Thursday, December 2, 2010

Inception Ending Interpretation

Inception
Although this article has a very similar title to a previous blog entry of mine, it is a different one actually. At the end of my recent post concerning various Inception ending interpretations I've mentioned a possible option that is quite rarely discussed on the web. In the succeeding days though, I've pretty much decided that the aforementioned interpretation is the most corresponding one to the events presented in the movie.

I have to say I do not insist that this Inception ending interpretation is the rendition the makers of the movie have intended to present. I'm just saying that according to the narrative and the characters portrayed in the movie, the treatment of the ending I'm going to write about seems to be the most flawless and rational one.

So, in a few words, the interpretation in question is the following: Cobb wakes up on the plane in the real world. But in contrast to many other opinions on the net interceding for the "not dreaming" ending theory, in my version there are not any technologies for controlling the dreams. The whole movie narrative previous to that point has been just an ordinary nightmarish dream.

Why is this theory feasible? I'm going to list some good points in support of it. Just have in mind that I'm not a big fan of Inception in particular (I'm just an overall movie fan) and thus, I'm not a die-hard fan of any Inception ending interpretation. I'm just trying to look at the movie in a logical way while taking in account it is not the average every day movie. I know that such a theory about the Inception ending won't be very popular because it seems quite an ordinary one to the most of the people and they prefer more unusual treatments but this is what I've seen while watching the movie. I do not think Inception will become a lower quality movie if we accept that there has not been a dreaming device and multi-layered dreams. Just the opposite, it could be thought of as an even cooler ending when we finally understand that it is all an ordinary dream after have been looking for 2 hours at the result of ultra advanced dreaming technologies and architectures. So, here we go...


What do we see at the end of the movie (since Cobb wakes up)?

1. Cobb wakes up. It is not shown that he has any dream device wires attached to him.

2. Cobb wakes up in a way he would wake up from an ordinary dream. If he has been in a controlled dream he shouldn't be so surprised waking up. In fact, if you have looked carefully, the rest of the characters waking up from various dream levels during the movie behave quite differently.

3. Fischer is on the plane with several people he is supposed to have been sharing his dreams with but there is not any reaction from his side that he knows any of them!

4. Nobody from the other team members demonstrates any concern about Cobb while looking at him on the plane. It is not very likely they stay so detached while waiting for their friend or colleague to come back from the "purgatory".

5. Saito makes a phone call to somebody but it is not necessarily related to Cobb.

6. At the airport, again there is not a sign that somebody has known anybody else from the "team" prior to the flight. There are just some looks exchanged, nothing unusual between a few people that have had a long flight together.

7. After passport control Cobb is welcomed by Michael Caine's character. This does not seem very likely to happen if there has been a real conspiracy (independently of who this character might be). It is far more likely to wait for somebody who is just coming home rather than somebody taking part in such an important operation.

8. In every scene since Cobb's awakening he behaves like a man who has just had a terrible dream and he is still wondering if the dream is over. We see him to be a little frightened or unsecured which is quite normal for a man having such a bad dream. And again, he behaves like a person who has just had an uncontrolled dream rather than a controlled one. He even spins that "totem" on the table but not to see whether it falls or not but more like a reminiscence of his dream on the plane.


What do we see before Cobb wakes up on the plane?

Inception
1. There is not almost any character development during the dreaming except for Cobb.

2. As some people already "complained" on several web sites - what is the reason the world created by Cobb and his wife not to be a more beautiful one. If it has been made in a long controlled dream it could be a real paradise but if it is just a part of Cobb's uncontrolled dreaming then it is just what it happens to be in the particular dream.

3. One would expect that each subsequent dream level would be more advanced and abstract. Quite strangely, you could not say this about dream level 3 compared to dream level 2. But if it is an uncontrolled dream then everything is fine and it just has happened to be like this.

4. The rules of dreaming were changed quite a lot during the movie. Again, this is not very likely for controlled dreaming. And it is completely Ok for an ordinary dream. In fact, ordinary dreams happen just like that - they take different directions constantly and they are quite unstable.

5. If we stick to the controlled dreaming theory then there are lots of weak points during the whole movie. But in the case of uncontrolled dreaming, all of them become immediately OK. For example, Saito was not intended to participate in the "team". They took him in just because he insisted. And then Saito is almost killed in dream level 1. Why would they bother to take him on the next dream levels in a controlled dream - just to make their task harder? But if it is just an ordinary dream of Cobb's, no problem, it just happened.

6. If you control dreaming, it would be normal to try to make it "right". And if it is not a controlled one, everything is possible. Now, it was said in the movie that dreams should look real so, the subject does not realize it's a dream. Ok, what "reality" do you see for Fischer in that snow shooting level? But if it is an ordinary Cobb's dream, again it has just happened like this.


I can continue this list but I think the idea is quite clear. The uncontrolled dreaming interpretation solves almost any possible problem in the movie... I know the controlled dreaming version is more charming but it is not the best one fitting what we have seen on the screen. Again, I'm not saying that Christopher Nolan has had in mind the ordinary dream rendition but this is what at the end, I and probably some other folks have seen presented on the screen.

It might be strange for some people that someone would introduce the whole dreaming technology and the whole complex story if it is all about an ordinary dream but why not... It makes the film really intriguing and during the whole dreaming process Cobb understands a few things about himself and the way he would like to live his life. So, it's still worth to pay that ticket price and see the movie - Inception is not less enjoyable even with such ending interpretation.

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28 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think your argument is quite weak, if it's really an ordinary dream, how could all those person on the plane are inside cobb's dream, are you always dreaming with almost all person sitting near you before you sleep?

my personal theory is that the world was real, but the last scene from the airport is Cobb trapped inside his or Saito's limbo.

Inside Saito's limbo, they(Cobb and Saito) break the rules of the current dream, that they must 'fall' in order to wake up. They can't die the 'normal' way because of the sedatives. They didn't fell and suddenly Cobb's woke up inside the plane.
---

For the arguments:

*3. Fischer is on the plane with several people he is supposed to have been sharing his dreams with but there is not any reaction from his side that he knows any of them*

Fischer didn't remember the dream well, unlike other member of the team which aware that they'll be dreaming, Fischer was forced to dream. If the last scene was a limbo it would be irrelevant though.
---

*4. Nobody from the other team members demonstrates any concern about Cobb while looking at him on the plane. It is not very likely they stay so detached while waiting for their friend or colleague to come back from the "purgatory".*

Irrelevant if the last scene is a Limbo
---
*6. At the airport, again there is not a sign that somebody has known anybody else from the "team" prior to the flight. There are just some looks exchanged, nothing unusual between a few people that have had a long flight together.*

for me it's actually a sign that they do know each other, however, it would be irrelevant if the last scene is a Limbo
---

*8. In every scene since Cobb's awakening he behaves like a man who has just had a terrible dream and he is still wondering if the dream is over. We see him to be a little frightened or unsecured which is quite normal for a man having such a bad dream. And again, he behaves like a person who has just had an uncontrolled dream rather than a controlled one. He even spins that "totem" on the table but not to see whether it falls or not but more like a reminiscence of his dream on the plane.*

Is it really true that if the totem fell, then it's not a dream anymore? Anything can happen, it could be Cobb's subconscious interferes in the limbo by making the totem behave like 'reality' to make himself sure that he is in the real world. For me the last scene from the airport has dreamlike feels...

Melodia said...

Why did you post your comment 4 times?

Now, on the topic...
This is a movie - it is not needed to dream always "with almost all person sitting near you before you sleep" in order to make a movie like Inception.

Apart from that, you explain everything with the last scene being a limbo... I cannot turn down this possibility completely but it would be maybe the last one on my list of interpretations.

You are using the limbo version as an argument against some of my points without trying to demonstrate somehow first why it should be the "limbo" version.

Anonymous said...

Melodia has a good point. By saying
'it would be irrelevant if the last scene is a Limbo', this rejects the intricacies of Nolan's film without providing a sound justification of why the 'limbo' version is superior in any way!

Anonymous said...

You guys are all forgetting that no one is supposed to touch anoyhers totem...during the middle of the film actress(Ellen Page) makes a totem...Cobb (Leo), asks to see her totem (the chess peice). Ellen refuses and Leo praises her recognition. At the very end old Saito is playing with Cobb's totem, meaning the totem isn't going to properly work for Cobb...and at the very end the top doesn't seem to work right, which could mean Leo is trapped in limbo.

Melodia said...

"You guys are all forgetting that no one is supposed to touch anoyhers totem...during the middle of the film actress(Ellen Page) makes a totem...Cobb (Leo), asks to see her totem (the chess peice). Ellen refuses and Leo praises her recognition. At the very end old Saito is playing with Cobb's totem, meaning the totem isn't going to properly work for Cobb...and at the very end the top doesn't seem to work right, which could mean Leo is trapped in limbo."

This is an interesting Inception interpretation on its own although it does not matter a lot if we assume that everything has been an ordinary dream...
Still, it's a good version for further consideration.

