Inception, dreaming, and the waking up part.
(*This entry contains spoilers.)
An idea is like a virus.
I'm not going to argue whether or not the movie ended in reality or in a dream. I, too, like everyone else I guess, was curious about that. But then, after much thought, I realized that having to understand the film's story or having to know the answers could be the very same idea planted in my head and everybody else's head since the beginning of the film.
Think about it.
Even before one watches the film, he/she has already been injected with the idea (maybe, even subconsciously) that this film is going to split his/her brains into two. That this film is brilliant. And that this film is going to have one grappling for answers (thanks to word-of-mouth and the film's marketing efforts and the director's superb filmmaking record, by the way).
Perhaps, that is exactly Mr. Nolan's brilliant plan.
The movie's other tagline says it all: The dream is real. He wanted to bring the dreaming experience to life---to the big screen. To do that, it's just convenient that people somehow be IN a deep state of sleep (figuratively speaking).
I think that he wanted the film to emulate a dream. Something that we wouldn't be able to understand/remember upon waking up (upon finishing the movie). Doesn't that always happen when we awake from a sleep? In trying to remember what we've dreamt about, we attempt to grasp vague details of the dream, and instead of remembering the dream from beginning to end, we end up seeing only patches of the story. We try to make sense of it all. To no avail.
That's exactly what happened to us after watching 'Inception'.
We were lost in the story. Bewildered. Struck. Left in awe. We asked: What happened? Not realizing that maybe, it isn't meant to be understood, after all. Or that we were simply looking at it at the wrong angles. After all, our mind has the power to betray us, deceive us. The film somehow encourages us to think, and leaves us an inexplicable feeling of guilt when we couldn't present answers. It's like a ridicule to the human mind--the scene of the crime.
In that regard, I believe that the movie is beyond the story itself. It is beyond answers. It is beyond that simple totem that has got everyone who watched it completely hooked to the film.
To me, the totem is THE idea. It was the only piece in the film that would 'convince' us to believe that this film presents a real story. That the characters are real. And that the storyline (plot) exists.
Then again, we have been warned---an idea is like a virus. And like the most resilient parasite, the spell cast by that simple, little totem quickly spread into our subconscious, and made us feel, if not think, that what we are watching, albeit the references to dreams in the movie, is a regular movie, which however mind-blowing, should be grounded in reality.
Except that it isn't. The whole movie experience is a dream in itself. Surreal. Incongruous. Irrational.
What's more impressive to me was how the film presented a story within a story,---a dream within a dream----in the same way that the characters in the film found themselves in dreams of varying levels.
---For I am convinced that Leo's character has just been dreaming throughout the film. And when he woke up on the plane by the end of the movie, that's him waking up from the dream. And like how dreams are believed to contain symbolic representations of our waking life, the whole plot of the film meant to give us glimpses of the protagonist's fears, struggles, thoughts, beliefs, life, which we, as viewers, would never completely come to understand simply because it isn't OUR dream. We were merely spectators looking on this character's dream. And dreams have always been personal.
That could also be the reason why we will never know whether these other characters in the movie truly played important roles in his waking life or are simply brief acquaintances, from which his dream/the plot took off.
One thing's for sure: the theme of his dream is COMING HOME. And home, he made it.
For us, coming home was waking up to reality as the closing credits rolled on.
Well, it's just me talking. All the same, Nolan is a genius. And the film still baffles me. Despite this blog. :p
Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange.