is eventually going to fall down. When we saw it spin in the dream world it looked like it was spinning perfectly. I think what we see is what we get and that to me was that cob got home safely and escaped from the dream world. In the end it was a happy ending.

    9.) I think a prequel would be a great idea for inception. Inception is one of my all-time favorite movies and I would love to see more into it. It was a great success and the film makers could definitely make some more money out of the film. There are numerous possibilities that a prequel could cover. One of them could be Cobb working with his wife Mal before she died. While they work together there could be an interesting story line, maybe one where they are working for Cobal Engineering and have an assignment to do. Another possibility is the role of Cobb’s father. Based on inception it sounded like he may have played a key role in the early stages of the new extraction/inception technology. It would be interesting to see the troubles and adventures that the technology brought.

    Bretton "BRG" Graham

  17. 8. Dreams aren’t fully understood by anyone really, not even psychologists. It seems that the film works off a Freudian, Psychoanalytic view with a lot of Freud’s terms (Projections, Unconsciousness, Repression) but doesn’t fully use them as Freud intended. A particularly curious case is Mal – we know she is dead, so there is no actual consciousness coming from her. It seems that Mal is a projection of Cobb’s own guilt (ascribing one’s own feelings to someone else) but more plausibly a repressed dissociation (split personality or persona) because she acts with more free will than just some raw feeling. This would make Cobb the evil genius because he is projecting Mal which means he wants to fail (maybe he feels like he should be punished?) I don’t believed shared dreams are possible simply because, as pointed out in class, dreams work far differently in the movie than reality such as the shifting settings, ethereal imagery, personalized meaning and understanding, etc.
    9. A prequel would only be good if there was no discontinuity with the original and if they could do more with the concept. I think that would be ridiculously hard to do since so much is already filled with so much, but it would be cool to see how the technology was leaked to the black market (this sounds like black market things), how the corporations got a hold of it, and Saito’s back story. Obviously the military rejected it because soldiers would shoot each other and feel all the pain, so it wasn’t a good training simulation. I hope something like a “reality bug” like in the Pendragon series or a mind virus like the Philip K Dick story “Upon the Dull Earth” will make an entrance or perhaps delving into the mind of some insane Hannibal Lecter type. That would be very cool.

  18. 1.) I definitely think it’s possible that Cobb is still in a dream like Mal says. This is because the movie leaves no definite answer as to where (in the dream world…) you are. For all we know, the whole movie was a dream – just like Mal explained. It makes sense like this because Cobb is chased around the whole world by the different corporations that want him – the projections that are trying to get him! But if the projections are going after him that would mean that he was the architect in the dream and someone else’s mind is attacking him. So who’s the mind that is attacking him in the “real world”? The only way this would make sense is if the dreamer was Arthur because he is in all of the scenes with Cobb. So does this mean that both Arthur and Cobb are lost? Or is there some reason why maybe Cobb was purposefully putting Arthur into a dream state…. (See question 9)

    9.) I definitely see a huge possibility for a prequel. So much different information is mentioned without going into much detail. If Mal’s father was the one that taught Cobb what he knew about extraction, then did Cobb know Mal’s father before Mal? I would like to see how the filmmaker (if he does decide to) makes a prequel – possibly clearing up some of the things we aren’t sure about. And possibly explaining some of the “holes” in the plot pertaining to the dream world and the mechanics of it. They mentioned how it began as a military operation, but did it begin in France (where Mal’s father works)? Or perhaps they will show how Arthur and Cobb became acquaintances and if Cobb really is in a dream throughout the whole movie.

    Dan Reynolds

  19. 1) I do believe that Mal’s question of whether or not Cobb was able to tell one reality from another is a valid question. One can never be sure what “reality” actually is, especially someone whose mind is so influenced by a dream world like Cobb was portrayed. Very rarely does one realize that they are dreaming. During a dream, the dream is a reality, even though that reality is temporary. Cobb was so lost in his dreams that Mal’s proposal that he really could not know which was a reality was very plausible. I believe that the only reason he did not become lost in the dreams at this point in the movie was because of the other characters, specifically Ariana. Had Cobb been alone I think he would have came to believe that these dreams were a reality and thus been trapped within the dream world with Mal.
    4) I think it is pretty clear that Mal acted as an ‘evil genius’ throughout this movie. Her soul purpose, within Cobb’s mind, was to foil the missions and keep Cobb in the dream world. Because she was a projection of Cobb’s mind, one could argue that he is the evil genius, however Mal is attacking him and the Evil Genius’ goal is to ruin the lives of others, and I do not believe that the sadism of this theory stretches to the evil genius ruining his/her own life. Mal only appeared in the movie to foil Cobb’s, and therefore the whole teams, plans. Mal knew exactly what to say and do to get to Cobb, jeopardizing his and many others’ lives. Mal did not truly care for Cobb as she claimed and thought more of french fries spilled at McDonalds than the others who were with Cobb.

