Inception: Movie Discussion Forum

If you have not yet seen the movie Inception, please do not read this post. Inception is one of the best movies I have seen in a long long time, and it needs to be watched without any knowledge of spoilers, or even the basic plot outline. Go see it, then come back here to discuss and ponder with me.

I watch fewer and fewer movies each year, due to a lack of time and a host of other factors. I used to watch a newly released movie a week, I can hardly remember those days.

With the decrease in quantity, comes a marked increase in quality. I now only see movies I know will bring me enjoyment – the two criteria is that it has to be good and it has to be fun. If it’s morose and ponderous, I’m skipping it even if it has Oscar bait written all over it.

I absolutely adore director Christopher Nolan. When I first encountered him when I watched the movie Memento, I was blown away by his talent. That movie rests predominately on the deft and able hands of his directing talent, the script and acting, however important, was secondary to presentation.

I’ve watched every movie Nolan has directed, and I’m sure everyone has seen at least one Nolan movie, most likely the mega-blockbuster The Dark Knight.

Memento was still my favorite Nolan movie, until I stepped foot into a movie theater a week ago and watched Inception. It’s still too fresh in my mind to weigh the degree of love, so for now, the two movies are tied for as my faves.

Inception is one of the most entertaining, creative, and interesting movies I have watched in ages. I can’t even remember the last time watching a movie left me so giddy and unable to sleep with the excitement still flowing through my veins hours later (haha, I lied, that would be The Dark Knight, which was also directed by Nolan, I sense a theme here).

Inception is incredibly well-directed (too well directed some backlashers say – Inception is all technique and skill with no heart – and I completely disagree with that). It is stacked from top-to-bottom with heavy-weight actors who ALL deliver the goods. Every one of them.

It has a fresh and unique story (though cobbling together various genres and tropes), layered deftly and precisely like a house of cards. It ultimately is a winning movie – succeeding on every level needed to make a movie that leaves a lasting mark on celluloid.

The story is not terribly hard to understand, and the concept is easy to buy into. People come out saying they are confused, and I think to myself “Really?” I think what makes Inception so confusing is its rapid pace trajectory of a journey and abundance of ideas and possibilities. That makes the head spin, but the story itself is basically a movie about man and his subconscious.

Let’s Talk About What We Just Saw:

I won’t rehash the plot, since I’ve told you all to bug off from this post until you’ve watched the movie. I’m not about to encourage you to linger by recapping the story for you.

Let’s talk about the dream state, the totem, Mal, and the multiple levels of the dream within a dream. I’m going to skip right to the main course and talk about the inception heist, and then backtrack to discuss the other cool stuff.

There are five levels at work during the heist, and one of them is reality (that we take at face value for now): everyone is on the plane now-owned by Saito, and everyone in that first class cabin is presently in reality, and they have the duration of the flight from Australia to Los Angeles to plant the idea in Fisher’s head.

Level 1: The Los Angeles city streets. This is Yusuf’s dream, and it’s raining because he forgot to go to the bathroom before they went under (LOL). The runaway train is Cobb’s subconscious wreaking havoc, yet again. The snipers and soldiers are Fisher’s subconscious militarized protection against dream thieves. Yusuf stays behind as everyone else goes down another level. This is the first time we realize that the dreamer must stay behind each time the group goes down a level deeper into another dream.

Level 2: The Hotel. This is Arthur’s dream, it’s as meticulous and modern as Arthur is in his impeccable attire. Here, Cobb alerts Fisher to the fact that (1) he is dreaming (which normally you DO NOT do), and (2) uses that to make Fisher believe his own subconscious guards are the dream thieves (instead of the other way around). Clever gambit, and it works. Once Fisher knows he’s dreaming, they convince Fisher enter into the dream of his god-father Browning to unearth the real will. We all know that the Browning in this level is Eames pretending to be Browning. They all go down one more level, Arthur stays behind (and has the coolest sequence in the entire movie – oh Arthur, how I adore thee).

Level 3: The Ice Station. This is Eames dream (which Fisher believes is Browning’s dream). They attack the vault to get the will. They miss the first kick when the van Yusuf is driving goes over the bridge railing (as evidenced by the avalanche), but Cobb reminds them the can ride the second kick back, when the van hits the water seconds later (which is minutes in the Hotel, and an hour in the Ice Station). Fisher is killed by Mal. Saito also dies. Cobb and Ariadne decides to go down into limbo to bring back Fisher and complete the mission. They will all then ride the second kick back simultaneously four levels.

Level 4: Limbo. This is the place where Mal and Cobb’s dream world reside, or what is left of it. Mal and Cobb lived for fifty years in the dream world, growing old together, until Cobb performed inception on Mal to convince her that this was all a dream. But once Mal went back to their real world where their children were, she was still convinced she lived in a dream. And she set into motion the events leading to her death and Cobb being framed for her murder. Cobb agrees to stay behind in limbo, both to stay with Mal, and to look for Saito and bring him back from limbo. Ariadne and Fisher fall off the building, using that kick to get back to the Ice Station.

The Final Sequence:

Fisher awakens in the Ice Station level and opens the vault. He sees his dying father, who bemoans that he was disappointed not at what Fisher had not done, but that he was disappointed that Fisher tried to be like his father at all. Fisher finds in the safe the pinwheel in the picture with himself as a boy and his father. Fisher has made an emotional breakthrough in his strained relationship with his father. He knows his father does not want him to follow in his footsteps. Fisher decides (on his own) to break up his father’s conglomerate. Inception has succeeded.

The van hits the water. Ariadne, Eames and Fisher ride it back to the Hotel, where Arthur has rigged the elevator shaft to fall, all four of them ride it back to the streets of Los Angeles, and they are all in the water in the van. Fisher swims out and meets up with Browning (or Eames pretending to be Browning) and tells him his plan. The others climb out of the water elsewhere. We know, but do not see, everyone riding one more kick back to the airplane, or reality.

In limbo, Cobb finds a very aged Saito, and we whoosh back to the first scene of the movie. We now understand that Cobb is here to “kill” Saito, and bring both of them back to reality. When Saito sees Cobb, he finally realizes that he is in a dream. We next see Cobb awaken on the plane, and presumably everyone else has woken much earlier. They are about to land in Los Angeles. Saito is the last to wake up, and he places a call to clear Cobb through customs. Cobb goes home, and finally sees his children’s faces and lets his guilt about Mal go. Cobb’s totem is still spinning as the screen fades to black, spinning but not perfectly, there is a miniscule wobble, barely perceptible.

What It All Means:

There are four possible interpretations of the movie and its ending:

(1) The totem falls – Cobb made it home, he sees his kids, he lets go of the guilt about Mal.
(2) The totem does not fall – Cobb is still in a dream (whatever level or state), he has never left.
(3) The totem does not fall – The entire movie, from the very first frame, is Cobb’s dream, all of the characters may or may not be real.
(4) The totem doesn’t matter – Cobb was the subject of inception, for whatever reason, we are never told. The totem was his wife’s, remember, and he took it when she died. If Cobb never had his own totem, he’s been dreaming all long.

I absolutely loved this movie because it’s rife with possibilities and technologically is quite a marvel to watch. It’s probably my favorite Leo movie this decade (not a big Leo fan, but acknowledge his talent as an actor). All the supporting cast members were wonderful, especially Joseph Gordan-Levitt.

He almost stole the entire movie. I loved his character and his wry charisma. If you told me that amongst the child actors of the 90s that JGL would be the real deal as a leading man, I would have told you to go to rehab. I happily eat my shorts, JGL might just be the successor to Leo (child star turn genuine method actor).

Did you enjoy Inception? What are your theories? I happily subscribe to the first possibility, because all the clues line up that way, and because Nolan is merely winking at us in the last scene and NOT jerking the rug out under us. I firmly believe that totem is seconds away from falling.

I loved how the final scenes show the entire gang arriving in Los Angeles, Cobb getting through customs, everyone knowing they succeeded and going their own way. And Cobb finally goes home to his kids. This is how I choose to interpret the movie, because it brings happiness to my gut the way any well-fought well-deserved happy ending always does.

Yes, you can argue that the clues also point to it all being Cobb’s dream (the names like Ariadne and Mal, whose names indicate their purpose; the fact that no one else has any back story other than Cobb; the fact that the pursuers in Mumbasa are as faceless and relentless as Fisher’s assailants in the dream state; the fact the we never see how Cobb gets to a certain place as scenes begin immediately into an action or a conversation, and so on and so forth). I got all the hints, people, I simply find one conclusion both more satisfactory to me and more conhesive to the story as a whole. Happy to consider otherwise.

And a final accolade to Inception: this movie is breathtaking to watch, from the dreamy dreamscapes to the gritty reality(?) to the dazzling special effects that serve the plot and not just visual eye candy. Plus there are so many pretty people in it: Leo is manly and broody, JGL is sharp and refined, Ken Watanabe is sublime and subdued, Cillian Murphy is restrained and coiled, the list goes on and on.

I can’t wait to talk about it with anyone who has seen it, so please use this post as a forum for all sorts of spoilerrific rants and raves.

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14 Responses to Inception: Movie Discussion Forum

  1. Taohua says:

    I saw Inception two nights ago and thought it was pretty good. I wasn’t blown away like you but that may be because someone mildly spoiled the story for me. I do agree with you on JGL stealing the show. I’ve been appreciating most of his film choices after he came back to acting and thought he was great as Arthur. Actually it was b/c that he and Leo were both in this film that I decided to go see this.

    Though it’s not my favorite Leo role…I thought his work in Departed was much better (though Tony Leung >>>Leo). Maybe because I felt a stronger emotional connection with his character? But it is probably my favorite Christopher Nolan work that I’ve seen.

    Out of all your possibilities…I’m torn between whether he never was able to make it out of limbo or whether he did. Because it did seem like the top was about to topple.

  2. ockoala says:

    @ Taohua

    I think your experience with Inception was indeed hampered but being slightly spoiled. I avoided spoilers like the plague because of it.

    I connected a lot with Leo’s Dom Cobb, which is why I liked his performance here better than in The Departed (where no one can touch Tony with a 90 foot pole – and its impossible to appreciate Leo’s performance in that movie because I kept flashing back to Tony).

    However, there is another layer – if this was all Cobb’s dream (whether from the beginning or he is in fact still stuck in limbo), then everyone’s performance is even cooler to dissect because they are playing dream constructs and not real people.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I just feel like interesting and creative movies are in such short supply these days, esp. well executed ones like Inception, perhaps that made me love Inception even more.

  3. Taohua says:

    @ockoala
    That is true, compared to recent movies Inception is far better and I really appreciated the fact that it was so well thought out and executed. And the fact the audience wasn’t treated as if they couldn’t infer anything and were treated as if they were intelligent enough to figure out the story. On if Cobb was in a dream/in limbo since the beginning…well he could have constructed people or maybe those people were created from his memories and maybe they do exist in reality. I really do like the ambiguity of the film and being able to draw my own conclusions

    I agree with you on that here there has been such a “drought” of creative films lately. Too many sequels and so on…But there have been some great foreign films within the past few years…

  4. Freak for Bliss says:

    I also love the movie and so far, my favorite Nolan film. JGL is just flawless and well, lovely. *blush*

    But all of the actors delivered well. Though with a director and script like that, nothing could go wrong.

    I’m still torn between #1 and #2 interpretation. Although yes, I noticed the wobbling that made me hope it would fall but it still is spinning so there’s a chance that it’s still a dream afterall.

    Btw, a friend told me that she read somewhere that it took 8 years for Nolan to finish writing Inception. Long years paid off definitely. 🙂

  5. langdon813 says:

    I’ll have to come back and post more when I’ve had a chance to process, BUT…I do tend to agree that the ending was real, because the top wobbled. Had it not faltered, I would think it was a dream, and my heart would be broken. As it stands now, I am filled with joy.

    Amazing. Mind-blowing. Brilliant. Oh, I want to watch it again right this second (and I just left the theater)!

  6. ockoala says:

    @ Freak for Bliss

    “JGL is just flawless and well, lovely. *blush*”

    OM Lord, that is my sentiment exactly. I was utterly charmed and captivated by his Arthur, character and performance both. Yes, Cobb was the emotional heart and soul of this movie, and I adored Leo’s portrayal.

    But it was calm, cool, collected Aurthur that got my toes to curl in delight. Thanks for leaving a comment!

    Nolan: we are not worthy…… He can take as long as he likes to make a movie, I will always wait for him to continue to improve his craft.

  7. Ender's Girl says:

    Ohyeahmon, Inception is one of the most satisfying Hollywood movies I’ve seen in a LOOOONG time. I luuurve how, despite all the intercutting layers of reality, Nolan’s storytelling was surprisingly very lucid. Unlike those self-conscious art house arcana pieces that scream, “you can never understand me!!! nevahhh!! nevahhhh!!!”, Inception was actually pretty easy to follow once you got into the rhythm of things. So… sankyou ockoala for providing a venue to pick each others’ brains on this!!!

    I also thought the cast gave strong, well-balanced performances without anyone standing out in particular. (Although I am partial to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, that pipsqueak from the ’90s who first made me sit up and take notice (but, um, in a nice noona way, lol) in 10 Things I Hate About You, and was so damn kawaiiiii in (500) Days of Summer, heh heh.

    Here’s mah take (ferwhaddeveritsworth):

    I agree that Levels 1-4 were being dreamt by the, uh, Dream Team, and that everyone except Leo DiCaprio and Ken Watanabe woke up when the van hit the water. (I never thought this whole film was a frame-to-frame dream of Leo, btw.)

    But IMO there are a few more layers to the story:

    Level 5 – Saito’s World. Cobb determines to bring Saito back, so he goes one level down and awakens on the beach outside Saito’s Japanese-y fortress, where Saito has lived for the last 50 years. I think the shot of Saito fingering the gun is very telling. Nolan comes across as a very deliberate storyteller, so each shot and frame is meant to tell you something. Although we never see Saito shooting Cobb, I believe he does, and we know from the movie that at deeper levels of the dreaming, “killing” a person doesn’t cause him to surface back towards reality (Ground Zero) like it does in — say, the first 2 levels, but in fact plunges him further into his own subconscious. (Remember how Saito “dies” in Level 3 and slips into a deeper dream level where Cobb has to fetch him; same goes with Cillian Murphy who is shot in Level 3, so Cobb and Juno –er, Ariadne — have to go look for him in Level 4.)

    So the way I interpret it, Ken Watanabe shoots Leo in Level 5 because Ken doesn’t want to leave his dreamstate no mo’, and this sends Leo spinning off into…

    Level 6 : Pseudo-Reality. Leo wakes up, sees the team intact and mission accomplished, the plane is about to land, Ken Watanabe makes that phone call, Leo makes it through Customs and sees Michael Caine, who brings him home to his two kids.

    One can say that the final shot of the spinning top permits an open ending, but it’s too suggestive and powerful an image to just leave to a neutral, “either/or” interpretation. So I believe that Level 6 is really just Leo’s dream, and the rest of team, Michael Caine and the kids, are only projections of his subconscious. Another thing that convinced me it was all another layer of dream (besides Ken Watanabe’s gun and the spinning top that kept spinning, wobble or not) was that niggling feeling that the whole “Wake up now, we pulled through! Everything’s fine again!” atmosphere of Leo & his team returning to reality was a bit too… eerily normal, the resolution too pat. I felt there was something amiss but couldn’t lay my finger on.

    So what I think really happens in Reality Reality is:

    – Everyone except Leo and Ken makes it back from Level 3 (and in Ariadne’s case, Level 4) and find themselves on the plane en route stateside

    – Ken (stuck in Level 5) never wakes up on the plane

    – Leo (stuck in Level 6) never wakes up on the plane

    Oh, and remember the endlessly mirrored mirrors in Leo’s dream when Ariadne first comes on board? Given Nolan’s “nothing is wasted or is random, everything has a meaning” directorial inclinations, this shot could be seen as a foreshadowing of Leo’s fate, falling deeper and deeper into his subconscious, through infinite levels of dreaming. In this regard he actually shared an end symmetrical to Mal’s: they both fall, one in reality and the other in dream.