Sarabelle said...

After seeing this movie a second time, I must agree that it does appear that the only "real" moment is at the end when Cobb wakes up. I do think that there is a moment of recognition by the other team members on the flight but I think it's only a reflection of the experience of the flight and not the dream. I definitely think Fischer would have reacted completely different had he awoken to find all of the people in his dream sitting around him. Siato's call at the end could have been a call to anyone. Because at no point does the movie reference a time period, I suppose one could assume that this movie takes place in a distant future where dream "extraction" takes place. But that information is not given to us so it would be incorrect to assume the time period. (Of course this also assumes dream extraction isn't going on right now!) Upon a second review (and I'm sure a third, fourth and fifth!) I walked away from the movie satisfied that the entire movie was Cobb's dream. So many points of the dream are realistic to dreams in general --- ESPECIALLY the part where you can't see someone's face when you really want to in a dream. I could go on and on about symbols of dream interpretation and what his dream "inception" was about but I love this movie too much to dissect it further.

Leda said...

I think this version is getting some followers. I saw there are people supporting it on IMDb also. Maybe it is an overlooked version due to the reason it "simplifies" the movie at first thought. And some people probably thinks that if they share such interpretation of the ending, the others will think they are stupid for simplifying the movie.
My opinion is that the movie is good, independably of what interpretation one will choose.

Anonymous said...

All you people are stupid. The movie starts with Leo being in Limbo

Melodia said...

"All you people are stupid. The movie starts with Leo being in Limbo"

Thanks for enlightening us!

Anonymous said...

Sooo i'm too lazy to point out what i'm referring to so please try and keep up.

a) Aren't they not supposed to remember the dream, afterwards? Or else dream extraction would be useless, no?

b) they don't HAVE to take him to the next level because of he dies he's too sedated to wake up and he'll be stuck in limbo forever?

c) I figured they didn't acknowledge each other because they got on the plane pretending not to know each other.

d) the last scene perhaps he didn't care if it was a dream or not, he was with his kids.

Anonymous said...

your all idiots, leo is obvoiusly having a wet dream, hes been horny for awhile thats why he kept on imagining that girl, the film obviously states his fantasies about a three some with juno and that one chick. peace out nigga

CusCus said...

Reality or Limbo... its reality for Cobb.. but they could be in limbo... as cobb was talking to saito in his limbo... like in the end of the movie....

and with the plane thing.... Arthur looked at Cobb like he knew him... smiling happiliy at him for quite a while... i don't i would do that to someone I didn't know... and Ariadne looked at Cobb as he passed through Customs... and she seemed happy for him... why the heck would a stranger be happy for someone they don't know..

Melodia said...

CusCus, it's not so unusual people to smile to each other even without knowing themselves. And in this case they have travelled a long distance flight together so they are not so unfamiliar.

It's a movie after all, and smiling to someone who you've known for 10 hours is still more probable than the existance of the dream machine presented in the movie. :)

Anonymous said...

i think i just need to point out that when you say they didn't show any recognition to each other after the dream, is because they were not suppose to know each other so that ficher wouldn't be suspicious

Dirty Brown Clown said...

You don't need to touch another's totem to defeat its purpose. If Arthur told Ariadne what number his loaded die always lands on, it would defeat the purpose of the die, no?
At one point, Cobb tells Ariadne how the top works (in a dream it just spins and spins), basically giving away the secret of the totem to Ariadne, rendering it useless.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone considered that Cobb is dead? The dream sequences he has when he is first takes the extra potent serum and that are recalled and elaborated on (with Adriene) about Mal seem like the only points of reality in the movie. These dream shots seem more like memories, while the rest of the movie does seem like a purgatory limbo. Perhaps Mal was, infact, trying to save Cobb? I'm going to watch the movie again to re-think this....but I would love to hear other thoughts on the idea.

John Moscow said...

Cobb being dead is an interesting idea... Maybe it's possible but I don't know how exactly to define "dead" in this movie. :) Also, is limbo some state like "near dead" or is it "dead", or just deep dreaming, or ...

Rachel said...

FYI, some of y'all might be interested in checking out the nearly hour-long interview with Christopher Nolan that Wired Magazine has put out as a podcast: http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/01/storyboard-christopher-nolan-inception/

Nolan and Wired editor Rob Capps really get into about what things in the movie mean... "Full of film theory, architecture talk and conspiracy chatter, this discussion between Capps and Nolan is an Inception fanboy’s dream … or is it his reality … or is it a dream?

Wait for the top to stop spinning, or just listen to the podcast and find out. "

Anonymous said...

