INCEPTION / AUTHOR: DAVID CARTER / PUBLISHER: AUTEUR / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Inception is the kind of film that needs a guide like this to help understand its multi-layered and often confusing plot. From the start, author David Carter, a retired Professor of Communicative English at Yonsei University, Seoul, notes that this a hard film to categorise.
He agrees it is a science fiction film but has few of the trappings of that genre – indeed, it has many characteristics of a heist movie. The beginning of the film certainly has a complex robbery like a heist but the second half involves what might be regarded as a reverse heist where something has to returned rather than stolen.
The science fiction element is that these “heists” are conducted through dreams. Cobb, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, leads his partners to extract (ie. steal) industrial secrets from Saito (Ken Watanabe). Impressed by his performance, Saito hires Cobb to plant an idea, using inception, into the mind of a rival businessman to break up his empire.
A short biography of director Christopher Nolan is given, followed by an examination of the themes and ideas in his films that put Inception into context. Memory and identity, for example, are particularly strong themes in his first film Following and also in Memento and Insomnia.
Carter provides a detailed discussion of the film’s genre. Nolan had originally envisaged it as a horror film but, over the ten years it took to develop the script, he realised that Cobb’s emotional journey had to be the main driving force. He felt that the science fiction genre was more suitable for exploring the existence of alternate universes. He selected the heist genre to enable the audience to be more sympathetic to the actions of the perpetrators and have a deeper investment in their enterprise.
The role of dream and dream theory is also a main discussion point, where Carter observes that the use of dream states in Inception reflects the very act of film-making that is often equated with bringing dreams to life. Plus, the audience in a cinema is cut off from reality and is engrossed in a fictional drama, much like being in a dream. Carter helpfully highlights how Nolan shifts the viewer from one dream to another and how he uses symbolism along with Jungian and Freudian psychoanalytical concepts in the dream sequences.
This short 116-page book that, as part of the ‘Constellations studies in science fiction film and TV’ series, packs in plenty of useful information and detail, including notes, a bibliography and “further lines of inquiry.” Just the sort of book you need to get the maximum enjoyment from viewing Inception again or for the first time.