I wouldn’t consider myself a movie buff, but certainly I appreciate movies that are thoughtful that include a well written script, directed with some expertise and actors that don’t come off as placed there merely for their namesake or their well chiseled face and abs or voluptuous chest and sensual lips. I’m even more endeared to the movie that even remotely attempts to critique metaculture. And Inception certainly falls in that category.
Inception has become one of those defining moment movies–for me at least. Why? Because it brought to the fore some of the foundational Freudian notions we have about our psyche like a sewer bubbling up with raw excess from the last storm. Perhaps, however, this movie just happened for me at a critical juncture of having overheard a documentary my mother was watching about how Freudian knowledge so handily dominated the socio-economic and political thought process of the 20th century. That is to say it is second nature engage in thoughts about the unconscious mind and to talk about repression. And certainly this untamed nature of the Id versus the super-ego with the ego in the middle acting as a buffer between the two.
Certainly, in the levels required in the movie of which the need to perform inception drew upon the nature of the subconscious mind and the Id at play. The warning being that the deeper you go (“a dream within a dream within a dream”) the more unpredictable it becomes and that one risks getting caught in a state of limbo because of the sheer time elapsed while there (eg. Three minutes while sleep could effectively translate into a 50 year time span depending on how deep one had been in the subconscious of the mind). We saw Cobb’s wife Mal as the supreme example of repression and the unique ability to keep memories stored on top of one another with the deepest ones stored in the basement of our minds.
As far as the conscious versus subconscious (or unconscious if you will) mind, I felt that the movie took the opportunity to address the idea of placing ideas in ones mind and the level of embeddedness needed to do so. Perhaps its a stretch to see it as such, but I definitely feel that it is something that we see everyday. We know for a fact that propaganda works. Due to the infamous Joseph Goebbels from Nazi Germany the word “propaganda” is almost a dirty word. Nonetheless the blitz campaign style of getting out information is a type of propaganda that embeds itself in the subconscious and ultimately makes one think that a certain idea is there own. Cobb’s main goal in the movie was to go deep enough in the mind of Robert Fischer so that he in turn would think that dissolving his father’s company was his idea and not a implanted one.
However, the most intriguing part of the movie to me was this notion of the “totem.” The “totem” acted as an object, apparently a hand held one that allowed the owner to tell whether they were in a dream or reality. Seriously, watching the movie that blew my mind. Had we really gotten to a part in our life where one could no longer distinguish the difference between dream, or fantasy and reality? Particularly given the last frame of the movie right before the credits, I think this was certainly a major drive of the movie.
This division between that which is real and that which is unreal was pushed when in the scene with the introduction of the chemist. The assembling team went downstairs where there were several people were heavily sedated all having uninterrupted dreams. To which Eames said “Who would do this to themselves?” or something to that effect, questioning the rationale behind someone purposely inducing the dream state and questioning what he perceived to be their reality. To which the older and sage black man replied “Who are you to say what reality is?” That’s nothing more than the age old statement “Perception is reality.”
This movie isn’t the first that brings up the idea of a real world versus an alternate one, but certainly in the technological age this concept of virtual reality hits closer and closer to home. Preeminent among these movies is still The Matrix trilogy, however the Matrix goes through great lengths to show how starkly different the real world is from some virtual reality. But, I think Inception does a good job of displaying just how easily it is to vacillate between what is real and what is not. Or rather, how easy it has become to replace the real with the fantasy.
Is it technology?
Flat out, the answer for me is yes.
Prior to everyone having an internet connection, in order to obtain research information one had to schlep down to a library or a university, obtain privilege to access the books and actually thumb through the stacks and read information, copy it down in bibliographic form and then submit it. The printed word meant that someone had verified the information enough to publish it! Now, any yahoo with an internet connection and a notion can publish God-knows-what about any subject, any time, any place about any person without general recourse.
It’s easy to replace the real with fantasy.
Pornography went through the roof with internet porn sites. Back in the day you had to go down to an adult book store and actually buy something to fulfill your fantasy. And the actual physical requirement of getting up and going down to the adult bookstore was enough of a deterrent to many persons to not do it. But with the untold number of sex sites and even the free site of Xtube, you can have free porn at your finger tips. Seeing pornography for the first time was almost a rites of passage for pre-teens even as late as the 90s because you could count on your hand the number of times that you had seen someone’s Playboy or Penthouse magazine. But even for me, by the time I got to 8th grade, our schools had computers and sometime in high school we got an internet connection and I lost count. And it was a substitution of real for some virtual encounter that at the end of the day didn’t exist. In fact it never existed.
It’s easy to replace the real with fantasy.
To my bloggers and readers of blogs, we both know that at times comment sections can get entirely out of hand, but its easy to say, or rather type, stuff while sitting behind the relative comfort of a computer screen. Often times we say things that we would never say in person. This issue has gotten so out of hand with teens on various networking sites that it’s known as cyberbullying now and we see PSA about it on TV now. But, this is where the one’s sitting behind computer screens saying mean and nasty comments on people’s FB walls, or Twitter timelines or nasty comments in the comment sections of blogs have allowed themselves to construct a reality where only they can live in and exist.
This was what Cobb understood in the movie, but his wife did not.
What a sad day it is for humanity if we can no longer tell the difference between a dream and fantasy world that we created just for us and no longer can determine what reality is. Personally, I think that humans have an innate sense of what reality is. We don’t need a “totem” to help us tell the difference between a dream state and the real living world. Reality is continuous; it does not have the herky-jerky moments that dreams do. Dreams are disjointed and they have a fuzzy beginning, a surer middle and they definitely have an end when you decide to wake up.
Dreams differ from reality because you decide to wake up from the dream. Yes, the dream/fantasy state is probably the result of repressed issues that you have yet to fully deal with mixed with some unrestricted emotions (the Id) that all swirl together in the midnight hour like ships caught in a maelstrom at sea, but it’s all not real. No matter how real it feels, that said reality is only a reality in which you, the dreamer can exist.
It is the task of the dreamer to make their dream a reality. Fie upon those who decide to draw others into their fantasy world however. I personally think it is the despicable person who has no qualms about encouraging others in their delusions. Ultimately, reality will still set in and the moral right will prevail. Or so we hope. It’s a hard task of humanity determine this course. Being one who is generally against metanarratives dominating the conventional wisdom of the day (just think Tea Baggers and this neo-Conservative movement), I don’t want to squash those who dare to dream of a brighter and better future for humanity. It is from these deep-seated motivations that one can shift and make the dream a reality–if only we decide to wake up. And sometimes we need a kick from an outside source just to do that not unless the sedative in which we have ingested is so strong that it overpowers our innate ability to keep from falling.
The last scene before the credits requires us to ask the true existential question about us. Is this really real or is it just a dream. As far as the movie is concerned, I do believe that it is reality, but still we’re left pondering that question in the audiences mind: is it all dream?
But then again, perception is indeed reality.
Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL