Sunday, September 26, 2010

The mad world of Inception

[Needless to say this article is one big "spoiler" of Inception.]

This is my "review" of the movie Inception starring Leonardo DiCaprio. "Better late than never" right? However, I think you will find this belated analysis was well worth waiting for.

I'm not going to go into the details of the plot. I don't care whether the top was spinning or not. The whole point of my analysis is that we "can't see the forest for the trees".

The movie is not about "dreaming". So it becomes irrelevant whether such and such layer is a dream or a reality. The movie is about madness. But a particular type of madness.

The movie is about "mind control". It is about torture and kidnapping and brainwashing and water boarding.

Dom Cobb is an extractor. Translation: He is a torturer. He is an interrogator.

Mal in basement dungeon
There is no machine that allows Cobb and his cohorts to enter into people's dreams. This is not a science fiction movie set in the future; it is a movie set in the present. No such device exists in the present, therefore the device is a fiction. This is not a fantasy story. It is a story based wholly on reality.

The way in which the mind is probed is clearly on display in the movie. Everything is hidden in plain view of the audience. This movie is like a sequel to Christopher Nolan's previous movie the Prestige. That movie described how a magician deceives his audience. This movie could have been called "deception" rather than "inception". Notice the presence of Michael Caine in both movies.

Michael Caine as Miles in Inception
The Prestige explains how Inception works. The audience is constantly distracted so that it does not see what is happening in front of its own eyes. The audience sees instead an elaborate illusion.

That explains why the movie has often been interpreted as totally nonsensical. It is. If you try to follow the elaborate scheme, you will be confronted with many apparent contradictions. Those are your clues that the illusion is deliberately flawed.

The whole story is narrated by an unreliable narrator. Some have suggested that the whole movie is a dream. It isn't. It is a reality. Dreams take place while sleeping. This takes place while awake.
Quotes from Leonardo DiCaprio about his character Dom Cobb in Inception:

At the end of the day, these different layers of the dream do represent a psychoanalysis, him getting deeper and deeper and closer to the truth of what he needs to understand about himself.

There’s nothing more boring than to show up on set and say a line and know that your character means exactly what they say. It’s interesting to have an unreliable narrator in a film...
It is a reality as perceived by the narrator. Who is the narrator? We are never told the true identity. The important thing that you must understand about the narrator is that he (or she) has been driven mad.

There is only one character in the story. Whether the name is Dom Cobb or Mal, they are all aspects of the same personality. Just look at the names of the characters and it immediately becomes obvious that these are not real names.

Dom Cobb
Arthur, Ariadne, Eames, Saito, and Yusuf
Mal, Miles
Robert Michael Fischer, Peter Browning, Maurice Fischer

What do the names mean? I don't know, but I can take a guess at some of them.

Arthur - alter
Eames - me
Yusuf - you
Saito - sado
Ariadne - daughter of King Minos
Mal - bad, evil one

Much has been made of the fact that the name Ariadne is a character in the Minotaur myth, and that mazes (or labyrinth's) play a part in the plot. But where are the mazes in the story? We don't see mazes up on the screen. The mazes are created in your own mind as you try to unravel the elaborate plot. You are the one that is lost in a maze and end up being devoured by the minotaur. The top is nothing but a hypnotist's prop. It has no meaning to the story. By the end we have been trained to focus on the spinning top and ignore the "reality" in front of us.

Hypnotist: "look into my eyes..."
We are inside the mind of a man that is being subjected to MKULTRA techniques. Here are the clues - hidden in plain sight.

Electro-shock - heart defibrillator
Mind control drugs - heavy sedation
Water boarding - falling into water backwards while strapped to a chair
Hooded captives
Torture - of Peter Browning
Safe houses - safes, and houses in secluded areas protected by armed guards
Triggers - music

CIA safe house?
So who is Dom Cobb? This is obviously not his real name. I suspect he is an interrogator. I also suspect he has fallen into enemy hands and is being subjected to the very same torture techniques that he is used to applying to others. He has been trained to resist these techniques. I suspect the name Dom probably comes from "dominator" - with obvious implications for a torturer. Cobb? I don't know. Maybe a "cobweb" indicating a spider's web used to entangle its victim?

He focuses on his children which gives him a reason to continue resisting his torturers.

Who is Ariadne? I suspect that she is a psychologist working for the torturers who is attempting to extract some secret from Cobb.

Patient telling his "dreams" to Ariadne the psychiatrist
The torturers don't want the victim to descend into Limbo because then he goes mad and is of no further use to them. They want to "break" their victim and then pull him back out.

"Kick" or water boarding?
They may implant some mission into the victim, and also a trigger which will induce the person to complete the mission.

Maybe Cobb is a "manchurian candidate" which has been released and now waits to be sent on his mission. The trigger could be the song which appears throughout the movie.

But we are getting lost among the "trees" again, and have lost sight of the "forest". We are the real subjects. We are the ones being brainwashed and mind controlled. Some people have been going to watch this movie over and over again trying to understand "the message". In the process, they are being led into deeper states of hypnotic control and brainwashing.

"Your mind is the scene of the crime" - quote from movie trailer

Ultimately, "the message" of the movie has nothing to do with the plot. The "idea" that is being implanted into the audiences brain has nothing to do with "inception".

Connected to "dream machine"
The message has to do with suicide. The whole movie is a glorification of assisted suicide or euthanasia. The "dream machine" is really a mechanism for delivering a dose of drugs which will terminate life. First the victim is heavily sedated, and then the lethal poison is delivered. If it was a device for getting into a person's mind, wouldn't it connect to the brain instead of a vein in the wrist?

Mal preparing to take "leap of faith"
We are told to "take a leap of faith" and jump to our demise. The movie's "promise" is that "life is just a dream", and that when we die we will wake into a higher state of consciousness. There is no God - just dreams within dreams.

This is part of the "Humanistic" agenda which devalues human life and seeks to destroy Christianity. This is another gnostic fairy tale for those who are unable or unwilling to swallow the bitter pill of atheism.

Christians have always believed that suicide is a grave sin. The early Church was fully aware of belief systems that presented suicide as an honorable way of dying. This was a common belief in Roman society - not unlike the Japanese concept of hari-kari. The early Christians strongly rejected these pagan practices.

Today, the Catholic Church is fully devoted to preaching the value of human life. It has taken an unambiguous stance against abortion and euthanasia. It has also declared that the use of contraceptives is contrary to the dignity of human life.

Here is the Catholic teaching on suicide as contained in the Catechism.

2280 Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.

2281 Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.

2282 If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.

Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.

2283 We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.
"O my Jesus. Forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of Hell. Lead all souls to salvation - especially those in most need of thy mercy." This is the Fatima Prayer that was given to us by the Virgin Mary in an apparition in Fatima, Portugal in 1917 at the height of World War I. She asked us to pray it after each decade in the Rosary.

Jacinta, Francisco and Lucia - the Fatima children


  1. You make a very good point about 'suicide', your review takes an interesting stance on the 'meaning' of the film. I was actually at one of the fan sites when the movie came out (as you may know, I'm a bit of a movie freak and write my own reviews sometimes) a couple of people were saying that the audience - us - were being 'Incepted' by watching the movie and trying to decypher it! But you have explained that position quite well here. Its difficult to understand just exactly WHAT is happening but the idea of 'kick' as committing 'suicide' is very interesting when you look at it from your point of view.
    In the Eastern Orthodox christian church, a priest will not give last rights and perform any service if the deceased was a 'suicide victim, and no religious burial can take place as the church considers it a sin.

  2. Hi Marty. I found your review of Inception here:
    I agree that the movie is a very impressive cinematic work. However, the whole story left me feeling vacant. Who cares whether the energy industry is dominated by a British company or a Japanese company?

    Well you know me. The more a movie makes no sense, the more I try to make sense out of it. I notice you chose as a photo for your piece the one that I have posted showing DiCaprio and his team "asleep" in a hotel room. Now tell me? If you saw this picture and had no idea what the film was about, what would you think? One possibility is that the people joined in a suicide pact. Or you might think they are under the influence of an opium type drug. The last thing you would think of is that they are sharing their dreams.

    The suitcase sized contraption is very reminiscent of some euthanasia devices. One of them literally is about the size of a suitcase.

    Suicide is still a taboo subject in our society. I suspect this is just the beginning of a campaign to "legitimize" suicide. In ten years I would expect to see campaigns for full "suicide rights" - although they would probably come up with some more Orwellian term like "life-choice". This is analogous to the use of "pro-choice" to describe the pro-abortion movement.

    Already we have pro-euthanasia campaigns. BTW, the word "euthanasia" comes from the Greek god of death Thanatos. Thanatos has a twin brother, Hypnos - the god of sleep. So you see, Nolan has effectively used Hypnos as a substitute for Thanatos. Coincidentally opium poppies are associated with the twin brothers "sleep" and "death".

