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LEO’S FANTASTIC DREAM DURING FAMILY BEACH DAY – NOLAN STRIKES AGAIN!
A Nolan film is never what it appears to be. There’s always a straightforward plotline, but buried within 5 layers of complexity is a completely diffently story he’s telling us. Like an unsolved Rubik’s cube, a person might twist it and turn it hoping that there might be an actual solution to the whole puzzle – and in a Nolan film, there always, ALWAYS, is a definite solution. The answer of “leaving it to your imagination” is the simple answer, and the Rubik’s equivalent of solving one side. Many can be happy with that accomplishment, enjoy the puzzle, put it down and never think about it again. But there are those of us who can’t let it go. We have to keep twisting and turning the problem in our mind. Because, no matter what, we have the agonizing belief that the entire thing can be solved… and in Inception’s case, there is most definitely a solution.
Nolan is that clever, and not that cruel to leave us hanging infinitely.
Nolan caters to the intellectual elite who can strip back the main story, dig past the brilliant cinematic misdirection and find out what is Nolan exactly trying to tell us?
HERE’S THE ANSWER (after all of that premilinary buildup)
The spinning totem at the end is part of Nolan’s classic misdirection. The totem is the seed of doubt that Nolan plants in our mind, forcing us to wonder that “the movie we’re watching isn’t real.” The truth is that at the end Leo is still asleep, but just about to wake up. He has been asleep on the beach. When the totem stop’s he’ll be kicked into reality and back with his family. The only “real” moments in the film are in the first few seconds of footage. Leo is at the beach with his wife and kids, who are building a sand castle. Leo has fallen asleep too close to shoreline, and is briefly awakened by a wave crashing upon him. In his waking vision, he sees his children from behind, but is too sleepy to awake. He falls back asleep, and the wonderful, bewildering, funtastically complicated dream begins. His dream has one singular mission – return to your children.
In the main plotline of the film, Nolan demonstrates how a small seed planted in a dream can have gigantic effects in shaping a life. The demonstration that he’s planted in this film and left us fellow geniuses to figure out is the opposite: how dramatic the effects of the real world can have on our dreams. It is the fleeting, sleepy glance of his children that form the motive of the dream. It is the waves crashing upon him that provides much of the environment of the dream. Water being “washed over” is prevalent throughout the dream world:
- Leo splashes into a bathtub and emerges, just like a wave of water at the beach.
- The city on the first level of the dream is drenched in water. The van splashes into the river
- The bar on the second level of the dream suddenly erupts into storm.
- The freezing cold nature of the himalayas… a place you might find yourself in a dream if you were wet and cold in real lifem leading to a wave of freezing water (avalanche). Immediately after the avalache, one of the characters cracks the joke “geez couldn’t he have dreamed he was at a beach?” Nolan’s brilliant sense of human shines again!
- Leo wakes on the fourth (and fith) levels at the beach.
Add to this that the very top floor in the elevator of his “dream prison” is a sunny day at the beach with his family. This is the highest level of the dream – the level that is closest to reality.
In reality Leo was asleep at the beach with his family. Though he wanted to be with his children he also wanted to stay asleep – hence the struggle over reality and the dreamworld in his dream. Each wave crashing upon him drew him deeper into sleep, producing a stranger and stranger dream, with stanger and stranger representations of each wave in the dream.
The really fun nature of the film is that the logic all makes sense in the dreams, because it’s “dream logic” that we’ve all experienced. But this logic can not work in the real world. For example, the “dream machine” that enables sharing of dreams itself is a piece of fantasy. The machine is deliberately simplistic – with simple wristbands and a big rubber button in the middle… something you might find in a dream – mighty in conept but not fully realized in the imagination. Even if such technology existed in the real world, your group would enter the first dream together, but within that dream the machine is not real so it could not then plunge your whole party into a second shared dream. The sedatives in the first dream are not real, so they couldn’t induce sleep strong enough to start the next dreams. However, this planning and logic seems rock solid in your dreams while they occur.
There is so, so much more detail and wonder in this film but I couldn’t proceed without first determining simply which scenes were and which scenes weren’t real, if any.
This is all that I’ve figured out so far after three viewings in two days. I’d love to read everyone else’s reaction to this. What’s I’d really love is if Mr. Nolan wrote me back to tell me if I’m right or wrong!!!
at the very end, the totem starts to wobble? In previous dream scenes, it spun with nary a wobble and kept spinning perfectly, but in the very last scene, there's a definite wobble and looks like it might topple. That's why I thought the final scene was the real world.
Blastr has an excellent graphic explaining the levels within Inception, and who goes where:
"When the totem stop’s he’ll be kicked into reality and back with his family."
that's not what the film told us. The film told us that in a dream, the top will not stop spinning. In the real world, it will stop spinning and topple over. We saw it happen in Leo's hotel room, and I think, due to the wobblies, it was about to happen at the very end.
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