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Inception reception

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Mark Kermode | 11:24 UK time, Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Now that we've all had a chance to sample Leonardo Di Caprio, Tom Hardy and Ellen Page in Christopher "Batman" Nolan's Inception (and those of us who have not really should), does it not seem to you that some of it is rather more familiar than it dreams it is?

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  • Comment number 1.

    Well you'll be pleased to know that I'm off to see Inception on Thursday at the local IMAX, will report back on what I think of it then.
    Movies with dreams...Hmmmm...
    Michel Gondry's Science of Sleep where Gael Garcia Bernal escapes into his dream world with the lovely Charlotte Gainsbourg.
    Ken Russell's Altered States, although this is more hallucinatory rather than a dream state.
    Videodrome could also be considered for this theme, although again it is a hallucinatory theme., however both involve getting inside someone's head.
    Johnny Mnemonic is also a little like this which leads us to The Matrix which has a similar theme.
    ...and of course The Wizard of Oz where the whole thing is a dream!

  • Comment number 2.

    So, i've seen inception and was disappointed. Going in expecting a new bladerunner it failed to qualify to that type of film. Instead it turned out to be a huge action blockbuster with smarts. Since i am getting the feeling that it is not the movie that's wrong, but me, i am going to see the film once again in the imax on friday.
    Original dream movies i would recommend instead of inception would be abre los ojos (the original spanish vanilla sky) and cronenbergs absolutely lovely naked lunch. Was i the only who thought that when they where taking the sedatives in Inception it looked a lot like the bugpowder injection in Naked Lunch? Filled with dark humour and wonderful metaphors, it could possible be the ultimate non dating movie. Who needs a dream, within a dream, within a dream? Repeat after me: "Homosexuality is the best all-round cover an agent ever had."

  • Comment number 3.

    Total Recall - Is the whole thing a dream?

  • Comment number 4.

    Haven't seen Inception yet. Will remedy that soon.

    First movie that springs to mind is The Company of Wolves where the whole movie is predicated on a young girl experiencing disturbing dreams that take her on a journey from childhood to womanhood.

  • Comment number 5.

    Peter Ibbetson starring Gary Cooper and Anne Harding. Cooper plays an architect who is sentnced to life in prison but then lives out a romance with Harding's Mary in a dream world.

  • Comment number 6.

    I saw this movie last night with high hopes and have to say I was throughly disappointed.

    As mentioned there are many films in this genre and I don't see what was so intelligent about it. I actually thought they were trying to hard to be intelligent and as a result the film seemed rather flat and cliched ridden. You didn't need to be a rocket scientist to predict the ending.

    Aside from the visuals and good casting I don't see the fuss.

    Rather than films in the dream genre I feel a better comparision is the Matrix trilogy and Existenz. Both of which I prefer, especially Existenz which I feel deserves a great deal more praise than it received.

  • Comment number 7.

    Having been looking forward to Inception for yonks, counting down the days, avoiding any and all potential plot spoilers, unbelievably, the film actually managed to live up to my very high expectations. A Blockbuster that dares to play with big ideas - praise be! Agree with you 100 percent Mark when you say that you hope Inception is a big hit. Studio execs would then have no excuse for insisting that the only kinds of films people want to pay to watch are franchise films, endless sequels, remakes, comic book adaptations and films about CGI robots hitting each other.

    Now, on with the task in hand - and where better to start than with David Cronenberg's eXistenZ. Not stricly speaking about dreams, but eXistenZ should have been as big as The Matrix. It is interesting to note the large number of 'edge of reality' movies that came out around the end of the last millennium: The Matrix, The Truman Show, eXistenZ, The Thirteenth Floor, Dark City. A really interesting period in my view.

    As an aside, Inception is also the first film in a while that I have managed to avoid having spoiled by thick-headed marketing (I was sold on the teaser trailer). I don't know about you, but I find it really frustrating to be spoon fed the entire plot of a film before I go in, robbing me of that magical joy of discovery that comes from wathching something new. It's a STORY, you're not supposed to know everything that happens beforehand! Sorry, that's a major bug bear of mine and here seemed like the appropriate place to share it. Thanks.

  • Comment number 8.

    The Matrix is the obvious one for a team of rebels acing insdie of a dream world.

    Other exaples of films set in a dream state or an inbetween world, or somewhere where not all is as it seems.

    Beware of Spoilers....

    Mulholland Drive
    Jacob's Ladder
    Syndicate New York
    Open Your Eyes/Vanilla Sky
    Hellraiser ; Inferno

  • Comment number 9.

    What about Vanilla Sky?

    Whole second half of that film is a dream, or lucid dream as it's described in the film.

    There's also the original version Open your Eyes.

    I couldn't stop thinking about that during Inception. the whole 'dangerous subconscious thing' was very similar.

  • Comment number 10.

    Loved Inception by the way. and I was sceptical. Was really sick of listening to Nolan fan boys going on about it on IMDB and Facebook...but i was quite impressed and will go see it again

  • Comment number 11.

    eXistenZ was the first thing that cropped to mind while watching Inception. Realizing of course that eXistenZ is about virtual reality and carries some different themes, but it's the closest thing I can think of in terms of how coldly technical the dream sequences in Inception are.

    I disagree with your review, when you were talking about showing and not telling being important and that the movie was not holding the audience's hand. There was a good hour in there where I felt like I was being shown an illustrated car manual and for the good performances the actors put on, the characters were all just a lot of talking heads. A lot of the information didn't seem necessary to have ahead of time and just felt like stuff Nolan wanted to talk at us about. The Penrose stairs were nice, but for something that was used once, was it really necessary to explain it in detail ahead of time? Just a little faith wouldn't hurt. It's weird because the film was a good thirty minutes longer than it really needed to be but felt like it was rushing. There was too much "stuff" crammed in there.
    Don't get me wrong, Inception is one of the very few Nolan movies I've enjoyed. Pretty much for the same reason I liked Memento, because of the unique narrative structure. I don't mind Nolan using his resources to play a $200-million dollar game of Mouse Trap and I think it's cool that somebody actually wants to make concept-driven event films, but Nolan still gets way too hung up on his ideas to make interesting movies. Inception was pretty good, but it could have been so much better too.

    I do agree with your overall sentiment that blockbusters have been severely lacking lately. Inception is at least a start in the right direction again and on that basis deserves to be a huge hit.

    I don't know if any of that makes any sense, but I said it.

  • Comment number 12.

    One film I found that brilliantly portrayed dreams on film was The Science of Sleep. Everything from the visuals to the sound I found the most convincing of what it would really be like if you could film a dream.

  • Comment number 13.

    I know they're not movies Doc, but seeing as you mentioned The Twilight Zone, what about the excellent Life On Mars (our version!) and it's shonky follow-up, Ashes To Ashes.

  • Comment number 14.

    Oh, and when you were talking about the Twilight Zone, were you talking about It's a Good Life, where that bratty kid kept sending everybody he didn't like into limbo?

    They also remade that story into one of the segments of the feature film, I think.

  • Comment number 15.

    Though the film shares a certain kinship with The Matrix, I felt that some of the themes were closer to the vastly underrated Dark City. The idea of fluid moving cities created through dreams is brilliant in both films however.

