Wednesday, August 4, 2010
The word is dicey. It exhumes a beat of novelty. True to its meaning, Inception by Christopher Nolan is the beginning of a new cult. The creation of something that is so mind-boggling that it's too good to be true. I worship his genius.
Dominic Cobb (Leonardp Di Caprio) is an expert at stealing. Stealing people's ideas from their dreams while they are sleeping. Yes, our world could come to that. But the bigger challenge comes to him when he is asked to plant an idea in someone's mind instead. Saito (Ken Watanabe), a rich man, wants Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy), heir to his father's empire, to break it up in order to avoid a threat to his own business.
Cobb hires a young aspiring architect Ariadne (Ellen page) to construct dreams that Fischer would enter when dreaming. She has to create a maze that would allow enough time for the team to manipulate the subject's mind, luring him into thinking what they want him to think. They want him to destroy his father's empire. Not violently and forcibly in real life, but by injecting in him an idea using emotional play. A business decision needs to be communicated by hitting what's most sensitive to us - our emotions.
Going down three layers deep into Fischer’s subconscious, Cobb and his team control and navigate through the dreams facing numerous challenges on the way. They discover that Fischer has been trained to ward off dream infiltrators, and so has developed security, which will only hamper their mission. But the game must go on.
This film got me thinking of many issues. One most prominent being how the entire concept of breaking into someone’s mind is in fact a reality today. How? Simple. Through the innumerous information we are being fed day in and day out, with the bombardment of the media. We may not be wholly aware of it (a dream state?) because it works seemingly discreetly, injecting our minds with what it wants us to believe. We forget what’s real and what’s not. Like how Cobb heavily sedates Fischer, we too are sedated – on postmodern paraphernalia.
The second thing I’d like to mention is the power of the mind. The power to invade directly, in contrast to the powerlessness of surrender. While we all think we have complete control of our lives once we get our degrees and pass out of prestigious institutions, we are equally vulnerable to the evils of the real world. But like in the film, what seems real for the victim is in fact a dream, although what happens in the dream is real because he is brainwashed enough to believe that the decisions he takes are his own. Brainwash. The word seems more interesting to me now. It makes complete sense. Brainwash can almost be used as a synonym to inception. After all, doesn’t it do the same thing? Systematically frame a person’s mind and manipulate it enough to convince him to believe that what he thinks is right and true of his own accord.
Nolan’s concept of limbo I find quite fascinating. When you are heavily sedated in a dream, you may never wake up even if you kill yourself and you’ll fall into what he calls “unconstructed dream space”, where you only find “raw infinite subconscious”. And what’s worse, you’ll grow old in this indefinite world. I wonder if many of us have already fallen in this limbo, living our world in an infinite subconscious simply because we have been heavily sedated by powerful market forces. I find an uncanny resemblance to today’s brand culture being part of sedating us into limbo. Unconstructed brand space. Until we give ourselves an appropriate “kick”, we may never get out of it.
If, however, we are aware of these forces of propaganda, then we can develop a resistance towards it, just like how Fischer developed security against invaders who entered his subconscious. But if propaganda can reach levels where we are convinced that we are not being manipulated, then what else is left?
How we perceive is how we understand what we see. How I see someone may be different from what you may. So like in the film where one sees someone else in a dream as a “projection” which defines his perception of that person in real life, in a sense translates to the fact that how we really see people in real life is what they are in our dreams.
Waking Life by Richard Linklater is another film that explores the blurring lines between dreams and reality. A rotoscoped film, it traces the dream adventures of a young man who cannot get himself out of a dream. Lucid dreaming keeps us aware that we are dreaming, but what if we get stuck and simply can’t get out? The dream becomes a reality that we live in, floating in its surreal geography. Like how the young man gets lessons from philosophers about life, existentialism, reality and free will, Inception is an application of some of these ideas in action. What is free will? Does it really exist? Who controls what we think? Can an idea ever be original? Even if it’s planted in one’s head, can we be fooled to think that it’s “our” idea? According to one of Cobb’s associates, “the subject’s mind always traces the genesis of an idea. True inspiration is impossible to fake.” So who gets the real credit of an idea?
I know one thing for sure. Nolan’s genius is impossible to fake. With his execution of the most complicated mind games, it is a breathtaking experience to watch this film. Not once, not twice, but for as long as the totem spins. Lost in your dreams? You could be in danger. Because your mind is the seed of the crime.