Thursday, 6 October 2011

Postmodernism: Film Review on Inception (2010)

FIG.1: Inception Poster
Director:  Christopher Nolan
Producer: Christopher Nolan
Year: 2010
Cast: Leonardo Di Caprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy.

Other than the high point  of Christopher Nolan's career, which took about 11 years to develop, Inception(2010) is probably named as the most ingenious movie of the decade which explores deep areas of psychology, philosophy, the mysterious world of dreams and the layers of the reality, the conscious and the subconscious. The film received wide critical acclaim and was praised for its originality by numerous film critics. Its complexity may take multiple viewing to understand it but it is highly character and story driven which  makes the viewer gaze on the screen not necessarily for its visual effects but more for the theme that makes the film move on. "The film is nearly bewildering in its depiction of life-like dreams states, dreams within dreams, and dreams within dreams, within dreams [...] This not only leads to some intriguing ideas regarding the nature of subconscious and its relativity to any other given state of consciousness, but it also leads into mind twisting imagery, such as a city literally folding in on itself and a fight that takes place in a hotel hallway."  (Ring. 2011:98-99)
Di Caprio as the protagonist, plays the role of Dom Cobb, an Extractor who is hired to invade illegally into his target minds, while they are asleep, meaning into their dreams, and dig out valuable information. But Cobb wanted to move one step further-he aimed to achieve what is called Inception by planting ideas into minds. 

FIG.2: Action Scene
As human beings, we spent a an enormous amount of time in our dreams (subconscious) which reflects our everyday life and makes us who we are. We create dreams by putting together aspects of our daily life, so if someone invades into our subconscious it will automatically have an effect on ourselves. So it is vital that we discover who we are. The subconscious needs to be listen to, as it’s part of yourself. If you reject parts of yourself then they will rise up and oppose you. The lead character Cobb, retains a messed up relationship with his wife in his unconscious, in other words his dreams, where the thoughts of her keep her alive. But he became so emotionally attached to her that she cropped out into dream invasion crime scenes whenever she wasn’t needed. Negotiation with yourself is essential in order to have a healthy mental life. Hovering between the conscious and the unconscious, Cobb's mentality was beginning to deprive. As Socrates mentioned: "The only way up, is down"-meaning that unexamined life is not worth living and self knowledge is the way to wisdom.
FIG.3: The experience of mise en abyme
One great element about the film was that the unconscious was represented a lot bigger than the conscious world and that the unconscious was was taking note of what was going on in the outside world. Cobb was hovering in these two different worlds quite often so he needed some sort of sign to help him define the two worlds. He used a spinning top as an objective way of knowing whether he was in a dream or not.( FIG.4). On the last scene, we see the spinning top spinning but the film never shows us if it stopped or not. This ambiguous ending leaves us with two interpretations: One that the whole film was a dream and nothing happened in reality and the other that Cobb was stuck in limbo after he fulfilled his dream of meeting up with his children, which means it kept on spinning.
An other interesting scene that involves the subject of postmodernism is the visual experience Ariadne, one of the main characters, got when she was placed between two mirrors and had the illusion of being placed into infinity.(FIG.3) This is called Mise en Abyme, a process of representation within representation which the conscious produces. In the journey of discovering who we are we look deeper into ourselves and reach deeper layers of conciousness. Cobb was experiencing various levels of unconsciousness in his job as a dream thief, the experience of his image being placed with an image and so on, represented his state he was being in. Cobb could be experiencing: "The Mise En Abyme is less a device and more a process of thought (which may be transported into any medium) and this process originates in, while exercising the intensities of self-conciousness."  (Minissale.2009:49
FIG.4: Di Caprio in his 'reality check' with a spinning top
Another subject raised in the film is religion. In the film it is suggested that God is a projection, a superior and powerful intelligence that sits below our conscious, meaning the unconscious, and seems to be with us and answering us questions when we ask it. It provides wisdom, and everything that God does in the outside world, in the illusion of religion, is what the unconscious does. So when you explore yourself, you gain a good degree of self knowledge and consequently gain this superior mind to your side.
In conclusion, Inception is  an amazing experience, a film full of action, romance, sci fi and studies our minds in depth. It is a pastiche of various genres but still works, which is what made it so popular. All in all it is something that needs to be experienced more than once.


Ring, Robert C. (2011) SciFi Movie Freak. FW Media: USA
Minissale, Gregory(2009)Framing Conciousness in Art: trancultural perspectives.Editions Rodopi: New York

List of Illustrations

FIG.1: Inception Poster At: (accessed on 5/10/2011)
FIG.2: Action Scene At:  (accessed on 5/10/2011)
FIG.3: Mise En Abyme At: (accessed on 5/10/2011)
FIG.4: Di Caprio with his spinning top At: (accessed on 5/10/2011)


  1. your stuff ANdriana - spectacular! Character designs and all the smart tricks you came up with ( posing characters into symbols :D )
    whoa :]

  2. I hope you don't mean the characters I posted lately as influences because they are not mine XD But if you mean the head shapes and body shapes then they are mine. Thank you JJ :) I am so excited for character design. I am hoping to come come up with a good character ^^