Monday, November 29, 2010

Inception Ending Interpretations

Attention! Spoilers below!

So, if you've watched the Inception movie and if you're still trying to decipher the ending, you should have already noticed that you are not the only one in the world. There are a lot of discussions on the web about what exactly happened and there is a variety of possible endings.

While I think that the movie was entertaining to watch, there were still some issues with it. I do not intend to discuss them here except for the ending.

In my opinion an ending leading to a couple of possible interpretations is often considered original and interesting. The problem I see with the Inception's ending is that the possible interpretations are quite too many. There are also a couple of Inception's ending treatments coming to my mind that I haven't come across anywhere else that's why I'll try to list all of my interpretations here. And I think there are not substantial proofs in the movie sufficient to turn down any of those possible endings.

So, here is the list of all Inception endings coming to my mind (not ordered by any particular sign):

1. Cobb is still dreaming and he is in the limbo. Skilled Ariadne has designed a happy world for him and he continues his dreaming however he is not aware of this. I don't think this interpretation is quite probable but still, it is not impossible.

2. Cobb is still dreaming and he is in the limbo. Saito is also in the limbo that's why Cobb decided to stay there and have a "happy" life with his children and probably with his wife too because if Saito stays in the limbo, Cobb could not reunite with his children in the real life. Cobb behaves like a dreaming man in the ending so it could be interpreted he is aware that what is happening is not real. I don't think this interpretation is quite probable either but again it is not impossible.

3. Cobb is still dreaming but on level 0. This should be the reality level but if we look at the spinning totem we could assume that the reality is also a dream. In this case either Cobb himself or somebody else is constructing this happy dream.

4. Cobb is still dreaming but on level 1. For some reason he couldn't save Saito that's why it is impossible to be happy in the real world. Thus, Ariadne creates a dream world for him on level 1 - not very probable but not impossible also.

5. Cobb is in the real world. Everything described in the movie has actually happen and Saito has made the phone call to secure the happy ending.

6. Cobb is in the real world. There is not any dream technology. Cobb does not know any of the other passengers on the plane and he has just been dreaming while flying on the plane. There is not any device related dreaming but rather just an ordinary crazy dream. He has never lost his children. It's possible that he has also never lost his wife and just having a nightmare dream. In fact, this probability is very hard to be ignored - the whole ending starting with Cobb's awakening on the plane does not offer a single clue to disprove this version. (Click on the link to read more about this Inception Ending Interpretation.)

If someone could offer other Inception ending interpretations or could point facts from the movie that make some of the listed possibilities infeasible, please feel free to leave a comment on the topic.

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Anonymous said...

he is awake....look and listen carefully to the totem spinning at close up (the very last scene before credits) is going to stop and fall down.

John Moscow said...

I've already seen it and I do not say that the totem is not going to fall but this is not shown for sure thus, it adds to the possible ending interpretations. My favorite one is also that he is awake but not because of the totem. See the Inception Ending Interpretation post for it.

Anonymous said...

There is also the fact that his children seem to be exactly the same age as he remembers them being when he had to leave the country. He was supposed to have been away a longish time, several months at least, and children do change quite a bit even in a few months at that young an age.

John Moscow said...

"There is also the fact that his children seem to be exactly the same age ..."

In support of which version did you post that?

Reece Dunn said...

The movie talks about ideas being like a virus.

The movie focuses on Cobb's character and the arc he goes through with him being responsible for Mal's death and how he deals with that. We are lead to believe that he got out of Limbo safely.

This ignores the other half of Cobb's emotional arc: his wanting to return to his children.

In the elevator sequence with Cobb and Adrienne, we see two scenes: one of which is of Mal and the other is of Cobb's last moment seeing his children but not getting to say goodbye to them. IIRC, this is where Cobb talks about ideas being like virii. It is also interesting to note that the Mal sequence is second and has more focus.

When Saito convinces Cobb to perform the inception, he says that he can make a phone call and allow Cobb to return home. Also, throughout the film, Cobb is haunted by his children running around his subconscious, just like Mal is (although they are not given as much focus/attention as Mal is in the movie).

In Limbo, we are lead to believe that Cobb resolves his issues over Mal, but then what about his children? If his Mal/Limbo world was an echo of the one they constructed together, would his children/Limbo world not be of the time he left without saying goodbye?

It is also interesting to note that there are two places where Cobb does not see if his top keeps spinning: the first is when he goes under after meeting the sleep drug guy -- he knocks it over when he is distracted in the bathroom; the second is at the end where Michael Cain's character says "look, here are your children" (or something to that effect) and takes him to see his children (in a sequence that is initially nearly identical to his memory of seeing his children before he ran to another country).

My interpretation (based on the above) is that he is still in Limbo at the end and it is his mind fabricating what he wants to happen and to correct not going to talk with his children. This may even have happened when he went under after meeting the sleep drug guy and everything else after that was part of the dream.

It may also have been Mal in his subconscious twisting things, planting the idea of seeing his children at a deeper subconscious level, reinforcing that at deeper levels (Saito's dying words in the snow scene about honouring his word; Mal shooting Saito in that sequence; forcing them deeper into Limbo).

This would then back up my original musings that it was not just Fisher that was Incepted, but Cobb as well re: his children.

John Moscow said...

Hi Reece,

This is one of the perfectly valid Inception interpretations. And you put some good arguments above.

Thank you for sharing it!

Anonymous said...

Cobb returned from the dream world to the same reality he was in before attempting inception. He chooses to hug his children rather than watching the totem at the end because, ultimately, he has to take a leap of faith that he is no longer dreaming. Like the viewer Cobb can never prove beyond a doubt that he is not still in a dream, therefore the totem falling is irrelevant and Nolan cuts to black just before it does.

Anonymous said...

I think Cobb is awake and #5 is accurate. He has returned to the world pre-inception.

If you notice, when they wake up on the plane Saito goes to make the call for Cobb so he can enter the country. What's the coincidence that he would make a phone call after clearly just awaking? He makes it after staring at Cobb. Plus the fact that the others were sleepy looking (Ariadne) as if they too had just woken up.

They aren't supposed to acknowledge each other if you remember once they wake up. Like when Siato found Cobb, he and his partner were about to split up.... Which is why they just get nods at the end in the airport waiting on baggage.

You cannot cheat physics. If the totem starts to wobble it will fall. But that really is irrelevant. Cobb chooses not to look at it because he has to trust he isn't dreaming.... and b/c his kids are walking in the door.

Lastly, if you check the credits... the kids at the end are NOT the kids in the other parts of the film. They are 2 years older and do have different (although similar) outfits.

Anonymous said...

this last interpretation is the same as mine! and it's really clear. thanks for sharing

Anonymous said...

What I still cant understand is the part of the totem, if you're the only one thats allowed to touch your totem, why does cobb have his wife's totem?

Anonymous said...

The one thing everyone seems to be missing re the totem is that only the owner (or in cobb's case just himself due to the only other person to touch it being dead) knows the weight and feel, therefore no one else could create it accurately in a dream. The OWNER of the totem however could accurately create it in his own dream..
The only practical application of the totem is to prove you are not in someone else's dream.

Unknown said...

This movie performs the act of inception. Everyone thinks to themselves "what if I'm really just dreaming". If you listen to how they implant the idea in the film, they take an idea Fischer (symbolic of the audience) already has and feed it back to him, so he comes up with the idea but gang (symbolic of the movie) influences the potency of this idea by emphasizing it. When I walked out of the theater, i couldn't help but wonder for a moment if i was dreaming. THAT was the goal of the movie, at least to me. If the movie had given a definite answer instead of an open ending, the idea would no longer have been mine (as the viewer), this is the same as if they had just told Fischer that his dad wanted him to be his own would not be Fischer's idea, and inception would not have occurred. But by watching this film, you question reality afterward. But can you really credit the movie for doing this? You may sometimes think that the world is a dream, and this movie emphasized that idea and fed it back to us. That is how inception occurs. Look past the movie and ask yourself, did Leonardo DiCaprio perform inception on Fischer, or the audience?

Anonymous said...

The sixth possibility is absolutely absurd. If this were the case it would make the movie completely and utterly pointless. Even considering this as a possible ending is a waste of everyone's time.

John Moscow said...

@Anonymous (March 29, 2011 10:38 PM)
The sixth possibility is the most flawless one. The fact you are not able to consider this fact does not speak very good for yourself. Whether Christopher Nolan has had it in mind is completely different story but it does not make a particular interpretation absurd.

Anonymous said...

I like Interpretation #6

Anonymous said...

The spinning totem is not even his! Total distraction, at no point are we told what leos totem is! So if it falls or spins it is totally irrelevant!

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