    Good call on Gondry from the other posters too. Eternal Sunshine is flawless, and uses mostly in-camera effects to create its dreamworld. Imagine if a major studio gave Gondry a budget of $200 million to create a spectacular dreamscape blockbuster?

  • Comment number 16.

    The first one that springs to mind is "Alice in wonderland" from 1951. Let´s not even pay attention to the disaster that is Tim Burtons version where apparently the fantasyworld is based in reality. Instead this superior one, in my oppinion, seems to take place in Alices dream and there by mind (Alices, oh, so terribly mind) and leaves you not knowing which world to believe in.

    Another one would be Andrei Tarkovskys "The Mirror" from 1975, where you´re left with pretty much three or more paralell time lines that intervenes with each other. A spectacular looking film that to me, not being up-to-date in russian history or Andreis own life which I´ve come to understand influenced the whole project, does´nt make that much sense.

  • Comment number 17.

    Sherlock Jr. is almost entirely a dream-sequence and must have at least indirectly influenced Nolan. It has better stunts than Inception, though.

  • Comment number 18.

    Another vote for the underrated eXistenZ from me, like a gloopy Matrix.

    I immediately thought of Gilliam's Brazil, especially the final ten minutes that all happen in Sam Lowry's head as he faces Michael Palin's interrogator. Or The Adventures Of Baron Munchhausen where the lines between reality and make believe are constantly blurred.

    And who does dream logic more effectively than David Lynch?

  • Comment number 19.

    I'd second the mention of Mulholland Drive. Saw Inception at the weekend and am not quite sure about it. Yes, it was clever, but the dream sequences didn't feel particularly real. Actually, what was to me the most convincing dream-sequence I've seen on screen comes not from the movies but from a TV series - the last episode of the fourth series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer captured very well that dreamlike feeling of things being not quite as they should be and yet at the same time feeling perfectly normal.

  • Comment number 20.

    What about the 2006 anime film Paprika?

    A device that allows a therapist to enter her clients' dreams is stolen; she and a detective have to recover it before it falls into the hands of a "dream terrorist".

    For the record, it has a fantastic soundtrack.

  • Comment number 21.

    Forgot to mention how funny it was in the video clip when you flew off like a ball in a Pinball machine! :D

  • Comment number 22.

    Dammit, PaulL - I was gonna mention Paprika as well as soon as I saw this vid on YT! OK, seriously there's bound to be other Japanese anime fans out there, anyway.

    Anyway, yes Paprika is still top for my 'entering others dreams' film. Made more sense immediately when it ended than Inception initially did. Perfect Blue also has a sort of psycological thriller aspect ...

  • Comment number 23.

    I have to agree with Mark on Dreamscape. I saw it on telly way back when I was about twelve and it disturbed me much more than Nightmare On Elm Street ever did.

    It stars Dennis Quaid as a psychic who gets involved in secret government tests to see if certain people can infiltrate other people's dreams. Christopher Plummer plays an evil government man who wants to bump off the president in his dreams because of his plans for nuclear disarmament. It culiminates in an astonishing chase through a nuclear-ravaged 'dreamscape' in the president's mind, with Quaid chasing down psychotic assassin David Patrick Kelly who turns into various things including a nunchuks wielding ninja and a giant snake-man.

    Of course it may look a little ropey by today's standards, and it certainly has a less complex plot than Inception, but it was definitely innovative, and managed to powerfully capture the anxiety about early-eighties nuclear holocaust before the end of the Cold War. But amidst that backdrop the enemy actually came from within, literally and meta-physically. Great stuff, and unfortunately rather hard to get hold of these days.

  • Comment number 24.

    Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind had dream scenes in it.

  • Comment number 25.

    OMG I forgot The Cell with J-Lo as a psychotherapist who enters the mind of a comatose serial l=killer to try and find his last victim. Lots of weird imagery ensues!

  • Comment number 26.

    Suprised no one has said the French film "Last Year At Marienbad" yet.
    Inception's subconscious projections (aka not real people in the dream) reminded me of that film straight away, esspecially when Leo and Cillian are in the bar in the 2nd level dream and they all stop, go silent and look at Leo ready to rip him apart.

  • Comment number 27.

    I've just been to see Inception and found it an engrossing two and a half hours. If I was to to pitch it to someone whose knowledge of film only went back the last ten years I'd describe it as Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind meets Mission Impossible. There were similarities with Synecdoche, New York and David Cronenberg's Existenz in the way you are constantly trying to figure out what level of reality or unreality you're on. For me this imaginative action flick stands head and shoulders above Chris Nolan's slick but corny Batman films.

  • Comment number 28.

    After reading all these comments I'm surprised nobody has mention the films of the Spanish surrealist Luis Buñuel whose body of work almost entirely consisted of exploring the world of dreams. 'The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie' is perhaps the one of his films with the most direct parallel with Inception in its 'dream on top of dream within a dream' plot structure (albeit with a much more modest budget). But whereas Buñuel uses dreams as a jumping point to mock and criticize the rituals of the bourgeois, Nolan merely uses dreams as a backdrop to orchestrate explosive action set pieces. Is Nolan at fault for reducing the structure of dreams to a compilation of espionage/film-noir visual motifs? No. Inception is NOT a movie about dreams. Dreams are simply the setting for a meticulously elaborate mind heist. Instead of a diamond, this time the most sought after object is an idea. But the mission here is not stealing the idea(diamond), but planting one. At its core, Inception is a heist film (as Mr. Nolan has stated multiple times), playing with the conventions of the genre and utilizing the malleability of the dreamscape to provide some indelible images, but to come into the theater assuming it is a movie about dreams would be a mistake that would understandably lead to some disappointment.

    Films that tackle the subject of the human mind along with its instability and are not limited to the constraints of a PG-13 rating (after all our mind doesn't ask whether we want to have G, PG-13, R, or X dreams before we go to bed. It simply doesn't care) and explore the relationship between dream and memory and the interplay between perception and reality would be the following:

    Buñuel's 'Un Chien Andalou' and 'Belle de Jour', Cronenberg's 'Spider,' Wojciech Has' 'The Hourglass Sanatorium,' Robert Altman's 'Images,' Carlos Saura's 'Raise Ravens,' Alain Resnais 'Last Year at Marienbad,' and Andrei Tarlovski's 'The Mirror.'

  • Comment number 29.

    May I be so bold to suggest just one scene from a film instead of a whole film as Mark questioned? That scene is Rosemary's dream in..... Rosemary's Baby ofcourse! In this great sequence we watch through the eyes of Rosemary as she experiences what seems to be a dream, but as she cries out: "This is not a dream. This is really happening!", reality and the subconsciousness are no longer separate spheres, which is rather unsettling.

    I also remember a strange dreamsequence in Raising Kain by Brian de Palma: A woman wakes up from a nightmare, only to realize later she has woken up in another layer of the nightmare.

    Well, I'm just trying to stay away from obvious choices like The Matrix... Margegunderson mentioned Total recall: I think that is an excellent example of a film that preceeds Inception in its thematic approach.

  • Comment number 30.

    I loved Inception. I thought it was essentially a heist movie with SF knobs on. Also I was struck by the collective gasp that escaped from the audience I saw it with at the end. People were completely rapt. I really loved it. In fact I will go back and see it again.

    As for films which inception reminded me of.

