Presentation on theme: "Actually, it didnt bother me that much that Inception didnt win best picture. But the reason it didnt win, I believe, is because no one in the Academy."— Presentation transcript:
Actually, it didnt bother me that much that Inception didnt win best picture. But the reason it didnt win, I believe, is because no one in the Academy truly understood the movieit went right over their heads. So my attempt to explain why it should have won is really an attempt to explain the movieto help you understand what Inception was about, what happened in it, and how philosophy can help one understand it.
Inception, and the act of incepting itself, is a metaphor for film making. The role of each member of the dream team parallels roles of a movie-making team. – Cobbdirector – Cobb, who orchestrates everything, is the director. – Ariadnescreenwriter – Ariadne, who designs the dreams, is the screenwriter. – Saitoproduction company – Saito, who bankrolls the whole thing, is the production company. – Arthur producer – Arthur, who organizes and sets everything up, is the producer. – Eames actor – Eames, who pretends to be Peter Browning and the Sexy Blonde, is the actor. – Yusuf special effects – Yusuf, who has the technical savvy to enable them to produce the dreams, is the special effects expert. Fischeraudience – Robert Fischer, the mark, is the audience.
…that every part of the soundtrack is based on a tempo-altered part of an Edith Piaf song.
In fact, you may think inception is impossiblethat you cant implant ideas into others mindsbut that is what movies do best. – Inception implanted into you the idea that reality may be a dream. But these are not even close to the most significant things the Academy missed.
On the surface, the movie is a great action film with cool special effects and a fairly clever cliffhanger ending. Unraveling the movie would seem to simply require discovering the answer to this question: Did the top fall? – Although fun, this is not entirely novelso it didnt win. The first step in understanding why Inception should have won best picture, and thus understanding the movie itself, lies in discovering why the answer to that questionDid the top fall?doesnt really matter. Even if the top falls, Cobb could be still dreamingin fact, he probably is.
You are never supposed to let anyone else touch your totem because they might figure out how it workshow it is weighted or how it is supposed to behave in the real world. If they do, the totem will not be able to tell you whether or not you are in their dream.
Arthurs totem is a loaded die. If Ariadne touched Arthurs die in the read world, she would know how it is weighted and thus on which number it always falls in the real world. Consequently, if she does touch it, Arthurs totem could never assure him that he is not in one of Ariadnes dreamsfor she could dream that his die falls just as she knows it does in the real world. This is why Arthur refuses to let Ariadne touch his totem.
Ariadne refuses to let Cobb touch her totem This is also why Ariadne refuses to let Cobb touch her totem when he asks to see it. Recall, Cobb is pleased when she refuses. So, youre learning? Most importantly, this is why a totem can only tell you that you are, as Arthur tells us, not in someone elses dream. So, even if the top did fall at the end of the movie, Cobb could still be in his own dream. Why? Because he could dream that it fell; he knows how it works! Since you know how it behaves in the real world, it can behave that way in your dream. So, even if the top did fall at the end of the movie, Cobb could still be in his own dream. Why? Because he could dream that it fell; he knows how it works!
The problem gets worse: Cobb is not the only one who knows how his totem works. When Ariadne calls totems an elegant solution for keeping track of reality and asks Cobb if it was his idea, he replies, No... it was Mals actually... this one was hers. She would spin it in the dream [and] it would never topple. Just spin and spin. He told Ariadne how it works! It can no longer tell him whether he is in one of her dreams (or one of the Fischer inception dreams that she designed).
Worse yet, as that same line reveals, the top was once Malsso she knows how it works too. Sure, Cobb thinks she is dead, but he only thinks that because she threw herself from a windowa window in a world that Cobb couldnt prove was real. Mal might have been right; they could have still been dreaming. So, even if the top did fall at the end of the movie, Cobb could still be in Ariadnes or Mals dream.
Think about how the other totems work. Only Arthur knows on what number his die will rest in the real world. Only Ariadne knows how her metal bishop is weighted, in the real world. Only Eames knows how Mombasa is misspelled on his poker chip in the real world. So if he sees it spelled correctly he knows that he is in someone elses dream. – (Actually, I know how it is misspelled; the chip was on display at Comic-Con. Mombasa has an extra sMombassa.) Totems work because only their owner knows how they actually behave in the real world, and other dreamers will assume that they behave as such objects usually do in the real world dice are random, metal bishops are solid, and real 100 shilling poker chips from the Mombasa District Casino dont have an extra s.
