Inception

My reactions to Inception were somewhat ambivalent. Like The Matrix, Existenz and Avatar it is premised on the idea of unreality, dreams in this case, as something seductive and addictive. Nonetheless, there’s something rather banal and mechanistic about the dreams in the film. Whereas Ariadne’s introduction to the dreams has her distorting and deranging the fabric of the dream city around her, the dreams that are central to the plot are rather generic (literally so, with action films and gangster heist films apparently forming the basis of the dreams within dreams). The only departures from realism in those films are mechanically attributed to the difference in the perception of time and the position of the body between the dreams (the latter being rather unusual; one is surely least aware of the body when dreaming). The action of the dreams is quite sequential; it is in point of detail, simply not especially dreamlike. Compare to Paprika where the dream sequences are laden with giant dolls and circuses and the idea of dreamer’s building a rather dreary concrete city for fifty years seems decidedly drab. Both Paprika and Inception place a Freudian stress on resolving repressed emotions (survivor’s guilt or unacknowledged sexual attraction in the former, lack of parental love or guilt in the latter), but where Paprika‘s characters are quirky and uniquely individual, Nolan’s characters suggest an interest in identity without an interest in character. His protagonists are shown introspecting but not living; in most other films Ariadne would have emerged as a love interest for Cobb, but not here. Nolan’s interest lies within the idea of a self that is increasingly mediated through virtual environments and are accordingly increasingly at risk of editing, masking and hacking; the internet and video games are more pertinent metaphors for the narrative than the dreams Nolan actually uses.

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