    If we're talking about dreams specifically, well most people have mentioned the obvious films; but I'd like to tip my hat to Strange Days. It covered many of the same ideas even if it was essentially a noirish detective story. The caveat being that the memories are experienced externally rather than internally.
    And there's another film, whose title currently escapes me,about a group of scientists who are investigating the last moments before death. No,I don't mean Flatliners. There was something in the dream sequences in that film that came back to me as I watched this. I seem to remember that the main protagonist gets lost in the "tape" of his girlfriend's death. I just can't remember what the film was called.
    [spoiler alert]
    Did anyone else think "2001" during the zero g sequences?

  • Comment number 31.

    Let’s not forget that The Wizard of Oz turns out to be Dorothy’s dream, with all characters being her sub consciousness’ representations of people she knows in real life.
    Another good example would be The 5,000 Fingers Of Dr. T which is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated movies of all times.
    I also agree with some movies mentioned above:
    Abre los ojos/Vanilla sky
    La science des rêves
    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

  • Comment number 32.

    Ive yet to see Inception but hope to go this week. Its combination of spectacle and cerebral got me thing of similar scenes where such a combination has been attempted.

    The dream sequences in "American werewolf in London" stood out for me because they accomplished two things. While highly effective as horror set pieces(possibly the scariest in the film) they also allude to how a profound change is occurring in the psychology of the main character.There is a primordial force that when caged physically manifests cognitively during sleep.

    American Werewolf combined horror and psychology to great effect in some landmark scenes....Im looking forward to seeing if Inception can combine action/spectacle with psychology with similar skill.

  • Comment number 33.

    I meant 'Raising Cain'. Excuse me. I'm dutch... A brilliant excuse, isn't it for speaking double dutch!

  • Comment number 34.

    I hope this isn't too arrogant as it may even disagree with the creator Guillermo del Toro, but I think Pan's Labyrinth qualifies. People remember it as a fantasy film but it has a deceptively small fairy tale-to-real world ratio. It's predominantly a war film about a child going insane, trying to make sense of the madness around her, her hideous new father figure on the one hand, and the horrors of the Spanish Civil War on the other, and so she becomes more and more absorbed into the security blanket of her storybooks. The film very explicitly mirrors del Toro's own method for dealing with childhood anxiety's by embracing the monsters of his imagination. As rational people, no matter how much del Toro may profess their existence, if we can confidently say he made them up, why can't we say the same about his film's protagonist? Your rule Mark : don't trust the teller, trust the tale.

    (Oh and sorry to say no matter how smart Inception is, and how blockbusting its grosses are, there will always be the Transformers crowd going purely for the spectacle and who leave the cinema saying : 'Made no sense but the explosions were kinda cool.' Inception took about 10 years. Transformers took 10 minutes. The latter will always be there, since its easier to cobble together and still break the bank.)

  • Comment number 35.

    A few to ponder:

    Rosemarys Baby - Dream Sequence with the devil
    American Warewolf in London - Dream within a dream sequence
    Open your Eyes
    Performance - Drugs, dreams or madness
    Eternal Sunshine of a spotless mind
    The Fall - 2006 Tarsam Singh film - Escape into a fantasy world.

  • Comment number 36.

    How about that whole season of "Dallas" that turned out to be Pam's Dream! :D I don't think anyone could believe the sheer gall of the writers and producers when they whipped that out of the hat! Yes, It was all a dream...stick that in your pipe and smoke it!

  • Comment number 37.

    I REALLY hate to say it, but the completely forgettable Edward Furlong movie "Brainscan".

    In it, he plays a videogame that is too realistic. It begins with him killing a man (in the video game), and the next day, he finds out on the news the man he killed in the game was killed in real life.....and then a whole bunch of boring, predictable stuff happens, and at the end, it was all a dream.

    Speaking of which, the idea the whole movie was a dream really destroys the message of the film. What do you say about that, Dr. Kermode?

  • Comment number 38.

    @ConciseStatement Brilliant! I didn't think of that one at all, probably because I so wanted to avoid the reality and for the fantasy to be real.

  • Comment number 39.



  • Comment number 40.

    Both Tarsem Singh's films, The Cell and The Fall both take place in the mind, although not necessarily within dreams.
    Gondry's Eternal Sunshine and Science of Sleep have bee mentioned many times are both great examples of the mind of dreams/memories.
    (SPOILER!!) Jacob's ladder is another example and who could forget the entire season of Dallas.. (don't think its a precursor to inception but still..)

  • Comment number 41.

    I don't know much about it as I'm not a videogame fan and I haven't seen the movie, but isn't Silent Hill sort of Dream or rather Nightmare based?

  • Comment number 42.

    or maybe Bride Wars, as i cant see any sane person to be awake when the 'action' stars.

  • Comment number 43.

    Hi Dr K, first time commenting on your blog. I've been to see inception twice now - it's that good! It's good to see a blockbuster that can be apart of surrealist cinema, not just stupid dumb films that have no heart and no soul i.e. Avatar, Transformers 1 and 2 (in fact anything else by Michael Bay), X-men Origins etc...

    Now for films with dreams: Croenenberg's eXistenZ probably does kind of match inception in that it goes through different levels of reality, until no one knows whether they're in reality or still in the game. Also I can see there's a bit of influenmce from the matrix there.
    As well as Mulholland Drive, what about Lost Highway? The majority of the film is dream/hallucination of the Bill Pullman character imagining himself to be the Balthazar Getty character.

  • Comment number 44.

    The beautiful and imaginative Mirromask by Neil Gaiman with designs and direction by the incredible artist Dave MckKean. This is mostly set in a dream world/alternate reality of the main character, a young girl called Helena.
    Of course Gaiman has written the ultimate dream stories with the Master of Dreams himself, The Sandman (will this ever come to celluloid?)

  • Comment number 45.

    1.Lester Burnham day dreaming over a 16 year old cheerleader bathed in rose petals .
    2.Going cold Turkey in Trainspotting ...Dream or Hallucination??
    3.Jonathan Pryce and his perpetual dreams in Brazil.
    4.Professor Borg in Wild Strawberries those handless clocks and crashing coffins.
    5.Spellbound and some massive scissors.
    6.The birthing scene in The Fly.Yuk!

    Saw Inception last Friday ...In a nutshell...... Truly unique it ticks all the boxes, technically brilliant, it's a seamless spectacle that will in my opinion be held up as a benchmark as we move into the next cinematic decade.
    However whether it's a film that the mainstream audience will take to it's heart I'm not too sure, after listening to several comments from my fellow audience members whilst leaving the cinema there seemed to be a lack of overall enthusiasm .

  • Comment number 46.

    What about the shared dreams/nightmares in Manchurian Candidate (the original of course)?

  • Comment number 47.

    The worst way to end a story is ..."and then I woke up and it was all a dream" but there have been some effective films that leave the audience wondering "was it all just a dream?", the first film that I think of that does this is Once Upon A Time In America, which leaves the viewer pondering whether or not they're watching Noodles' memory or his fantasies, his dreams or reality. Many conclusions can be drawn from this film and this can be a turn-off to more mainstream audiences but I often enjoy a film that takes a fair bit of working out afterwards.
    Another film that could arguably 'take place inside the mind' is Donnie Darko which, like Once Upon A Time In America, leaves the audience to draw their own conclusions.
    Whereas many films utilise dream sequences to varying degrees of success, very few films that I can think of feature scenes that take place within a characters fantasies and imagination, A couple of the above posts have mentioned Pan's Labyrinth and The Fall, though stylistically very different the two films share many themes and both are very effective in telling a story that fluctuates between reality and a child's imagination. Coraline is another film that does this.
    I do plan on going to see Inception but every time someone compares it to The Matrix my appetite becomes slightly less whetted.

