Yesterday I saw Christopher Nolan’s new film ‘Inception’. Coming on the back of the almost universally critically praised and Box Office behemoth ‘The Dark Knight’, ‘Inception’ carries with it a huge amount of anticipation.
I enjoyed it; a perfect pop-corn blend of plot, emotion and action (in a manner similar to ‘The Dark Knight’). When we were in the cinema lobby after one of the first things I said was “It was the most original film i’ve ever seen”. Having slept on it, i’m not so sure. It occurred to me as I was drifting off to sleep last night that it has remarkable similarities with Michel Gondry’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (which for me was the best film of the last decade). But having said that ‘Inception’ still is wildly original.
I’m not going to bother with the mechanics of breaking down the whole plot etc, (go see it, but the jist is its about people who can enter your dreams) but I do want to address one issue with the film. Or rather, an issue others seem to have with the film. Whilst many are hailing ‘Inception’ as a great film, it also has its fair share of detractors who feel Nolan’s film is far to driven by its clockwork-like plot. One of the criticisms i’ve seen is that for a film set largely inside peoples dreams the visuals are rather flat; or are no where near ‘dream-like’ and surreal enough. The film plays brilliant games with physics in the dream world, one which they cleverly explain in real terms and this allows for some fantastic sequences but for the most part much of the dream-world action is remarkably realistic, and this appears to have annoyed some critics.
But this made me think; just how wacky and surreal and amazingly mind-bendingly visual are your dreams? Mine never really are. Of course they swim inside a dream-world logic. Geography is usually inconsistent. My primary school appears in my back garden; my home town consists of one long street with only two buildings of note on either end. A door in my house leads to the middle of a shopping centre. And of course fantastic things can happen in dreams, but for the most part my dreams, and the majority of dreams I hear about from friends are relatively mundane. They reflect odd and fantastical events, but are still anchored in a world of real world objects and physics. As I said, ‘Inception’ does allow itself to play with some impressive feats of bending space and time, mainly when introducing a character to the dream world (and by extension, introducing us, the audience) and it directly acknowledges the strange geography in which dreams play themselves out, but other than that there are no people with fishes for heads flying around on giant tubes of toothpaste etc. which is what I gather critics were looking for. One conceit I will give is that while the film plays with the idea that time in dreams can be much different to real world time (and this idea is central to the dream-within-a-dream maze into which the film brings us) it doesn’t reflect the relatively inconsistent logic of dreams. People appear from no where, and disappear just as quick. Another consideration is that ‘dream-like’ is often used to describe a scene that is hazy, ghostly and other-worldly. ‘Inception’ doesn’t really give us any of these, these are hard, fast and thrilling dreams.
Photo owned by katieg93 (cc)
Is it a romantic notion (fueled by other films) that dreams are these truly amazing and magical places? Are we overstating the power of dreams? It is truly amazing the levels of imagination that the unconscious mind can conjure up and trick us with, but it does this surely, by making this dream-world so unsettlingly real. Isn’t that why are tricked in the first place? Isn’t that why we only recognize it was a dream when we come out? Hindu mythology tells us the the entire Universe, and indeed our lives, are the result of Krishna dreaming. A dream that is so real that he has forgotten that he is dreaming. That is to say, we are all Krishna, the God head, lost in the deep dream that is our lives. And this is why it works, it seems so….real.
Or is it just me? And are my dreams just that boring? Are there people out there tonight dreaming of fantastic melting clocks and impossible panoramic vistas?
Do I need to start eating cheese?