Re-Noting Inception

We wrote a lengthy piece on Inception at the time of the films release, so this serves as a simple companion, an update of sorts, to tie-in with the release of Christopher Nolan’s latest film, The Dark Knight Rises. For the initial piece, please click here. We also wrote a follow-up piece on the film to mark it’s Oscar nomination for Best Picture several months later. That essay can be found here.

* The whole crux of the films rests on one distinction: that of what is  real and what is a dream. Hollywood itself is a direct combination of the two, placing dreams against memories to provoke a dramatic response or reaction from the viewer. An eerie centre of reality haunts the movie: the most impressive scene within the picture, Mal’s suicide, exists in a purposefully constructed situation even when being it’s said to be being presented verbatim as a memory of one of the other characters. 

* Re-evaluating the film two years on from it’s initial bow, one cant help but remain in awe of the cut of the film. Its simply miraculous that so much is conveyed within the edit, as opposed to over-explained in expositionary dialogue, as per the accusations of some (there’s not actually a single line of exposition in the films opening 20 minutes, which sees the concept of “levels” explained ably in purely visual terms). The entire third act takes place over five separate levels, each occupying a different temporal plane, in which the rules of time pass differently. That this is projected in a clear, accessible manner is hugely impressive. 

*  The film bounces from set piece to set piece, leading us to somewhat jingoistically deem it a digi-North By Northwest in a recent article for elsewhere. It’s not a complicated film by any means, but that’s not to say that it isn’t complex.

*  Inception might just be one of the most magnificently “loud” movies of the past decade. The imposing boom of the electro-horns is derived directly from Edith Piaf’s Non, je ne Regrette Rien, a song utilised as a narrative device in the film too. So it’s actually theoretically  sublime as well as being effective on the ears.

* While the collaboration between Christopher Nolan and Wally Pfister goes all the way back to Memento, it is with Inception that Pfister’s eye really comes in to its own. Iconic imagery fills the picture, from the opening sequences inside Saoto’s dreamland headquarters, through to the sight of a diesel-train ploughing through the streets of a rainy New York. In spite of such grandstanding, it’s the moments in which Pfister and Nolan play loose that one really notices the aesthetics of the picture: take the sequence set in the Parisian workshop as Joseph Gordon Levitt’s Arthur sets up a space for Ariadne and Cobb to connect, as a handheld camera, or the “dream bigger” sequence, in which the chaos of the situation is conveyed by a disconnected, loose camera. 


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  1. a couple of the things that a friend has levelled at it is the overuse of the phrase ‘dream within a dream’ and that there isn’t a lot of rewatch value to the film. I strongly disagreed on both points. It turned out south park did an episode mocking it and this made it hard for him to take it seriously again. I love south park. But inception Will always be a classic and a look into where nolan’s future might lie. If i was the producers of bond i would offer nolan all the money in the world to direct the next one based on this film alone

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