  • Comment number 48.

    Just want to apologise for going completely off topic and just coming up with dream based movies!
    I think Total Recall and The Matrix are probably closest to being precursors to Inception; especially in terms of layers and action content. "Blue Skies on Mars" anyone?

  • Comment number 49.

    Sorry, there's a difference between a film promising to "show you things you've never seen before" and a film utilising and discussing again themes and ideas previously explored in other films.

    It doesn't take a genius to find precedents in Inception, and many are listed above. However, this doesn't mean the film is showing us things we've seen before. Now, I'm not going to defend the film in the way Avatar was defended for being a 'cinematic breakthrough', but I'd agree that there is plenty in Inception which I've not seen before and which is new to a populist audience.

    To explain myself - Avatar is a breakthrough technologically, I'll agree. But its advocates tried to play the technological revolution off as the reason it's something the audience has never seen before. This is something I really take issue with.

    Inception takes existing technologies (revolving sets and wire-work, say) and uses them in a forward-looking fashion (the one staggering take of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and a subconscious mercenary fighting on all the sides of a corridor is a huge leap from that dull, dull waitress shot in 2001). So in this sense, we're seeing things we've not seen before.

    But this isn't why I'd defend the film's promise. I think it does show us something new, even though, yes, it develops existing ideas (as everyone seems so smug in telling us).

    I've not seen a film in which 4 set-pieces effectively play out at once, over the course of half an hour. I've not seen a high-speed fight take place in an area with changing centers of gravity. I've not seen a cityscape roll up like carpet, and yet not once feel like the scene was out of place in the film. It's extraordinary, and yet so 'normal' in and of the film.

    And - incidentally - I've not seen a look as poerfully dispossessed as that which Ken Watanabe sports in a scene late on in the film. I won't spoil what I'm talking about for those who haven't seen it, but I think it's one of Inception's really stunning moments.

    I realise this argument seems like me saying "I've not seen THIS EXACT THING" before, but I think it's a fair point. Showing us something new is different to exploring ideas previously used in films.

    I'm all for Inception. Not that I think it's perfect - the action is disappointingly shot and edited (as was a problem in Batman Begins) for one thing - but I was completely gripped psychologically and emotionally, and beyond how smart the film is, I'm really glad to see a film as nihilistic as this being released and respected so widely. Sure, The Dark Knight is a film about meaninglessness, but in a more 'fun' way (the Joker is an entertaining character). Inception's lead - a little like Leonard in Memento - is haunted beyond belief, and you feel the sheer weight of the film bearing down more and more towards the end, at which point we're left with a fantastically open end.

    Oh, and on the point of the film being smart, I really don't see what so many people think is that confusing about it. Admittedly I saw it twice on opening day, but it makes complete sense to me. I really didn't find it that confusing.

  • Comment number 50.

    Richard Linklater's Waking Life portrays a lucid dream state, though having not yet seen Inception I can't say whether it could be an influence on the latter (though the lack of structured narrative leads me to doubt it). There have also been a number of film adaptations of Winsor McCay's Little Nemo comic strip (the earliest in 1911), in which the titular protagonist plays an active part in his own dreamscape.

  • Comment number 51.

    You have already mentioned the underrated and wonderfully pulpy Dreamscape. So,I've always viewed eraserhead as the worst nightmare you could have.Viewing it this way helped me understand whats going on.Understanding whats going on ain't easy or maybe it was just me.

  • Comment number 52.

    I have to say I was very disappointed by Inception. Perhaps I had set my expectations too high, but I found it rather dull. The first half of the film was just people standing around explaining the plot to each other, Basil exposition style. There was no emotional engagement with any of the characters even though the film tried so hard to do so with Marion Cotillard’s and DiCaprio's characters. The film was not inventive enough: even though the film was set within peoples’ minds, why did all the dreams look like routine action films? I guess if you’re a film maker like Nolan you do probably have dreams like this. The film took so long to explain the rules of the different levels of the dreams that by the time the good stuff arrived I was bored and fed up. The film just seemed to be an excuse to show off some special effects (which were indeed very impressive and I liked how so much of it was done practically in-camera), with an unnecessarily overcomplicated way of presenting a reasonably standard heist film. The action was not particularly well done, apart from the zero-gravity corridor fight scene which was undoubtedly the highpoint of the film. At 148 minutes it was way too long and not nearly the masterpiece claimed by many.

  • Comment number 53.

    The movie that is the best example of "it's all a dream" is the original 1953 version of "Invaders From Mars". The way it is shot with it's "odd" angles and abstract set design where everything seems undefined and vague (or dreamlike if you prefer), combined with that recurring theme of childhood nightmares - your parents aren't who they appear to be, adds to the feeling of it being a waking dream. Which of course it is. And then there's the twist at the end, which as if I wasn't already unnerved enough as I it watched as a ten year old during one of those old BBC 2 SF seasons, chilled the living bejaysus out of me.
    Actually thinking about it now X years later? It still does.

  • Comment number 54.

    At various points during Inception was I reminded of the original Matrix movie. While in the Matrix characters were plugged in and put into a dream-like state, there are various parallels between the movies about what is reality, and accepting and letting go of different realities. Furthermore, the plot device of characters falling into a limbo while in the main dream felt similar to the idea of the Matrix where if one dies in the matrix, they die in real life.

    On a side note, the "training" of Ariadne in Inception heavily reminded me of Neo's training in The Matrix, there the characters learn to bend and modify the "realities" of their mind.

  • Comment number 55.

    @ Marge Gunderson

    The legendary Marge is conversing with me! 'Oh for Pete's sake!'

    Seriously though, I'm like in a minority of one - everyone, including the director, agrees with you. I hope I'm not misremembering the film as it's been a while since I've returned to it, but I've seen it several times now and I was always struck by how much of the story revolves around the literal tyranny of Captain Vidal, the resistance fighters, the maid and doctor who rebel, etc.. The moments that linger longest, for me, are all the horrors of the war - the opening shocking violence with the men catching rabbits, the (hilarious) stitching up of the mouth, and of course the final gun shot. As enchanting as sequences like The Pale Man and The Greedy Frog are, Ofelia seems to be able to exhibit some control over that world, and it even eventually rewards her when she challenges the authority of The Faun. This is in stark contrast to the war around her, which is far scarier - she can't make the fighting end, she can't make Vidal stop mistreating her and her mother, and she can't return to the happiness of her previous family life. That's why I think she finally, well, goes insane believing in a dream world where she is not a passive, but very active participant in her destiny, can keep the monsters at bay, and crucially return to a loving, stable family, i.e.; the king and queen.