How do tops behave in the real world? – If Cobb spun a top in your dream, how would you assume it would behave? Wouldnt it fall? Shouldnt he expect it to fall? Its behavior should be unique in the real world, but ordinary in a dreamlike Arthurs die, Ariadnes bishop, and Eames poker chip. Instead, its behavior in the real world is ordinary (it falls) and in a dream its unique (it spins continuously). The top falling tells us nothing. If it is going to be reliable as a dream detector, no one can know how Cobbs totem works in the real world. Yet everyone knows that tops fall in the real world. So even if Cobbs top falls at the end, he could still be in anyones dream.
This is not an oversight and not only is his totem unreliable, but Cobb himself is unreliable as a narrator of the movie. As Arthur tells us, …youve noticed how much time Cobb spends doing thing he says never to do. We see two versions of some events that he himself recounts. – E.g., one version of him and Mal on the train tracks when they are young and another when they are old. He admits to trying to change his memories. He tells us how stuff works, but we cant be sure any of it is accurate.
Whats clever about the ending is not the final cut. Whats clever is the magic trick. Nolan misdirects us, making us pay attention to the wrong thingthe top to try to find a clue about whether Cobb made it home. While you are watching the top, something happens that reveals that Cobb is probably still dreaming. But to understand why, some background is needed.
Subconscious elements work their way through dreams. The train from Limbo appears in Yusufs kidnap dream. The random string of numbers Fischer arbitrarily gives as the combination to his fathers safe is 528491. – That is also the combination to both safes in Eames snow fortress dream and the fake telephone number Eames gives Fischer (as the sexy blonde) in Arthurs hotel dream. – The room numbers in the hotel are 528 and 491. Mal and Cobbs anniversary suite number is 3502. – The train is # 3502. – The taxi they hail is # 2053.
At both the beginning and ending of the film, we see that Saito dreams of a mansion on the oceana house, as it is described in the shooting script, on a cliff. – In fact, this is where Saito spent at least 40 years in Limbo. When Cobb returns to his children at the end of the film and asks them what they have been doing, they say they are building a house on the cliff. (Turn the captions on!) It seems that Cobb is in Saitos dream, and an element of Saitos subconscious is peeking through!
When Ariadne and Fischer committed suicide in Limbo, they just went one dream layer upback to Eames snow fortress dream. Wouldnt Saito have done the same after killing himself in Limbogone back up to Eames snow fortress dreamonly to find that dream level abandoned? – The rest of the team was back to Yusufs kidnap dream before Cobb and Saito had awoken. Might Saito have remade that dream level based on his own expectations finding himself in the planeand Cobb entered it after he committed suicide in Limbo? After all, Saito would have shot himself first.
What is clever about the ending is not the fact that it is a clever cliffhanger. It is clever because it tricked you into thinking that it was a clever cliffhanger, when it isnt a cliff hanger at all! You should have already suspected that he was still dreaming and realized that the top is a red herring! Nolan misdirected you! At first you were confused, then you thought you had it figured out…but when you start to think about it, everything you thought you had figured out, you actually misunderstood! Are you convinced it was better than The Kings Speech yet? We have only scratched the surface!
If, when you exit Limbo, you just go one layer uplike Ariadne and Fischer where did Mal and Cobb go after they were struck by the train in Limbo? We see them awake on an apartment floor, hooked up to a PASIV device. But is that reality? Cobb tells Ariadne that he and Mal slipped into Limbo while exploring the concept of a dream within a dream. They were in a multilayered dream and he pushed them too deep. Wouldnt they have simply awoken from Limbo, one layer upin the deepest layer of the multileveled dream that led them to Limbo? If so, Mal was right. They were still dreaming. The real world was not really real at all. The entire movie was a dream, from beginning to end! There are many clues that suggest exactly this.
The chase scene in Mombasa, for example, has many dream- like qualities. -The overhead shots establish that Mombasa is a mazejust like one of Ariadnes designed dreams Agents (projections?) inexplicably pop up around every corner. The walls of buildings literally close in around Cobbjust like in dreams.
Need more? Eames is a dream forger, appearing as others in dreams and magically lifting Fischers wallet in Arthurs Hotel Dream as the sexy blonde. – Watch closely; he cant have actually lifted it. Yet in the real world Eames forges casino chips and also magically lifts Fischers passport (again, watch closely).
Consider where Mal sits as she threatens suicide: in the window of another hotel room across from their suite. If she had climbed out their window, she would be on the same side of the building as Cobb. Her inexplicably being in the window of another hotel room is exactly the kind of thing that happens in a dream.