    Simon Kaufmann

  20. Question #2: Interpretation b:
    It is plausible that everything after the test sedation is a dream simply because we do not see Cobb’s totem fall. Furthermore, Cobb’s children appear to be the same age as they were when Cobb left. While we do not know exactly how long Cobb has been gone for, we can infer from the context of the movie (and from the children’s caretaker’s reaction during his phone call with his kids; she said he would never come home) that he has been gone for some time. His desperateness to get home further increases the likelihood that he has been gone for a while. And another thing; we never see how Saito and Cobb escape limbo. This may be because they never left limbo.
    Question #3 Interpretation
    It is equally plausible that Ariadne is Cobb’s therapist trying to help him recover from the grief of his wife. Perhaps, Saito plotted everything for this purpose. Maybe someone paid him to hire Ariadne to help Cobb recover. Ariadne continually emphasizes Cobb’s internal struggle with his wife and his inability to let go of what happened to her. Ariadne makes him confront the issue. You could make an argument that Ariadne is just nosy and wants to know more about Cobb’s relationship with his wife and what happened to her, but perhaps she is there to guide him through the grief and to open the doors of his mind that have enclosed her. This is strongly metaphorical. Ariadne acknowledges that Cobb “can’t keep her out.” What this may mean in a larger sense is that her memory is plaguing Cobb and affecting his life.
    Krista Dudley Philosophy 2nd hour

  21. 1. I believe it is very plausible that Cobbs is lost in his own dream. Throughout the movie he struggles to separate what he know is reality (that Mal no longer is alive) and completing the goal he must finish (planting the idea in Fischers mind to break up his fathers empire). Unlike many of the other people that Cobbs works with, it seems as though Cobbs relies very strongly on his totem to interpret whether he is in a dream or not. Considering the fact that we don’t see the totem fall on its own from the bathroom scene where Saito asks Cobbs if everything is ok, it is very possible that the movie from thereafter is all part of Cobbs dream. We know that the concept of getting lost in a dream and not being able to tell reality from a dream is possible, in general, because it had happened to Mal.
    2. Generally I believe what we see is what we get. Even though the totem doesn’t fall properly after Yusuf’s tests, it does fall. From the way Cobbs explained the totem, if he were in a dream I would guess that no matter what, even if the totem is knocked over, that it would continue to spin. At the end of the film, we do not see Cobbs and Saito leave limbo or see the totem fall, but I believe that the film makers did this to make us question whether everything we saw was reality or a dream. Considering the fact that the totem began to wobble a bit right before the screen shut out leads me to believe that Cobbs had returned to reality. Another major concept that made me question whether he was in a dream or reality is the fact that his children hadn’t seemed to age when he saw them again at the end of the movie. However, we are never told how long Cobbs was out of the United States for. When he had spoken to his children on the phone they still sounded fairly young. I believe this was just another way for the filmmakers to have us questions the film. On the other hand, as I discover and realize new things about the movie, I tend to question myself more and more if what I see is what I get.