    However, I will concede that the shot that still gives me pause for thought is the initial reveal of one of the insects. It's certainly the hardest to interpret as Ofelia's imagination because it genuinely looks like it's taking place somewhere else in the forest, unbeknownst to Ofelia. Frankly though, I don't think the look of that shot is enough to sustain the reality - Ofelia's already been enraptured by her storybooks for a long time, so it's easy to see why the creatures frequently float in and out her head. Since at that point she's just moving to her new home for the first time, it makes sense that her imagination is 'setting up shop' so to speak, in a new environment. In any case, one could throw this discussion of the film back and forth forever (and I'm not looking to convert you!). I just don't think del Toro would object to people emphasising different dimensions of it than him. Indeed, like Inception, that post-viewing discussion must surely be part of the director's intended treat, otherwise so much intercutting between realities would be a less obvious, and more cerebral choice, than simply bookending the narrative.

  • Comment number 56.

    How about the Michael Jackson Thriller video (the girl wakes up at the end), or the tv series Dallas when Bobby appears again? or even Never-ending Story or labyrinth (not pans the David Bowie one)
    Does Fight Club count?

  • Comment number 57.

    Why are we praising a blockbuster for playing with big ideas? Haven't blockbusters always played with big ideas... isn't that kind of the point? I'd be more surprised to see a blockbuster playing with small ideas; like characters for a start.

    For me, Inception was pretty much standard Chris Nolan; an incredibly entertaining film that somehow blinds its audience to the innumerable plot-holes, inconsistencies and loose-ends by providing a huge pay-off that leaves us, momentarily, speechless. The more we think about, the less it makes sense, but we enjoy the ride while it lasts.

    Anyway, to me it seemed like a bit of a mix between The Matrix and Dark City, which have both been mentioned previously.

  • Comment number 58.

    @Stephen Glass

    Since it made perfect sense to you perhaps you can explain this to me


    That's right if you others haven't seen it, you can't answer this question, so look away NOW!

    Ok, Steve, quite likely I missed something but if the weightlessness of the first level dream is held over to the second level dream, why does it not also carry over to the third level dream? I mean the bullet carries over to level two and level three and so does the music.

    Talking about the music if time is supposed to be slowed down twenty times how come the music was not slowed down 20 and 400 times respectively when we hear it (it was slowed down but obviously not by those amounts). Of course we should not have heard the music start at the same time, as we do, but I understand that could be because we are not seeing everything synchronously, and that's OK.

    Also when they realize they missed the first "kick" Leo says that Arthur (at the second level) has about 2 minutes and that at the third level the team has 20 minutes before the second kick. It should be 2 and 40 minutes, shouldn't it? Unless that's a deliberate mistake.

    Why is Ken Watanabe aged so much when Leo isn't in Limbo? Leo got there first.

    Of course I have loads more questions but that's a few to be going on with.

    **** SPOILER within a SPOILER

    Of course there is one way that everything and anything in the movie makes sense but we don't want to go there, do we? I think that Nolan is only asking us the question when we see the totem spinning at the end and we are not sure if it is going to stop spinning. I don't think he wants to answer that question for us. Maybe he left some clues in there like why don't the children look older etc. but personally, I don't want to know if the whole thing was a *****.

    [shoots self in the head to escape from spoilers]

    ***** END OF SPOILERS *****

  • Comment number 59.

    #36 Dallas haha. Nobody has mentioned it but doesn't Fight Club sort of squeeze in under the radar?

  • Comment number 60.


    Hm. I'm not sure Fight Club does count along the lines of Inception, The Matrix, that kind of thing. Pretty much everything in Fight Club really happens and in one world. The alternate reality is restricted to his identity. But the hotel really blows up, the acts of terrorism and vigilanteism unambiguously happen, he really does have a relationship (of sorts) with Marla. I mean of the few genuine 'dreams' in the film is the plane crash and the talking penguin. I don't know - is this too restrictive a definition of the 'dream film' for you?

  • Comment number 61.

    ..oh and how about American Psycho? The ending of that film is up there with the previously mentioned Memento. Great films but have come to the conclusion the endings to both make no sense.

  • Comment number 62.


    "What's the problem? C'mon, I'll take you home."


    The mini-movie that is Michael Jackson's Thriller. The girlfriend's subconscious warning her against a guy that isn't all he appears to be; Jackson's eyes confirming she has a point, not that he's a werecat (yes, cat, he doesn't transform into a werewolf).

  • Comment number 63.

    I know Dr K's not a fan but what about The Big Lebowski? Some cracking dream sequences in that!

    I've not seen Inception yet (going to watch it tomorrow) but if it has any scenes with Saddam Hussain working in a bowling alley or people in body stockings threatening castration with giant scissors then I'll know where the inspiration came from.

  • Comment number 64.

    I loved Inception. Directorially, performatively and script-wise it was top notch. It was however, the direct descendent of Eternal Sunshine and the Matrix. I actually thought it was clever juxtaposing the many layers of dream over such a simple underlying story. But I'm sure that's just me.

  • Comment number 65.

    *********SPOILERS AHEAD AGAIN**********

    antimode has a point, maybe I have t'row back on what I said or be more pedantic about it. Let's say what the film lays down as rules make sense, but...there...are...a couple of holes.

    Maybe it's the fact that not EVERYTHING which happens around us while we sleep is incorporated into our dreams. I fall asleep with films and music on all the time and sometimes the words are tossed around within my dreams. Nolan is just using artistic license to pick and choose. Maybe there's a gap between the ''cerebral' and 'physical' centres of the characters' minds; i.e. they are floating 'cerebrally' (because they're floating in the 2nd level, but by the 3rd level they're sedated so far as to not let them feel the physical reality of floating. Either way, it's a hole I feel isn't important, in the sense that the plot for me doesn't crumble due to its existence. I also think it's unfair to call it an inconsistency, because it flat-out isn't mentioned in the way most other things in the film are. It's a leap of faith, it's artistic license. Or maybe one of the FANTASTIC ideas I've put forward above. I'd go for the sedation idea - if Limbo (a dream so real the physical body can't force the mind out of it) is caused by the sedation, then a 3rd level dream is surely almost the same.

    WAIT! IT JUST CAME INTO MY HEAD!!! THE ANSWER!!! Unless I'm mistaken, which I'm sure I'm not, Yusuf (Dileep Rao) tells the team that he's modified the sedative mix they're using so that inner-ear function is maintained throughout, which surely means their physical states wouldn't register spatial/gravitational changes at such a dream-depth.


    The music slowing down is a physical, not a cerebral, and it comes directly to the area Yusuf keeps active to all 3 dream-levels: inner-ear function (this is why playing the music can't bring Saito or Cobb back from Limbo, it's too deep). The music as you say, will play at the same time (i.e. REAL-world time) but it won't slow down and slur, because it's an external noise, not one inside their heads. Dream-time is lengthened because brain function is sped-up, and this wouldn't have an effect on a real-world agent invading the dream (the music). The music isn't part of their subjective brain-function, it's happening outside of them.

    I hope this is clear. It's making sense to me, I get the feeling it may be worded....unclearly. Unclearly? Hazily.

    On the Ken Watanabe point I'd have to suggest you misremember the film. Saito dies in 3rd-level while Eames is fighting off the mercenaries, a while before Ariadne (in Limbo) shoots Mal and brings Fischer back from Limbo. Saito is dead a short while before the father-son moment happens. In those brief moments, he lives decades in Limbo; as Yusuf says, by Limbo level it's impossible even to speculate how relative real-time and dream-time are. This is why Saito is old and Cobb young.