Thanks Rachel. Are you from wired.com ?

Anonymous said...

Sorry but this ending trivializes the movie just like the one that says the whole thing was a dream.

In both cases the need for rules and structure is removed and all the holes are justified by saying something like 'that's just how it happened'. But to me that would make it a pointless movie, which this isn't.

There are a number of weaknesses or inconsistencies in the plot and I expect that in anything this complex and adventurous/ambitious.

Let me just counter one of your points - although it won't be tough to counter most of them.

3) Fischer waking up and not recognizing anyone.

So why doesn't Cobb recognize everyone from such a terrible nightmare? Wouldn't he end up staring at these people? Wouldn't he try to talk to one or two of them just to get his bearings right?

John Moscow said...

@Anonymous (February 28, 2011)

As I've already written I do not think that this interpretation is what the director has have in mind. I sat that it looks like it on the screen regardless of any intentions.

And your countering is not good enough cause Cobb actually "recognizes" everybody and he is looking at most of them after his awakening. He still knows that they are just people from his dream so it is not really necessary to talk to some strangers even they've been in his dream.

Anonymous said...

I looked at this movie and the idea that this was a bad dream could be true if it were not for one thing.

When Leo wakes up his right hand man Ken looks at his him and shakes his head while smiling. That expression is of recognition, and could be equated to, "holy crap he did it again and got away with it." Ken knows Leo and he knows what he has done in the past. And Ken recognizes that Leo did something that nobody else could pull off.

All of the other smiles and nods could happen between strangers. That I will agree with.

The fact that the individuals don't acknowledge each other makes sense because after all they are on a commercial flight plane and can't start high fiving each other on a plan well executed! You have to make it so that you remain unknown to the main candidate namely Fischer.

Anonymous said...

I think the whole inception is for cobb not fisher. Fisher is actually another dreamer on the team to make the whole thing believeable...Mal was right they weren't back in reality yet so she killed herself and woke up. we never see reality in the movie. Just cobbs believed reality in which Mal is dead That's why he can't be the dreamer because he is already dreaming. They are jacking into cobb and monitoring him (in the beginning) to see what his reality is. (which of course sucks cause he can't go back to his kids and believes Mal is dead... ) I.e. when his father tells him to come back to reality (this happens in cobbs perceived reality.) They all come up with an inception for cobb to be able to return home. He also tells his father if he can do this job he "believes" he will be able to go home to his children. Cobb is lost no matter what and will never be able to wake up, they are just trying to give him a happy ending in his perceived reality. What sucks is... in Limbo Mal believed in cobb enough to kill herself and wake up to reality but when he was lost and she told him this wasn't real he didn't believe in her!

Anonymous said...

Bump!

I'm totally with you on this interpretation. The theory that everything up to Cobb's awakening on the plane was his own dream doesn't have to mean that the people on the plane had never met before going on the flight! We don't know that! They could be equally familiar with eachother in reality as they would have been had Cobb's dream been real..

So, the characters' different reactions/behaviour in the final scene on the plane and onwards can _impossibly_ be an argument against this interpretation since if Cobb really did dream everything up to his awakening on the plane, we can't say ANYTHING about the characters' relations to each other in reality. They could be long time friends, colleagues who met months ago, or strangers who met on the plane and just had some conversation before Cobb fell asleep. All variations and combinations are possible, and can therefore explain every single reaction and behaviour of each character from Cobb's awakening and on.

Neither does this interpretation determine that the whole inception thing with dream-machine etc. is impossible trivializing it all, all it says is that THIS TIME is was just dream.

John Moscow said...

@ Anonymous (Sep 5, 2011)

I am glad there are other people that show rational thinking. It's not the only possible interpretation but it's one of the strongest without any serious argument against it.

Anonymous said...

*Bump*

@People who called out irregular reactions:

Fischer saw the group before he was put to sleep. I've personally dreamt of people I don't know after seeing their faces, but I don't tell them I dreamt about them, 'cause that's creepy. Fischer may have been in a similar rationale in that he believed his mind to have placed them in his dreams as he had just seen them.

In the next scene, as Cobb is exiting the terminal, he sees Fischer, who returns a look to Cobb as if he had just seen him in his dream.

Anonymous said...

I just have one doubt...the totum that all are taking about is actually of mel...not of cobb..so a same totum can work for two people or not?

Anonymous said...

not too bright are you. The reason everyone acted like they did not know each other was..... because the guy they where planting the idea in was sitting right there. I do not think the idea would have planted too good with the guy waking up still wired up to everyone else.

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