    Okay I’m depressed now. (damnyouChisNolandamnyou!!!!!!! *shakes fist and foot*)

  8. ockoala says:

    @ Ender’s Girl

    OMO, I have a completely different interpretation and I think a different read of a crucial fact element we are told: i.e. during the heist, they are so far under the sleeping drug that if they died in the dream state, they would not awaken, but instead fall into limbo.

    You said this: “we know from the movie that at deeper levels of the dreaming, “killing” a person doesn’t cause him to surface back towards reality (Ground Zero) like it does in — say, the first 2 levels, but in fact plunges him further into his own subconscious.”

    That is not correct – in the movie, we are told that during the heist, if anyone dies, during ANY level, they will go into limbo. Remember that Saito got shot in level 1 the LA city streets. Which is when we are told that fact, and they hurry to get deeper into another level, because it would mitigate the injury and pain and Saito would likely live longer.

    During the heist, at any time, any level, if anyone died, they would go into limbo because of the amount of drugs their real bodies are under in order to have enough time to perform inception.

    Under normal dream states, a person can go multiple levels in, and still die, but awaken, if they are not under power anethesia.

    This doesn’t mean dying during any dream state they would fall into limbo – this fact is only true in the heist because they are scheduled to be asleep for 10 plus hours. So in the heist, they need a bigger kick than death to awaken, which I take to mean falling from great heights.

    Anyways, let’s assume it’s all real, the heist is real, everything is real up until Saito and Cobb meet in limbo. And that is limbo, it’s not another level in the dream state, limbo is what this subconscious amalgalms of dreams. When Cobb and Ariadne went down to get Fisher from Mal, they saw Cobb’s left over dream state, but there are probably multiple others there as well, including Saito.

    In limbo, the reason they can live forever and never return is because they do not know they are dreaming. If they are alerted to the fact that they are dreaming, then killing oneself would in fact be enough to come out of the dream state.

    So, in limbo, when Saito kills Cobb, he would punt Cobb back to reality, bc Cobb knows he’s in limbo, he’s chosen to remain to look for Saito. The only way for Cobb to fall deeper into another level of dreaming is if he didn’t know he was in a dream.

    I took the final scene being that Saito shot Cobb, then shot himself! Ergo, Cobb woke up in the plane first, then seconds later followed by Saito waking up.

    However……the final scene of the movie does indicate the possibility that Cobb is still dreaming. But I don’t believe this is a dream state caused by Saito shooting Cobb or anything else that happened during the confrontation.

    If Cobb is in a dream still, the facts indicate that he has been dreaming since the movie began – and he continues to reside in a dream state. He is in fact Mal, what happened to Mal as Cobb explained is what has happened to himself. Perhaps Mal is a subconscious manifestation of his own psyche.

    We shall never know. But I choose interpretation A – it’s all real, Cobb got home. Because Saito shooting Cobb and himself in the end was in fact enough to awaken them both into the plane.

    Happy to consider alternate readings of the movie. 😀

  9. djes says:

    I finally watched Inception, dragged my colleague, who actually didn’t need to be dragged, because she is die hard JGL’s fangirl. She had watched it last week but happily accompany me this night.

    I hadn’t read any reviews, synopsis or anything about the movie before, just asked briefly to my friend what is the movie all about.
    She said :”you tried to convince someone with your idea in his dream, so that he thinks that was his own idea”, “you should watch it by yourself”

    I really like the story, it’s brilliant. The story makes the movie. The actors are good, but somehow I think the story is the star.

    I agree with your #2 and/or #3 theories. I think Dom hasn’t woken up from his dream. He fell down to the limbo, so that’s why he met with Saito. He missed the ‘kick’.
    Somehow we interpreted that they were flying from LA to Sydney at the beginning of the dream, so we are wrong?
    That’s why we were definite Don hasn’t woke up, because how could they arrived at LA, if the flight was going to Sydney?
    ( I think I lost here, and to lazy to google the right story :P)
    And how come his father could pick him up, how would he know about their flight?
    They need to be kicked to get out from the dreaming state, right? Dom (and Saito) didn’t get kicked, so how come they could wake up in the plane?
    So, theory #2 makes all senses.