When Cobb speaks to his father-in-law Miles about Mals death and getting home to his children, Miles specifically tells him to Come back to reality.
The song the dreamers use to herald the end of a dream is Edith Piafs original recording of Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (No, I Regret Nothing.) – When the song is done, the dream is over. – That recording is 2 minutes and 28 seconds. Inception is, exactly, 2 hours and 28 minutes. (Its timed down to the second; watch the counter on your Blu-ray player!) Could it be, just like with shared dreaming, when the movie is done, the dream is over?
Of course, there are two sides to every coin. There are also clues that suggest that the real world is indeed real. Lets look at the two most important ones.
Cobbs children, at the end of the film, are older, wearing different clothes, and even played by different actors.
Cobbs wedding ring could be his real totem. – He never wears it in the real world (except in flashbacks). – This includes the end of the movie.
The fact is, pointing to clues in the movie is never going to settle the issue. The movie is ambiguousNolan has even admitted that he intentionally made it so. Nothing will definitively prove whether or not the entire movie, or even the ending, is a dream. – The dream clues could merely indicate that Cobb is losing his grip on reality. – The not a dream clues could merely reflect Cobbs assumption that he is not dreaming. underdetermined The answer to the question is, what philosophers would call, underdetermined.
Any scientific data can be accounted for by many possible hypotheses. Scientists prefer the most adequate onethe one that is: – Most fruitful (predicts correctly) – Most simple (has fewest assumptions) – Most wide scoping (explains the most) – Most conservative (does not contradict current knowledge)
Philosophers, when presented with ambiguous statements and arguments, employ the principle of charity. – When its unclear what someone means, you choose the most charitable interpretationthe one that entails the speaker is not an idiot or misinformed. Which interpretation of Inception makes it a better movie? The Full dream interpretation!
There are a number of things that make Inception kind of a bad movie if the real world is, in fact, real. charactersone dimensional – All the characters in the real world (besides Cobb) are one dimensional. editingsloppy – The editing in the real world is kind of sloppyquick jumps within scenes without transitions. Saito swoop cheesy – Having Saito swoop in, out of nowhere, in Mombasa to rescue Cobb with the excuse I have to protect my investmentisnt that a bit cheesy? Yes, unless all of these things are subtle clues that Cobb is, in fact, dreaming the entire movie. projections – Might the characters be one dimensional because they are just projections of Cobbs subconscious? Cobb is jumping – Is the editing sloppy because Cobb is jumping from place to place and time to time in the real worldjust like we know he does when he is dreaming? subtle clue – And yes, Saitos line is cheesybut as a subtle clue that Cobb is, in fact, dreaming, its brilliant!
Some might object Some might object by arguing that the all dream interpretation makes Inception a worse movie. – After all, why care about a movie if nothing in it really happened? Its fiction But theres the rubits a movie! Nothing in it really happened anyway. Its fiction. – Why would anyone care less about fictional dream events than fictional real events? Besides, as a dream, Inception can be a metaphorical story metaphorical story about a disturbed mind or even a demonstration of how our own minds are disturbed. Might that be more interesting?
Of course you might think that the movie is all a dream only if director Christopher Nolan wanted it to be all a dream. do authorial intentions But do authorial intentions dictate meaning dictate meaning? Can Inception only be rightly interpreted in a way that coheres with the authors intentions? Or might a work of art belong to everyone once it is released to the public?
In conclusion, either the Academy didnt understand Inception or they didnt interpret it charitably. If they had done either, they would have realized that it was better than a movie about a stuttering English monarch.
Even though it didnt win best picture, Inception still wins Platos Academy Award for Philosophical depth. (The award looks like Rodin's The Thinker.) Why? Because of the plethora of philosophical questions that it raises, all of which are covered in my book: Inception and Philosophy: Because Its Never Just a Dream (Wiley- Blackwell) Inception and Philosophy: Because Its Never Just a Dream (Wiley- Blackwell)
If we cant tell whether Cobb is dreaming, can we tell whether we are dreaming…right now? How do we deal with the angst that arises when we realize that we cant know for sure? Perhaps we can just have faith that we are not dreaming, but when (if ever) are leaps of faith rational? Can you be held morally responsible for what you do in a dream? Are real paradoxeslike real Penrose stepspossible? Is inception really possible? (Isnt that what, for example, movies and advertisements do?) What is time and can it really slow down in dreams? Would you really want to live in Limbo (utopia)? And many more…