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Cinema and Technology: Inception

Zafar Anjum | July 27, 2010
As I exited the multiplex, I was wondering if we and our physical world, the universe, are really parts of a maya jaal, the Hindu concept of a web of illusion, a mere dream inside the head of God.

Chris Nolans Inception could well have been written by Argentinean short story writer and poet Borges, with inputs from Freud and Jung. Formatted as an edge-of-the-seat thriller, this film is a surrealist meditation on the nature of time, of guilt and redemption, of a father-son relationship and of the origins of our motivations and desires. The story of a heist inside the brain of an individual has been told like a philosophical riddle with a sophistication which is the hallmark of Nolans work, as seen before in his earlier ventures Memento and The Dark Knight.

The film starts within a labyrinthine dream, in which the main characters keep plumbing up and down the many layers of dream world reality. The protagonist, Dom Cobb (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), is a dream-catcher, a superb manipulator of dreams. He is the worlds best extractor of trade secrets from industrial czars. He invades their dreams and steals the secrets from their subconscious.

InceptionAt the start of the film, we see Cobb washed up on a sea shore. For a moment, I thought, hey, are we back in Shutter Island? I pinched myself. No, we are in a Nolan film. After the opening sequence, the film goes into a flashback or travels to a different layer of reality, whichever way you want to see it, where the story is set up: Cobb is given a challenge by a tycoon (Ken Watanabe) to implant an idea in his business rivals sons mindan act of inception. Due to his own past, a guilt-ravaged Cobb accepts the job to invade the subconscious of Robert Fischer junior (Cillian Murphy)his only way of getting back to his real world, where his two children await his arrival. Hmm, shades of Audrey Neffenggers The Time Travelers Wife.

From that point on, begins Cobbs heros journey along with a set of dream manipulators, assembled from various parts of the world. The films third act is the final sequence, the actual act of inception, when Nolan goes completely blockbuster. The subconscious of Robert Fischer junior is a snow-capped rugged landscape, that could well have been from a James Bond film, with gunfire to match.

The films strongest point, after the brilliant idea of inception of course, is Cobbs character. DiCaprio is so believable in his role, focused, determined and emotionally vulnerable. And so is Marion Cotillard who plays DiCaprios wife. If you could distill red wine into a female form, it would take the shape of Marion. Her sensuous vitality, her love, her idea of to-die for romance, is the emotional pivot of the movie, which defines the level of Cobbs guilt. However, Ariadne (Ellen Page), who plays a brilliant architect of dream world landscapes, seems a bit jarring in the filma teen among the adults. Perhaps the Juno girl was penciled in to appeal to the teen audience (you know how Hollywood hedges its bets).

 

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