    Rina Edelson

  22. 2e. I think that the train ride in Japan is reality in the movie but It is hard to not think he is in a dream at the end. When I didn’t see Cobb and Saito get out of limbo at the end of the movie it was suspicious to me that he woke up. I think that because we never saw them get out of limbo there is the possibility that he could have gone deeper into dreaming, and the deepness is like where he began. At the end of the movie we see Cobb’s kids and it seems as if they did not age at all, but we also don’t know how long Cobb has been away from his kids. For all we know he was away from them for less than a year. If Cobb and Saito did get out of limbo, my question is how did Saito get rid of all the charges against Cobb so fast that by the time he landed he was allowed go home to his kids? The more I think about the possibilities that could be about Cobb and Saito getting out of limbo the more I cannot make up my mind to whether they are in reality or not. The director might have just chosen to not show the escape from limbo back to reality to make people think exactly what I am thinking about the entire situation right now.
    9. I think it would be really cool to see in prequel the creation of the technology they use in Inception. I think in the prequel they should show how both Mal’s father Michael Caine and Cobb got into using the technology and how Mal’s father taught Cobb how to use it. I would also like to see how they both Caine and Cobb got the technology and why they are using it for non military reasons now. I would want to know more background information about the characters from the original movie if they made a sequel because I think it would be interesting to see how the information given to the audience about the characters in the prequel influences on how the audience views them in the original movie. I think if they were to make a prequel of this movie it would have to be way in the future. This movie is so good I would hate to see in have a prequel but I think it would also be cool do have a different view of the original movie by seeing how everything led up to what the movie is now.
    Melanie E.

  23. 6.) The Matrix and Inception are entirely different on a philosophical point of view. The Matrix concerns about is our reality real, are we real or just being harvested in pods for energy and our minds have been blinded by a computer program to hide the real world from us. Inception concerns if the mind and body are different and if we are in a dream state or reality. Inception doesn’t discuss if we are being blinded by the real world and being tricked if we are really even humans or not or being controlled by some program. In the matrix the mind and body are both linked together, if you die in the matrix you die for real, so therefore the mind and body were one in the matrix. The only way to get out of the matrix is too find an escape telephone booth and take the call. In inception the way to wake up is to die in the dream, or to have a big jump in free fall or something. Inception deals more with the subconscious and dream state of the mind. The only consequence for dying under the drug would be going into limbo or waking up. The whole movie inception could have been a dream, but dying in the dream would result going into limbo or just waking up.
    7.) I didn’t watch much of Inception, only the last 1/3 of it. But Saito seems to be the prime mover. Cobb needs to get his record cleaned and in order for this he needs to wipe out Saito’s business competitor Fisher’s company. And I Cobb needs this in order to go home to his family. If it wasn’t for Saito’s deal with Cobb, there would be no movie, plot. Saito is a powerful man.

  24. The first question asks about Cobb being trapped or stuck in his own dreams while either knowing or not if they are dreams, but not certain. His wife in his dreams seems so convincing and real to him that it tricks his thinking. For example, while talking to Mal at one point in Limbo, Mal kept saying things about their children being alive and real right there where they were. She was telling Cobb to stay with her and with their children to live together like they said they were always going to. Cobb knows they arent his real children and that Mal was a projection, but it's hard for him to face. I know it was all a projection. It simply had to be because Mal jumped off of a building ledge in real life, proving her death. If her children were with her, that means they are also not real because Mal is not real. They never turn their face either in Cobb's dreams and were always in the same position on the ground looking at something. I believe Cobb was able to tell the difference between dream and reality.
    Question six asks about the comparison between dream rules and reality rules and how they could be different when talking about the films "The Matrix" and "inception". In "The Matrix" if you die in the matrix, you actually die in real life. The body is fully connected with the mind. The matrix is also one giant programmed world, in which every person is experiencing the same things. "Inception" is much different. It is a dream, so your body and mind are connected but not entirely meaning if you die in a dream you are alive in real life still. Also each dreamer's dream is unique in its own way, instead of one giant matrix. Descartes' dualistic theory applies to "Inception" more because of the gap between body and mind in that movie.

    bobby haag
    second hour

  25. 2b)
    Everything after the test sedation is a dream - after Yusuf's chemical test, do we see Cobb spin his totem and see it fall properly? Well like the question is stated, when the group goes to the chemist and seeks out a very strong tranquilizer to control the kick, Cobb tries this new sedation “thing”. To me this really made me wonder if he was still dreaming, he never really spun his totem after he woke up. But then again, there could have been a possibility that Nolan never really fitted the puzzle together, and after the movie screening didn’t watch the movie as close as his audience did. As a whole I would leave this movie as it is, with all its plot holes and gaffs. Over analyzing good movies to me makes the movie down scale for me.

