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Author:  Ray [ Sun May 15, 2011 4:13 pm ]
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Yeah, I just thought Nolan saying "By the way, remember they're all still here, in this van" a bit grating - if we followed the film this far, we get that already.

If you were in the dream world, what would your totem be?

Author:  George Berger [ Mon May 16, 2011 10:28 pm ]
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I now think that the slow falling is incongruous, and that it is more problematic than I thought. Tony gave me this feeling. The people in the van seem to be dreaming about actions on the two deeper levels that in our world would take longer to complete than the short time needed for the fall. Now, some recent SF uses the notion that events can go through a mind at a slower pace than they do in the real world. Usually, the minds are virtual entities running on computers. I have no problems with this. But in Inception we have, perhaps, a real van full of people having coordinated dreams. The van is not hardware that supports the dreaming; Cobb et. al. have apparatus for that. So, it is possible- my uncertainty is why I italicised 'perhaps'-that we ought to see the van falling at a quickly accelerating speed. But we don't. Intellectually noticing this can yield a cognitive incongruity that is a bother and a laugh. I am not sure that this is fully correct though, and wish to watch the film again and check some ideas I have. There's a lot more going on in the film than the fall.

Author:  George Berger [ Mon May 23, 2011 11:10 pm ]
Post subject:  more on Inception.

Last night I viewed part of 'Inception' again. One thing became clearer to me, which does not mean that it's a correct interpretation of the film. The dialogue entails that we are dealing with four levels, not three. I was wrong about that. Three are said to be dream levels, and one is the level in which people are explaining the setup. The three dream levels are needed, it is said, in order to be as certain as possible that the incepted idea will be felt as really coming from the subject's mind, i.e., that it has not been planted there by someone else. The reasons given lead back to our van issue. It is quite important to 'Inception' and to philosophical notions about reality. I shall complete watching the film and then think about this.

Author:  Tony [ Tue May 24, 2011 12:34 pm ]
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There are quite similiar multi-level confusions of reality vs. fantasy (though with computer program simulations, not dreams) in Star Trek Voyager's 2nd season episode 'Projections'... ... Voyager%29

A malfunction on the ship's holodeck causes the doctor (actually an 'emergency medical hologram') to believe he's the Starfleet officer who created the EMH, and that all the crew are simply characters in a holo-novel.

Some identity confusions, obviously, but also many excellent, blurry-reality/ phildickian moments to enjoy. Robert Picardo and Dwight Schultz both deliver outstanding performances, communicating eerie paranoia in various complex layers of 'delusions' about existence.

Author:  George Berger [ Tue May 24, 2011 12:47 pm ]
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Thanks Tony. I'll check these out. For what it's worth, I bought 'Matrix' at a DVD sale last Saturday, so this multiple reality theme has definitely aroused my interest.

I stopped watching 'inception' several nights ago, at the point when the inceptors and victim get in the plane. That is where I felt the hard part cut in, for (among other things) it started me thinking about the occupants of the van. If that van is in the topmost of the three dream levels, then its slow fall might (I'm unsure) be justified, not incongruous (as I thought with open mind), and hence not a reminder by Nolan that there's one real world out there, and that everything else is being dreamt. We shall see.

Author:  Tony [ Tue May 24, 2011 3:37 pm ]
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Released in 1999, same year as the first Matrix blockbuster, The 13th Floor is also worth seeing...
It's an intriguing, but not greatly entertaining, variation on the SFnal 'edge of the contruct' theme.

And, interestingly, it's based on a 1970s novel, Simulacron 3, which predates the whole cyberspace/ punk movement, and S3 was adpated for TV by Fassbinder as World On A Wire.

I read the novel decades ago, and have WOAW on disc but haven't got around to watching it yet.

Author:  George Berger [ Tue May 24, 2011 10:44 pm ]
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A nice coincidence, Tony. SF fan and (thanks to me) IZ subscriber Björn Lindström mentioned 13th Floor to me this evening, in a fine Sushi place. I told him that I was writing about 'Inception,' and he told me about that movie.

Author:  George Berger [ Mon Jun 06, 2011 10:41 pm ]
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I viewed Inception again, and while I cannot say that I have the correct account of its course of events, I do have some thoughts that differ from those each of us expressed here.

Towards the film's beginning Cobb states that some series of mental events are his dreams, and that in those dreams he, his wife, and his two children are 'still together.' I missed this before and I now think it might be crucial to the philosophy and plot of the film. For it entails that we are dealing with four streams of dream-consciousness, not Robert's three, as we have assumed. The question of the existence of the non-dream reality outside of these streams then arises.

Begin by noticing that Yusuf boards the plane before Robert is sedated and before Arthur starts his job as centre of the dream sharing. The entire taxi episode is then on the first dream level, the highest of our original three. So then, are the van sequences; these dreamt sections on level 1 must be coordinated with those of the deeper levels 2 and 3. At 1, Robert's mind successfully defends itself against the inceptors, Yusuf drives a van, it begins to fall towards the water, and all dreamers are 'kicked' into levels 2 and 3. They somehow exist 'in' the dreams at both 2 and 3, with the dreamscapes sculpted by Ariadne, via Arthur.

Level 3 is a dream in Robert's subconscious, wherein a protected fortress (created by Ariadne) represents his final defence against the ideas to be incepted. He fails and accepts the incepted idea as really his own (although his waking mind will not know this has 'happened'). He shall break up his father's energy firm, and Saito will profit. The van hits the water at 1 and a landslide occurs at 3 ( both orchestrated by Ariadne), and all dreamers are kicked up to what appears to be the non-dream of physical reality. Cobb immigrates to America with Saito's help and is (it seems) reunited with his two children.

But now consider Cobb's notion that at least some of his mental courses of events are his dreams, in which he and his family are 'still together.' What roles do these dreams play? Cobb is told twice (once by a Mal of his private dream) to take a 'leap of faith,' to decide what is real. I am being intentionally vague now. This leap was described in S. Kierkegaard's book, Fear and Trembling. It is one's freely chosen commitment based on insufficient evidence, that from then on guides one's life (Kiergegaard had religious choices in mind).

This yields two possibilities for interpreting the end. First there is the common sense notion: all characters are kicked back to the sole physical world, Saito exerts financial influence, and Cobb returns to America and takes charge of his children.
The second possibility is rather more subtle. Cobb takes a leap of faith, and enters or reenters or restarts (or was always in (!)) his own dream. I believe that the second possibility is symbolised by his turning away from his spinning-top totem and walking towards his children. By no longer seeing the totem he abandons his previous notion of what is real, and leaps to a second, soothing, one. He and his offspring connect and all ends well.

Or does it? What is now real, if anything: the sole physical universe, or the world of Cobb's dream? More incisively, is there one privileged physical world, has Cobb been dreaming at least since his return, or is the universe itself a non-physical consciousness of some sort, 'parts' of which can be conveniently called dreams? I do not know. A Facebook friend and film expert tells me that Nolan intentionally left the second sentence- question of this paragraph open, as food for thought. Here I have dug deeper, by raising questions about reality that are suggested by the film, although they might not have been written into it.

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