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Friday, July 16, 2010

Inception - The Art of A Dream

How can one describe the movie "Inception?"  Inception is one of the most highly anticipated films of the year.  I previously wrote about the film (Read Here) and the concept of Biocentrism and how it tells us space and time aren't objects -- they're the mind's tools for putting everything together.

According to its producer's press release, Inception is described as:

"In a world where technology exists to enter the human mind through dream invasion, a single idea within one's mind can be the most dangerous weapon or the most valuable asset."
I say therein lies just the beginning of what is a brilliant piece of film combining stunning visual imagery with an imaginative plot which continues to evolve throughout the film. At its simplest, Inception is a story of what would happen if different individuals could share in the same dream experience. What would it be like to live in someone else's dream world?

We all know that in dreams virtually anything can happen. We can fly. We can be in places we have been in the past and places that exist only in our dreams. And it is through that concept, that anything can happen in a dream, that the film's visual effects reign supreme!

Much has been written of the film's special effects and computer generated images, and they don't fail to impress. In fact, it is perhaps one of the best uses of modern technology on film yet. Usually, modern visual effects have an unreal quality, which is why they usually don’t work. However, in Inception, they are part of the very expressive dream logic.

Not stopping simply with the compelling visual effects, Inception also incorporates beautiful art direction and impeccable wardrobe to complete the perfection of the visual imagery. As always the musical score by Hans Zimmer is mesmerizing and adds a heart-pounding drama.  "Slick" does not even begin to scratch the scope of genius that is displayed - perfectly tailored custom suits, perfectly starched collars and cuff links - Cartier's and Rolex's - private jets - actors whose faces have perfect symmetry.  It is all part of the presentation to illustrate the deeply held visual veneer of life - societal yearnings of artful, sophisticated materialism - even within our dreams.   It is what I refer to as the "depth of shallowness."  The complexity of that which we refer to as merely being shallow.

Where Inception really shines is with the subtexts of its plot line, the concept of what is reality. It is how you think about life in a metaphysical way. For example, who is to say that the dreams you had last night are any less real than the "reality" of when you woke up. In which state are we really conscious? What is subconscious? Who is to say which is which?

In Inception, Leonardo DiCaprio's character says that "when you are in a dream you don't realize that it is a dream. It is only when you 'wake' that you realize that things were 'off' and different than reality." And it is through this axiom, that when we are in that "subconscious state" we don't realize that it is a dream, that Inception's plot transforms. Within the "dream" it is real, everything that happens is just as real as our "conscious" state.

The endless maze of life. The puzzle in the brain. The complexity of the thought and where it begins and ends. It doesn't! Can you ever really think of where you begin in a dream? Where the story starts? No you can't. You start in the middle of it already happening. Don't all dreams end before you find out the ending? As vast as is the universe are the hallways of our brain. If you think it, you have lived it.

Layered upon this concept of multiple-realities, Inception adds another interesting twist, a dream within a dream. Following from the axiom that our dream is a reality, Inception asks what if we could add a dream to our dream state. Inception then becomes a brilliant multi-level chess game; a James Bond adventure for the mind in the new millennium. It’s so mentally challenging, half the time that I was on the edge of my seat but I wasn’t sure why. Most summer extravaganzas are mindless. Inception is mind-full.

It is within the dream within a dream that Inception introduces the concept of the 4th dimension - time. In real time we may dream for only 20 minutes, but within the dream it may seem like hours. And with Inception the dream within a dream is not mere hours but days or months, so that in our "real" time of 20 minutes, our dream within a dream has experienced a complete year of time, further complicating the question of what "reality" is.

It is the incorporation of "string-theory," the developing theory in particle physics which attempts to reconcile quantum mechanics and general relativity, that takes Inception to its fullest. In Inception, Leonardo's character experiences a life-time of events with someone in the span of mere seconds in his awakened state and raises the question of what would happen if we become trapped within that "reality." What if we choose to stay within that particular reality and not want to go back to the other realities?

String-theory proposes the possibility that we are "stuck" in a 3+1 dimensional (i.e. three spatial dimensions plus the time dimension) subspace of the full universe. So is our dream state the true "reality" or is it the state when we are within this fixed 3+1 dimensionality (our "awake" state)?

If the universe is eternal and extends into infinity, then why could we not have an infinite number of realities? And what then really is time?

Think of Inception as a painting by one of the Great-Masters - it is the creation of visually intriguing scene from the painter's mind, much like a dream scene.  It is the celebration of the colors, the images and the complexity of the whole which draws us in and allows us to become part of the painter's world.  Inception is such a work.

Rex Reed disagrees.  Rex Reed called the picture an "assault on rational coherence" that "is the kind of pretentious perplexity in which one or two reels could be mischievously transposed, or even projected backward, and nobody would know the difference."   I think Rex Reed in his own pretension tries vainly to stay relevant and I am not certain in which reality he lives.

Fascinating concepts brought to our 3+1 reality by Inception.   It is well worth seeing and experiencing.


  1. I saw the film this morning. It was mind blowing. This is a very astute review. I will be seeing this film a second time.

  2. Great review. Makes me want to see it.

  3. I'll definitely see his film. You should be a movie reviewer or publicist.

  4. so partical physics supports dream theory. kewl!

  5. It sounds very interesting. I need to see this and then read your review again.

  6. I saw the film last night, and while I found it a little confusing to keep up with the layers of dreams, I was happy to take the ride with director and actors. It was beautifully done and very entertaining. I feel it needs to be seen more than one time to fully understand everything, and after reading your thoughtful and thorough review, I have more information to help me do that. great job.

  7. I agree with Nicki. Great review.

  8. I have had to see the film three times now for work related screenings. I like it more each time. I love this review you wrote.


  9. I just saw the film. It is like a roller coaster that i want to ride again and again.
    Doug D

  10. Now I know why I like to sleep so much. The dream world has far fewer boundaries. Dream on.

  11. So, if so much of life is a visual experience, how does a person who was born blind dream?


  12. awesome review!

  13. i want to see this movie really bad now

  14. Thank you for this "mind full" review" I look forward to seeing this movie.

  15. I am continually amazed by the amount of information available on this subject. What you presented was well researched and well worded in order to get your stand on this across to all your readers.