    What kinds of possibilities do you see in a prequel or, even if you don't agree with me, a sequel? After watching this movie for the second time I got to see in a different point of view. By no means did I catch anything flaws the first time, but after our class discussion on numerous occasions where the totem wasn’t dropped, I just knew the movie wouldn’t be the same for me. Now, what I want to see is a prequel, not a sequel. Prequel for me will not ruin the movie series for me just like Matrix did after its first movie. So for a prequel I would like to see the stage set without Cobb. New characters would be good. Or we could build the story up to the point on where Cobb is introduced at the end of the story. Military testing is fine for the movie, but it would need to show a lot of psychological things, I think more twists and turns that inception itself.

    Nicolas Morgan

  26. 8.The science of psychology still hasn't proven that dreams can be shared simultaneously. Well psychology hasn't yet gone to the lengths that inception went to. We learn that, in a sense, dreams have the power to be shaped. Daily influences in our life shape our dreams . If we take freuds perspective, the events of a dream have an underlying meaning. If we relate these facts to the movie we see that in the future. Given that there is significant advances in technology, inception could happen. If individuals are exposed to same stimuli and emotions they can have the same dream. Now you just have to figure out how they will be in the dream together...

    1. Mal definitely has a chance of being correct about Cobb. It is obvious that Cobb has been invading dreams for a while now. It is his life just as any others job maybe for them. People can get wound up in there work, forgetting about true reality. It is possible that this happened to Cobb. We all lose track of time don't we?


  27. Marie Portes
    2nd hour

    At first, I did think it possible that Mal was the one who was in reality and Cobb was lost in a dream. However, watching the movie again I realized this could not be the case. If Mal is indeed real and not a mere projection, than she would hold the complexity and perception and perfection that Cobb love in her. Cobb himself says that this Mal who is trying to persuade him, this Mal that shows up in his dreams and haunts his subconscious; this is not the Mal he once knew. She is but a reflection, shallow and feeble of the woman he fell in love with. This proves she is simply a part of his subconscious because he is unable to recreate the intricateness and depth of his deceased wife. To me this shows Cobb is the one with a clear hold on what is reality and what is but a dream.

    This leads me to the second question I decided to tackle. Personally, I do think that ‘what we see is what we get’ and do not think that an Evil Genius is involved. However if there was, I do not think we can reasonably say Mal is the ‘Evil Genius’ (though mal in French does mean bad) and that she is in fact orchestrating this whole thing. Mal is just a projection of Cobb’s subconscious. She is not real in the sense that she is a shade of the turmoil going on in Cobb himself. If anything, it is Cobb’s subconscious that could be to blame. In my opinion, our subconscious is our subconscious for a reason; going diving into it is a bad idea, as appealing as it does sound.

    Lastly, I do think that maybe on some level this is a metaphor for films, but I don’t believe that was the whole purpose for the movie. I do however strongly believe Nolan knew what he was doing by leaving the totem spinning at the end. He wanted us, the viewer, or the dream sharers if you will, to ask ourselves is our own reality was one or if we were dreaming. He did, in a sense, give us an idea that, personally I can’t get rid of.

    “An idea. Resilient, highly contajous. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it's almost impossible to iradicate. An idea that is fully formed, fully understood. That sticks.”

  28. 5/16/11
    Wickersham 2nd hr
    2b) in my opinion, this is the most plausible interpretation of the endings in Inception. I think so because I know for a fact that the beginning of the movie IS reality (since he spins the totem and it falls down), but the ending is a little unclear, with some very big, possibly cleverly and purposely put plot twists. For example, the most obvious point supporting this is that fact that Cobb’s totem was never seen stopping for itself (it good interrupted every time), and this according the rules, means that Cobb is still dreaming. A second reason I think the main part of the movie is a dream is because the children never really seem to age (although we don’t really know how long he’s been gone, we can assume it’s been a while given his desperation and the parents attitudes towards Cobb. They literally look exactly the same and the clothes didn’t seem to change either. One last reason I like this interpretation of the movie is because another one of Cobb’s rules is that you don’t remember how you got to a dream, and in limbo with Saito, Cobb magically leaves without ever seeing the journey back.
    9. I really liked the movie, so honestly I don’t know if I would like a prequel or a sequel, since they almost always seem to mess something up. But it would be really intriguing and a lot more eye-catching (in my eyes) if they were to make a prequel like the X-Men Wolverine or X-Men First Class movies. It would be awesome if we figured out how Cobb and all his partners, and ultimately Cobb’s father, learned the secrets of the dreams and why they decided to use it the way they do. The director left a good possibility to a prequel when he mentioned some military involvement of the techniques of dreaming. Who was the founder in the military? How did they learn about it? Why isn’t the business/ ability kept secret? They have left a blank slate to help themselves accomplish this task of creating hopefully another spectacular movie.

