Sunday, July 25, 2010


Yes, the throbbing trombone theme is sure to signal future parodies. Sure, Writer/Director Christopher Nolan can be accused of making mazes without enough movie emotion, as was Stanley Kubrick. And yep, a definitive interpretation may be so hard to come by that many give up.

That said, Inception is quite a ride, certainly the most ambitious Hollywood movie so far this year, a fine way to spend that clout built up from the worldwide blockbuster success of The Dark Knight and possessing a haunting, disturbing core that naysayers will trivialize to ill effect.

Since Nettertainment doesn't do reviews so much as analysis, since I've only seen this movie once and since to discuss it in any real depth is to drop spoilers galore, a real shame for anyone who has yet to see the movie, lets me offer a briefer post, one where instead of investigation and conclusion I simply drop some hints that might lead the viewer towards my own interpretation(s) of the film.

Respecting that these may function as SPOILERS no matter how oblique, take this as fair WARNING, enjoy the trailer below, and if you haven't seen the movie or want to be sure your experience isn't even tinted by these clues, please avoid reading the text following.

Here's my thoughts:

There's a misapprehension regarding the genre of Inception, that it is simply a "mind-fuck" movie, or an existential heist movie. Remember that, at his core, Christopher Nolan makes doomed man movies, with the potential exception of Batman Begins. And even that has a doomed element regarding Bruce Wayne's decision and the effect on his great romance. From his first no-budget calling card, Following..., through the perpetual forgetting machine man of Memento, the sleepless protagonist of Insomnia, the exponentially doomed man (men?) of The Prestige and, most recently, The Dark Knight who is a fugitive taking the heat for Harvey Dent at the end of that movie, every single one of his protagonists is ultimately revealed to be as doomed as the ultimate film noir loser in the low-budget quickie classic, Detour.

Once you understand this about Nolan's oeuvre, you remove that shred of cinematic hope that may be keeping you tethered to the most optimistic interpretation of the movie, and lead you to some extremely dark places, including questions like: Who's dreaming? Who's right? And, the most pretzeldelic question of all, Who's really being "incepted?"

The second clue is very simple: water. Plenty of movies use water as a resonant visual theme, notably Chinatown and Jaws, but here it is explicitly offered as a hint to explain the levels within levels. The level of a glass of water, a chase through rain-drenched streets, walls bursting in, a fall into a bathtub, the crystallization of water into a snowy/icy world replete with avalanche and, perhaps most tellingly, the waves crashing against a desolate beach echoing From Here to Eternity replete with sin, albeit of death rather than adultery.

It's the loose ends that are disturbing, that resonate like our daily lives in this age of anxiety. Nolan doesn't tie them up. After all, Cobb is interrupted by Saito in the middle of the movie when he tries to spin the top.

And, opening up a question instantly linking Inception to the final chapter of James Joyce's literary touchstone, Ulysses:

Who's top is it anyway?


darkstar said...

David Denby said it perfectly: "An astonishment, a considerable feat of engineering,and, finally, a folly...the movie is nothing like a dream. It's more like an excessively complicated action film with a foul load of spoken exposition. And there's not a social, moral or spiritual theme in sight."

Mark Netter said...

Actually, I have to disagree with Denby, and its not the first time. I think there are layers to be discovered a la Hitchcock. For example, when Vertigo was released it wasn't considered much by critics, but over the years it's been psychoanalyzed and revealed as deeper than what appears at first glance.