    If we're plothole-spelunking the hole here is surely to question the Limbo state itself? WHERE is this area in which all the dreamers can share a state of subconscious. Which of them builds that world and which fills it? Are they all sharing? Are their minds sharing a space in the suitcase-machine by which they are sedated and can't be unplugged?

    I like that it's an open point, and that it's called Limbo. The whole UP being real-world and DOWN being subconscious (and BEYOND DOWN being Limbo) is a fascinating bit of semantics. It's the reason one might strive to want Cobb to be 'really' with his kids at the end, and take against the idea that he may want to dream he's with them. Down is what we take to mean Hell. But why would we fear down if it means within ourselves, our own heads? Is it that we inherently know not to trust ourselves on an instinctive, subconscious level?

    I don't know. But it's a riveting series of ideas.

    I hope this clears....something....up.

    *************SPOILERS OVER***************


  • Comment number 66.

    I would have to put Jacob's Ladder forward as an example of a movie that plays out inside the mind of its protagonist.

    Though the audience is kept in the dark for most of the picture, 95% of the movie's running focuses on Jacob's pre-death hallucinatory dream-state. Jacob confronts his demons (figuratively and literally) in a dreamscape that dances between a cold reality and an even chillier fantasy. As an audience we know something is not quite right with what we are seeing, but we are not sure precisely what that thing is. This feeling pretty much sums up every dream I've every had.

    A fantastic piece of work and a truly haunting glimpse of what it is to see your life flash before your eyes.

  • Comment number 67.

    Sorry, there's more I wanted t'say.

    ************MORE SPOILERS AHEAD***************

    I disagree that the openness of the ending is Nolan not quite doing the "it's only a *****" cop-out (not that antimode said that).

    The ending is surely set-up BEFORE that last shot, when old Saito meets Cobb again, and vaguely recognises him. Cobb says they have to go back, but we never see HOW they get out of limbo. Saito reaches for a gun, and we cut straight back to Cobb on the 747, in what we assume is the real world. He sees everyone else, presumably safely resuscitated by their kicks, and he sees Saito, looking like he's just woken up, with a heartbreaking look on his face, a man who has felt like he's lived a whole life, and now has woken up.

    I think the ambiguity of how they escape limbo is great in prefiguring whether or not the end is more dreaming. There's more to it than just avoiding a neatly-wrapped end.

    *********SPOILERS OVER**********

  • Comment number 68.

    And despite the fact it's a bit rubbish, What Dreams May Come might well have had some kind of an influence on Inception with regards to how to create fully realised fantasy worlds on screen - after all, its producers sat on the script for twenty years until the technology that would allow them to realise their vision was created.

  • Comment number 69.

    As with many other forums I've seen online, this thread once again confirms that there are the people who loved Inception and those who've missed the point. If you're complaining about the amount of exposition and that there's "too much talking" then you were never going to be satisfied with the results. Even a Bond film has long sections were people explain the parameters of the plot.

    To the point: taking into account all of the dream related films, I;m surprised no one has mentioned the likes of Tarkovsky, Solaris, Stalker, Mirror and particular Nostalgia being key influences in their creation of dream-like worlds filled with picaresque imagery which is shared with the likes of Last Year at Marienbad which also had a fractured approach to presenting a relationship.

  • Comment number 70.

    I don't think it was a precedent for inception but the film that really put dreams on film and can not be ignored when it comes to film that deal with dreams and dream culture is Linklater's waking life. it is a complete exploration of dreams. and death and maybe with end twist of is he or is he not dead could be a precedent for inception but personally i think not.

  • Comment number 71.

    Reqieum for a dream
    Jacobs Ladder
    In Dreams
    Being John Malkcovich
    Vanilla Sky
    Once Upon A Time in America
    Any David Lynch or Terry Gilliam
    Flight of the Navigator
    The Machinist
    Donnie Darko
    Science of Sleep
    The Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
    I (Heart) Huckabees
    Never Ending Story

    to name a few

  • Comment number 72.

    P.S Inception is perhaps the finest example of film in the 21st century yet

  • Comment number 73.

    @ Stuart Ian Burns

    I thought of Tarkovsky as well, but I think doing dream-like scenes which Tarkovsky often did, he didn't make them dream related.

    Also I can't believe no one has mention Fellini (although I have only scene 8 1/2). The whole film flips back between dreams of the protagnist and reality.

  • Comment number 74.

    Of course Matter of Life and Death (aka Stairway to Heaven ;-)) is also possibly a dream.

    P&P said they wanted to leave it open whether the events are real or in Niven's head but they do lead us down the path of saying it is real by having Kim Hunter discover the missing book that Marius Goring supposedly swiped and then returned to Niven at the end of the operation. I think that is supposed to answer the question (otherwise why is it even in the film?) but doesn't make sense because Kim Hunter enters into the "dream" when she is asleep and Niven is under surgery, so she would know if it was real, wouldn't she? On finding the book, the reaction on her face is more of surprise and delight, than "of course!" but perhaps she thought it was just a dream until she found the book and had a chance to talk to Niven after his op.

    Niven is portrayed as being such a smart arse that he couldn't possibly be mistaken about having lost the book in the moments when he was not in the altered state. Then Niven never sees the surgeon before he goes under and until he comes round from the operation although the surgeon is the judge in the "dream" (so how could Niven dream of someone he has never met, but if it's not a dream how come the judge is also the surgeon?) Conclusion, it was supposed to be real but P&P muffed it. So it's not a dream, but it could have been :-)

  • Comment number 75.

    How about Childrens book/film. Where the Wild Things Are. Or in early newspaper comics strips Little Nemo spent his whole life dreaming.How about dear old BagPuss?

  • Comment number 76.

    i walked out of the bfi imax premiere thinking

    that cinema is mental good why have i not been there before

    all the action is in the trailer

    the film had 2 special effects scenes and i could of just watched all that script from the comfort of my laptop

    it would of been better 3d!!!!

    nice to see tom hardy

    either way the highlight of the film for me was joseph levitts smile in the falling van

    p.s off the top of my head: a good dream film - waking life?

  • Comment number 77.

    @TheConciseStatement re: 55.

    I'm like in a minority of one - everyone, including the director, agrees with you.

    That's a really rather interesting take on the film I'd not really considered before, although how do you account for the change in the mother's condition after the demise of the mandrake? Should that scene not be taken as reality either?

    I wouldn't get too hung up with your interpretation not agreeing with Del Toro. Remember that in the post-structuralist world, the author is dead, afterall...

  • Comment number 78.

    I've read so many comments I can't remember the question anymore...

    My vote for a scary dream film involving dream crimes for me was "City of the Lost Children".

    One of the first scenes set in a child's dream that turns into a nightmare when he sees the man who's trying to steal it has correlations to the people putting up barriers/projections in inception.

  • Comment number 79.

    I've just realised I may have ballsed up a little of my explanations...

    Let's just hope they don't come under too much more discussion...

  • Comment number 80.

    @Stephen Glass.....

    Too late now mate...:-)

  • Comment number 81.

    I'll just have t'hope I'm far smarter than anyone else posting so they won't see my possible mistake.

    I am pretty damn smart.

  • Comment number 82.

    Some great movies listed here are some of my favourites as well including Strange Days and Eternal Sunshine of the Eternal Mind.

    I've also seen Brainscan (what a parcel it was).

    However, I've always loved the dream sequences in "Heavenly Creatures" by Peter Jackson with Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet. Beautifully filmed and CG sequences as the two girls live in their fantasy world rather than have to deal with reality.