    Braxton A.

  29. 4. I think mal is the evil genius. She has the power to mess things up for Cobb and the team without being present. She makes it hard to tell what is real and what is a dream to Cobb and us as the viewers. She unexpectedly comes into dream sequences and messes everything up. She tells Saito the plan, she shoots fischer, she makes Cobb see things related to his past to try to distract him etc. She tried to get him to kill himself with her, and making it almost imposible to live after. She is evil because she told her lawyers she feared for her life because Cobb tried to threaten her before when that didn't happen in reality.. That's just so horrible and makes me think of her as insane. Once Cobb sees Mal enter the dream in the frozen fortress level (might be wrong name,.. the snow level dream?) he knows she will shoot Fischer but he can't shoot her because he still loves her. She ends up shooting Fischer which ruins a lot of the plan. SHe distracted Cobb from doing waht he needed to do.

    9. I definately think a prequel would be interesting but it would have to be done the right way. Someone had mentioned that prequel/sequels tend to ruin things and I agree. That's why it needs to be done the right way ;) But it would be interesting to see a little bit more of Mal and Cobb's life in Limbo and how he had done inception with her. Maybe we could understand his guilt and their relationship a little bit more. I'd also like to learn more about how they discovered this ability to share dreams and everything. We could see how the military used it, develeped it etc. Also, was his father in the military? how did he go from military to teaching? What is cobb and his father's relationship like? All of these are questions that I think could be answered by a prequel.
    -Ashley Dijkstra

  30. 5. In my opinion, Inception is just an extended metaphor for films and film making. The process starts with the director having an idea, a “dream” if you will. He then uses cameras, computer-generated special effects, and paid actors to make his dream a “reality” which he can share with his/her audience. Like an actual dream, movies can often seem “real” to the audience. Even though the special effects are not real, they are computer generated, and the characters are really just paid actors. When a character dies, the audience is sad over their death, even though in reality, the actor who plays said character is still very much alive. I have seen several movies and TV shows which, to this day can make me happy or sad just by thinking about them. Some people go as far as to start identifying an actor by a character they played, like how many people look at Jeff Bridges as “The Dude” instead of as Jeff Bridges. The filmmaker is the architect of the film/dream.
    9. If there were to be a sequel, it would probably be a cross between the Hurt Locker and Inception. Mal’s father would obviously be involved in the development of dream technology for the United States Military for use as a method of training combat troops to be able to shoot another human being without thinking twice (an issue which the military has always had to deal with). Side effects of utilizing such technology would be quite obvious; many soldiers would develop post-traumatic stress disorder without ever having been in actual combat (which is why I said that the prequel would probably be a cross between the Hurt Locker and Inception). Mal’s father would obviously begin to question the morality of such technology, and so would the public. If there is going to be a prequel, it better be good.

    -Brian Mark

  31. Jeremy Kazdan
    1) I think it is quite plausable that Cobb is lost in his own dream. Throughout the movie, we see how messed up Cobb really is, how he was stuck in limbo, and how that could've killed him. Fact is, with his wife's death, with limbo, with being away from his kids, Cobb was lost in what was real and what wasn't.
    Who knows if his wife was telling the truth? Maybe Cobb's reality wasn't Mal's. And who's to say what truly is reality in the movie. There is not much difference between the dream world and the real world.

    2) e) I think this is the most plausable interpretation of the movie. I feel that reality is real in the beggining of the movie, but as it goes on, the difference between reality and the dream world is less and less obvious. We never see Cobb and Saito leave limbo for a reason, they don't leave limbo. As the movie describes limbo, it seems unlikely for someone to get out of it once, let alone twice. Cobb didn't want to leave the dream world, because the dream world was the reality he wanted to live in. The totem keeps spinning, because it is all a dream. Simple as that.


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