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Monday, July 26, 2010

I'll Decide What's Real, Thank You.


I've always been a sucker for philosophies of all kinds (religious, astrological, and others) that strive to comprehend perceptible meaning in my dreams. Nevertheless, after endless pontification and an inevitable semantics dispute, I often find exploring for meaning in my dreams to be a fruitless endeavor. Then again, "meaning" is not an objective thing we stumble upon, but rather it's something we choose to attribute to a gesture or image. We dreamers are the very scribes who give meaning to the images conjured by our subconscious.

We have this in common with the dreamers of Christopher Nolan's Inception. Nolan's captivating action/drama stars a standout cast (Leo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Dileep Rao, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Pete Postlethwaite, Marion Cotillard, & Michael Cane), and it delivers a hearty mind-fucking that reminded of my introduction to Nolan's handiwork on Memento. Nolan has again demonstrated a predilection for exploring the avenues of the memory and dream worlds on screen, and he has given us another determined and intelligent protagonist whose investigative skills may or may not allow him to find what he's looking for.

I won't attempt to literate the premise for you, suffice it to say it's a movie about dreams and the fine line distinguishing dreams from reality... the film ultimately asking us, "Is there a distinction?"

Overlooking the fact that Inception saved WB's ass (re: summer box office), I will admit that the movie has been a bit over-hyped, and I believe backlash to this hype has led to a few negative critical reviews of the film. NYTimes' A.O. Scott calmly asserts that Inception is nothing more than a "visually-arresting" heist movie that takes place in a dreamworld--lacking in dream-like wonder.

Granted, Mr. Scott frames his observations within the context of the historical relationship between dreams and films, insisting that the accomplishments of Inception are mainly technical. However, his claim that the film fails to access the unruly, ambiguous world of the unconscious doesn't hold much weight if the film's objective isn't strictly to accurately represent the aesthetic nature of dreams.

I understand Scott's point that dreams are often ethereal and scrambled, but I don't believe Nolan's film should be dismissed on the grounds that his dreamworld isn't very dreamy. In the end, I believe that Inception asks far more questions than it answers, and I don't think that classifies the film as a failure.

Nolan is a master of first creating the cinematic/philosophical rules that govern his film, and then exploring the thematic landscape of his story within the confines of his rules. In Inception, Nolan's constraints and limitations are precisely what allows for the creative reveal of information.

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