    Even "based on a true story" which it was where they murdered one of the girl's mother.

  • Comment number 83.

    I saw Inception and I understand why some people don't like it, I think a backlash is perfectly fine. I personally loved the fact that it treats an audience as if they weren't stupid, Nolan knows his film is complex but also knows that the average blockbuster audience isn't as stupid as Michael Bay thinks it is. In comparison, The Matrix is very similar in that regard, in that it dealt with a complicated premise but expected its audience to respond to this. I would also say the emotional storyline is more successful than a LOT of people give it credit for. I kid you not, I shed a tear at the end of the film.

    I also think there are closer comparisons to be made with the Matrix in regards to Inception also. I know it has been cited elsewhere, but the idea of not being able to distinguish between the fake and real world is at the heart of the Matrix, and is the main conflict going on in Inception. Other than that because the dreams happen in a realist landscape or in a slightly skewed version of the real world in the film, the biggest influence for that idea, of dreams being essentially as the real world with their own rules, are the films of David Lynch.

  • Comment number 84.

    @Iain Stuart Burns re: 69

    If you're complaining about the amount of exposition and that there's "too much talking" then you were never going to be satisfied with the results. Even a Bond film has long sections were people explain the parameters of the plot.

    Exactly, although it all depends on the context of the film - compare the dense, bare bones approach of Primer with the expositional guided tour of "Angels and Demons". Whilst I ultimately loved the former, I have to admit that I had to consult t'interweb afterwards for a bit of elucidation in order for aspects of the plot to make sense to me. Having watched it several times now, you can follow it - as the director says, "all the information is there"- but it can potentially be daunting for casual viewing!

    p.s. rent Primer if you haven't seen it - no really. Do it now.

  • Comment number 85.

    Oh... and another thing relevant to this thread and reality confusion-related tropes: Philip K. Dick anyone?

  • Comment number 86.

    I just saw this movie and I loved it. What a mind job.
    However need help with what I immediately perceived as a total plot downfall?
    Without giving away too much ,can someone explain to me why moll didn't kill him? it irked at me for the last quarter.

  • Comment number 87.

    I can't help but think about that cringeworthy dream sequence in that ghastly sequel, Futureworld. Yul Brynner's iconic pre-Terminator gunslinger incarnation being inexplicably reduced to prancing around a smoke machine with Blythe Danner, to toe-curling 'dreamy' music.

    Another one that came to mind was the one from Exorcist III, with Samuel L. Jackson's blink-and-you'll-miss cameo.

    Inception - well, I have nothing but great admiration for Christopher Nolan and his celluloid compadres. Inception is, without a doubt, a welcome antidote to the odious dross spewing out of Hollywood at the moment. It is filmmakers like him that - for me - justify its existence. Exquisitely shot, fiendishly scripted, brilliantly executed and - as always in a Nolan production - with a tremendous supporting cast. So, my main problem with Inception revolves around......Leonardo DiCaprio. I just don't get it. What is it with him?! I hired Shutter Island after seeing Inception (another project I should have been excited about pre-cinema release but wasn't due to the DiCaprio casting). I couldn't really differentiate between the characters he portrayed in both. For me, everything post-Titanic is just Leonardo DiCaprio...being Leonardo DiCaprio.

  • Comment number 88.

    @Stephen Glass

    Thanks for you interpretations.


    As far as enhancing the inner-ear function, I would have thought that meant that sense of balance would have been increased also at the lower level so there would have been some residual effect (as opposed to none) but I can see what you are saying.

    Not with you on the speed of the music because if the mind is sped up then external stimuli would appear slowed down. Ye canny break the laws of physics, Cap'n.

    I seem to think that Murphy 'died' before Watanabe so he should have been even older but by the time they found him on the balcony after Page and diCaprio had sauntered through Limbo doing Basil exposition stuff. "Yeah, we used to live in that house" and then arsed around with diCaprio's subconscious a while before shooting it, Murphy hadn't aged either, there was plenty of time for Murphy to age decades but I think di Caprio was in Limbo longer than Watanabe. It's difficult to say whether X happened Z amount of time before Y because of the different rates of time elapsing in the different levels and the fact that we couldn't be being shown the action synchronously.

    My favourite bit was when Page shoots Mal and di Caprio says "What are you doing?" to which Page replies "improvise" and I am thinking "yes, Nolan"

    I really hope that Nolan didnt decide to put clues in, because I feel that would mess it up. Even things like the abruptness with which the film cuts to black, I feel could be a "clue". But as you said it's not perfect.

    It's ambitious, there are some interesting ideas, and some not so interesting ideas. In that respect, I liked Dark Knight better as an ideas film.

    Do you fancy trying another one? This one's a bit harder.
    How come when Leo and Marion are chained to the tracks (real old-fashioned film making stuff!) they are not old?


    ***END OF SPOILER***

  • Comment number 89.

    Well, in terms of theme Total Recall stands out for me; the whole concept of dreams ties in directly with Inception. It should probably be noted that Nolan dealt with a lot of the themes being raised in Memento and perhaps didn't want to rehash the same stuff.

    However for my money I'd argue that the 1945 noir classic Detour set a precedent in the analysis of dreams in relation to reality and of how the lead character's actions become confused to the point that he doubts his own actions; something Inception admittedly missed out on, although I really enjoyed the film.

  • Comment number 90.

    Stephen Glass wrote:"I'll just have t'hope I'm far smarter than anyone else posting so they won't see my possible mistake.

    I am pretty damn smart.

    That's what the real Stephen Glass thought :-)

  • Comment number 91.

    **************MORE SPOILERS*****************


    As far as Mal not killing him goes, I'd assume it's because she's not really Mal, she's his projection of her. It's his subconscious questioning his conscious, the way our dreams let us question or resolve our daily issues. She's not there to force him, but she is his mind arguing with himself.


    I thought that while I was writing about the inner-ear function, and I get the point about mind-speed slowing external stimuli down...I just naturally related the film to most times when I dream and music or a film is on, and (in the dream) I feel that the words are said perfectly normally. That's what I'd go for. Because we're in the dream with them, the sound feels normal, the brain puts it together.

    I'm really clawing at some kind of coherent response here...

    Murphy does die before Watanabe I think. But then isn't his head bound and covered in a rag or somesuch when Ellen Page drops him off the building in Limbo? That'd cover up any aging he's gone through.

    Again however they seem to make the point that time relativity isn't the same for everyone in Limbo. It's a good artistic-license-get-out for the ambiguity which comes with the Limbo idea.

    The ambiguity of Limbo is troublesome I think because so much of the film earlier on is explained, it naturally makes us question the later stages which are so difficult to contemplate (in that they deal with the infinite nature of the mind). It's like....Sunshine. When Mark Strong comes in, and you choose to either go with it, or give up because it has no definite explanation. And I totally went with Inception. And Sunshine.

    I think as an ideas film I'm more interested in Inception (maybe that's just because it's the fresher film in my mind) but I think The Dark Knight is better-made.

    I definitely prefer the weightier, more 'depressing' nihilism of Inception. (I put depressing in marks because I don't find it depressing, but I'm sure a popular audience does). But I digress.

    Mal and Cobb on the tracks are surely young because...WELL.

