Conception deception inception
Its plot like an architectural grid, with a mindscape in a half remembered dream, it's hard to slot 'Inception' into any genre
Sonali Ghosh Sen Delhi
The conscious mind may be compared to a fountain playing in the sun and falling back into the great subterranean pool of subconscious from which it rises. -- Sigmund Freud
Ever since the Lumière brothers screened their first movie, where a train thundered into the midst of an 1896 audience, the world of films has been a vehicle of fantastic adventures, a dreamscape on which we can let our imagination run wild. Then, it is a very clever director indeed who tests this premise to its very limit by making a movie where a dream within a dream, is set within a dream.
Ambitious in scope, ingenious in execution and completely engrossing in content, Christopher Nolan's latest movie Inception challenges its protagonists as much as it challenges the audience to discover its secrets. It's a sci-fi, heist adventure with enough shades of a Bond movie and existentialist angst thrown in, to make it a movie hard to slot into any genre.
From the opening sequence where Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) washes up on a beach somewhere on the coast of Japan, you are sucked into a mindscape that always seems to be in a "half remembered dream" as yet another character of this dreamworld Saito (Ken Watnabe) says.
The story is that of Cobb, a specialist in corporate mental espionage, who extracts secrets from his victim's subconscious, but is asked to do the opposite by billionaire Saito - he is to plant a seed of thought that will completely change his business rival Robert Fischer, Jr's (Cillian Murphy) life and business.
As Cobb and his band of not so merry men and a woman (Ellen Paige) embark on this labyrinthine adventure, the film turns more like a virtual Playstation game with different levels of difficulty, where space and time have no meaning, where architecture is moulded according to whim - cities fold into themselves, collapse and crumble, or can just be viewed upside down to test the players and the audience.
Secrets are repressed and yet revealed, where a malcontented soul in the form of Cobb's wife, aptly called Mal (Marion Cotillard) throws the spanner of a nightmare in the works by appearing just when Cobb's subconscious does not want her to, and the various facets of Cobb and his crew are revealed layer by layer, as in a dream.
The construct of the plot is like an architectural grid - precise, planned, logical. And the results are very real. So one doesn't question a gravity-defying fight, or even a slow-falling van. The special effects are meant to work their way into the narrative and not the other way round.
Moreover, in the tradition of Freud, or more recently, The Matrix, there are symbols aplenty to keep the viewer intrigued enough to come back for more. There is a loaded dice, a spinning top, and Marion Cotillard subconsciously weaving her way in as Edith Piaf to the hook tune of 'Je ne regrette rien'. Also, the song is about having no regrets, when the film's main protagonist lives a life full of regrets.
Christopher Nolan, in this dreamworld, does not forget to nod to his cinematic predecessors, be it Orson Welles's Citizen Kane, or in a snow-wrapped action sequence worthy of a Bond movie, and yes, even a train that comes hurtling towards the audience!
This is a manipulated dream ride, which at times seems too logical, too prosaic, and not fully transmuting into the surreal abstraction of the dream world (exploding glasses and gravity-defying men notwithstanding), but despite this niggling flaw, or maybe because of it, the audience remain glued to their seats throughout the ride, not wanting it to end - and when it does, to come back fully geared for a second time in the saddle.