    "To be or not to be..." This is the famous soliloquy from Hamlet about suicide. There is another character, Ophelia, who does commit suicide in the play. There is a scene in the play depicting her funeral. According to the church traditions of the time she is not entitled to a Christian burial. But some sort of compromise is reached because of her nobility and she is given minimal honors and is allowed to be buried in the church yard instead of at the crossroads where her body would otherwise have been left.

    Hamlet Act 5, Scene 1

    "Is she to be buried in Christian burial that
    wilfully seeks her own salvation?"
    "Her obsequies have been as far enlarged
    As we have warrantise: her death was doubtful;"

    This is an area where Christian practices have been "liberalized" that has resulted in a great improvement. It is understood that in most cases the deceased must have been suffering great spiritual torment. It is in that spirit that I quoted the Fatima prayer at the end of this article... "O my Jesus. Forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of Hell. Lead all souls to salvation - especially those in most need of thy mercy."

    This does not however change the view of Catholicism towards suicide. Catholics, like Orthodox, still believe that suicide is a sin. That is why the Church has taken such a strong stance against euthanasia.

  3. Hey you forget the scene with Dicaprio and the mirrors...the broken parts of the mind..multiply personality...etc

  4. Anon - Yes. It's all there isn't it? And very blatantly at that. Also the one eye in the picture of Mal above. Who could miss it? More trees to hide the forest.

    Isn't it amazing how *suggestible* we are? A director places a series of images in front of us. Rather than believing what we see in front of our very eyes, we allow him to tell us how to interpret those scenes. We never question that we have fallen under his hypnotic control.

    And in real life, we fail to see the angels of God and the miracles before our very eyes. We fail to hear God's voice, because we are distracted by the narration of the anti-Christian forces telling us how to interpret reality.

    But life is not a gnostic dream. God created the world and He sent His Son to save the world. We are God's children. We can choose right or wrong; to follow His path or to go our own way.

    It may seem a paradox that we must sacrifice our worldly freedom to achieve true heavenly freedom, but it is not. No great goal is ever achieved without great sacrifice. We have been given a gift, but it is up to us to learn to use that gift. We each have a God given talent and we must learn through prayer how to use that talent in support of God's plan.

    Tomorrow, September 29, is St. Michael's feast day. (Oddly enough in the UK it is celebrated as Michaelmas.) The Catholic Church dedicates this day to all the archangels. There are thought to be at least seven, but the names of only 3 have been revealed in the Bible - Michael, Raphael and Gabriel. In these times of great spiritual battle on earth, St. Michael as the Prince of the Heavenly Host is a mighty ally. This is a good time to rededicate our lives to Jesus.

    Say the prayer of St. Michael given to us by Pope Leo XIII in 1884...

    "St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in the battle. Be our protection against the malice and snares of the Devil. We humbly beseech God to command him. And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the powers of God, cast into Hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen."

    If you can, go pray to the Eucharist and attend a Mass tomorrow. Tonight would be a good time for a prayer vigil.

  5. I happened to be reading about the novel "Steppenwolf" by Hermann Hesse. It occurred to me that director Christopher Nolan may have been at least partially inspired by this novel to create the movie Inception.

    Essentially Steppenwolf is a novel inside a novel inside a novel...

    Which is very similar to Inception which is a dream inside a dream inside a dream...

    Steppenwolf also has a theme of suicide, just like Inception.

    There is a female character "Hermine" in Steppenwolf that is a sort of alter ego of the main character Harry Haller. In the same way Mal is an alter ego of Dom Cobb.

    You can read more about the novel Steppenwolf on Wikipedia:

    Here is a quote from that article to whet your appetite:
    "It is also notable that the very existence of Hermine in the novel is never confirmed; the manuscript left in Harry Haller's room reflects a story that completely revolves around his personal experiences. In fact when Harry asks Hermine what her name is, she turns the question around. When he is challenged to guess her name, he tells her that she reminds him of a childhood friend named Hermann, and therefore he concludes, her name must be Hermine. Metaphorically, Harry creates Hermine as if a fragment of his own soul has broken off to form a female counterpart."

    NOTE: I did a quick internet search and I couldn't find anyone who had suggested a link between Inception and Steppenwolf which is the main reason that I decided to go ahead and add this comment here. Hermann Hesse was an influential writer. His novels were rediscovered in the 1960s. They contributed to "new age" spiritualism. Steppenwolf shows that "new age" thinking has a dark side which is rarely discussed. It is a novel of despair and suicide.