    Any footage we see of Mal and Cobb are images from Cobb's mind essentially, because he describes their past in Limbo, and I'm thinking, he has chosen to remember her in a state as old as she was when she physically died. He forgot about the fact that they lived a full life (in Limbo) because he feels guilty about her real death at his hands, and he wants to keep her as she was when she was really alive. It's only late on in the film, with the pushing of Ellen Page, that he has to confront himself and realise that they've had their life, the dream felt just as real as real life, and he can't have her any longer, he remembers that (after a train and suicide) she is most CERTAINLY dead (not to mention the death at Ellen Page's hands, the THIRD Cobb has to pay witness to. Poor schmuck.). This doesn't however mean that he reconciles himself to her death and chooses to live his real life without her (hence the ambiguity of the ending), but he definitely remembers (and in reminding the projection, reminds himself) that they have lived. They're young on the tracks because he projects an image of them being young when he remembers their dream-suicide. It's psychology,'s SUPER complex. I think.

    And besides, most people would think it was mighty weird if Maggie Smith was cast as Leonardo DiCaprio's wife.

    I wish my answers didn't seem like I had the film sorted. I like the ambiguity, I don't want t'land on one side of the fence.

  • Comment number 92.

    I can't think of any, all that I have in my head at the moment is "The Exorcist is the greatest film of all time"...................have you been going where you shouldn't have Mark?

  • Comment number 93.


    1) The town folding and morphing into itself is like the gaping hole that spills the subconscious into reality in the middle of Tokyo in Paprika.

    2) The elevator shaft that dives down into Dicaprio's memories is a direct rift off the sequence in Paprika where Paprika takes one of the characters in an elevator and they both ascend on different floor levels, each floor opening onto another memory of the character.

    3) The zero - g hallway fight sequence is quite coincidental to the warped corridor sequence in Paprika.

    4. The Skying sequence, which is a reference to the James Bond movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service, is like the various movie references found in Paprika.

    5. Ellen Page = Paprika and Dr. Chiba in Paprika. Same clothes, hairstyle (tied up in a bun and wearing gray clothing = Dr. Chiba in Paprika, while the red shirt at the cafe sequence = Paprika).

    6. The chase sequences are like the opening chase sequence in Paprika.

    7. Ellen Page's character replicating mirrors and then shattering them is a direct reference to the scene in Paprika where Paprika approaches a mirror and shatters it to unveil a secret passageway.

    Mark Kermode, if your reading this, watch Satoshi Kon's Paprika, if you haven't. Its a film that proves the limitations in live action films. Unfortunately, Wolfgang Peterson and Hollywood studios are planning to morph into a Matrix mishmash, oh God!

  • Comment number 94.

    I have to admit that the first time I saw the trailer for Inception I thought "Hey, that's straight out of Paprika" on more than one occasion.

    The opening "chase" scene as Paprika becomes Dr Chiba, coupled with Susumu Hirasawa's music, is pure genius.

  • Comment number 95.

    Have to agree with several people on this site about Mulholland Drive. One of my all-time favourite films, a truly mesmerising experience which leaves you enthralled at what you have seen and restores your faith in the power of cinema to emotionally affect you. The first time I saw it I was so immersed in the world of the film that it took around 10 minutes for me to come out of the trance after the credits ended. Saw it again recently and it's just as hypnotic and strange.

    Would Heartless qualify (I know that's more about hallucinations)? Or what about The Jacket?

  • Comment number 96.

    For an earlier example of the 'dream within a dream' concept then I would look no further than the 1981 horror comedy classic An American Werewolf in London. Just when you've had the living daylights scared out you with a disturbing yet memorable sequence involving Nazi werewolves invading the Kessler home and slaughtering all within, the rug is pulled out from under us once more in the following scene where we believe David has just awoken from this nightmare but is in actuality still dreaming. The exasperated response from David Naughton when he finally awakes for real perfectly captures the audience's sense of bewilderment and relief.

  • Comment number 97.

    @Stephen Glass

    OK, well I would cast Catherine deNeuve as old Marion Cotillard. Maybe Brigitte Bardot is more closer to Marion Cotillard + 50 but we'd be better off with Maggie Smith (same age as Bardot)

    Or alternatively, Marion could just dust off all the prosthetic stuff she used in La Vie en Rose to good effect [Interesting choice of music for the kick]. Marion Cotillard might have been the most compelling presence in Inception and she was underused like she was in Public Enemies. Criminal.

    I have to agree with bloodysam about diCaprio being a problem and agree with Richard Shaw that there was no emotional attachment with the characters although Nolan tried so hard to put us through the wringer with the Cotillard/diCaprio pairing and those damn kids, but it didn't work.

    A good heist movie doesn't need a big emotional component, it's the action and suspense that carries us along but because people don't die when they are killed in their dreams Nolan has to create a sense of danger by telling us some tosh that if we die in dreams when under sedation we could end up as vegetables. Good job people under general anaesthetic don't dream, then isn't it? ;-) [actually, a significant percentage of people do dream under general anaesthetic. Usually pleasant dreams, folks, if you are concerned.]

  • Comment number 98.

    Its funny how in Inception, Leo's character claims to want to implant an idea inside Murphy's head but actually goes inside of his head and manipulates him all throughout the sleep. Would be more accurate if they actually implanted the idea and left him alone. But that might not have allowed all the price shots for the trailer.

  • Comment number 99.

    SPOILERS again, etc etc.

    I'd agree with most people who've discussed not feeling emotionally attached enough to the characters. I found I was much more second time around, probably because the plot machinations were less important to me, in that I knew a lot of the details already. I'd still want more connection however. I feel like Inception could actually benefit from being longer, it feels like a film Nolan has been told needs to be less than 150 minutes, but would more comfortably be up to 3 hours. Certain conversational scenes are rushed in a way which looks like they've been cut as much as they possibly could, so as to save time for the more spectacular or more important moments. They just don't flow too easily, lines almost happen on top of one another when they feel like they shouldn't.

    Either way, it's remarkable how much he crams into his films.

    The whole idea of deaths in dreams also caused me minor troubles, for a couple of reasons. One was that the villains (Fischer's militarised subconscious, the endless gun-toters) were just faceless bullets constantly aiming at the leads, and I didn't feel the right sense of danger from them.

    I'd have t'disagree with antimode concerning the deaths however. I thought the Limbo idea always lying beneath the surface was really effective, particularly in that if one has the knowledge of being there they'd know that they will grow old, die and who knows, maybe continue this cycle over and over until they can naturally wake up. It's a scarier limbo I think, than one of eternal nothingness.

  • Comment number 100.

    Firstly, this film is pretty much in debt to the Matrix, without which this film would not have been made (well that and the success of TDK).

    Also someone mentioned PKDick, and I had similar thoughts. ++++(spoilers)+++ I got the feeling throughout that LDiC was playing a character who didn't know what person he was throughout and unsure of the reality he was meant to sit in, which was much like Keanu Reeves' character in Scanner Darkly.

    In fact I think it's weird that in both Scanner Darkly and The Matrix you had Keanu Reeves getting to grips with fake/alternate realities (much like this film), but with the classic Reeves *WOAH* style of acting it worked well. Where as in Inception you also had characters grappling with realities but ones in which they have full awareness and control of(totally unlike The Matrix and Scanner Darkly).

    (I'm not counting the Matrix sequels, natch).


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