    There is a possibility about theory #3, that this is all only in Dom’s dream. If it is, that’s really a very complicated dream!

    I really like the idea… I always think our minds are complicated and somehow scary, and manipulating someone’s mind through the dream is more powerful than any deadly weapons. Once you have control of someone’s ( or your own ) mind, you can do anything.

    The whole inception idea is serious, so I’m kinda curious how Dom could be easily trust Yusuf, for instance, to work together and vice versa. He ever worked together with Arthur and Eamus, but Yusuf and Ariadne are newcomers, one simple mistake, they can ruin everything. The risk is high, and this is something really really uncertain, you missed the momentum, you could won’t be able to come back to the reality.

    Well I guess I’m just practical and not a risk taker.. 😀

    I do like the movie a lot, it made me thinking, and I’m now still thinking about possibilities, and it’s already 2AM on my place!

  10. djes says:

    Oh I reread ur comment above mine, and yes it might be true, that Cobb probably shot Saito and then shot himself so that they can wake up in the plane.
    But i’m still thinking that Cobb hasn’t woke up yet.

    And I wonder what could Saito do to release all Cobb’s charges? He was charged as Mal’s killer, right? and what’s the relation with the company who hired him before?

  11. serendipity says:

    I so agree with your assessment of Inception, ockoala! It was such a treat to be able to read your blog over my phone right after watching.

    I found myself surprised by how little I really had my mind blown. I’d heard that this was a very tricksy movie, that the plot was incredibly intricate (and prone to spoiling), but I didn’t find this nearly as challenging as I found “Momento”, which I think is a degree up in difficulty. I didn’t feel lost at any point, or that the plot had gotten away from me. I think it was genius that Nolan could take a fairly complicated premise and plot and make it easy to follow. The exposition was pretty painless, complete with audio-visual aids. Even the dream-layers were colour-coded!

    I was surprised by how much I was moved. I thought this was going to be one of those “clever clever” showcases. Indeed there were times when I mentally distanced myself from action and pulled back from the show and analysed my own reaction to it. But in the more intimate moments, in Cobb’s interactions with his wife and in his confessional moments, I was really gripped.

    I thought the show had a lot of heart and for all its bigness and drama dealt with some deep life issues. “What is reality” of course is one. What loving someone means. More unusually for a movie: the virility of ideas. And the cost of manipulation; what it does to one’s soul to lie.

    I think the movie struck a chord with me personally because I’m a dreamer, I mean literally! I dream very vividly. I dream in colour. When I was younger I used to dream I could fly (no longer, alas; now all my dream flying is done on aeroplanes in various permutations of the anxiety nightmare). I dream within dreams, sometimes waking up from a dream only to wake up again. I occasionally know I’m dreaming, but that’s quite rare; usually it feels utterly real even if it is utterly bizarre. I can wake myself up by feeling that I’m falling in a dream (different from a “kick”, because I’m only imagining myself falling, not actually falling). So I think that it is fabulous that Nolan weaves what every one of us experiences every day in dreaming and weaves it into a credible fantasy.

    The slickness:– For me, it helped that the show was mostly in dreamscape, because it prevented me from hating the director for being showy. Instead of my going “yeah, yeah, you’re very clever and the special effects are very good, yeah yeah”, I went, “Oh, so this is what someone’s dream looks like”. So I took the slickness as part of the dream and hence part of the story and ended up participating rather than observing (don’t know if this makes sense).

    The ending:– Personally I think it can go either way and that is deliberate. I think that if you asked Nolan, he would answer one way or another depending on the day of the week, and I think that this is part of the genius of the show and part of its message – there IS no definite closure, for reality could be anything. Well, that’s just my guess. In any event, I don’t believe that it is important to land on one conclusion or another.

    I walked out of the movie theatre feeling exalted. THIS is how to do dramatic art! Having spent far too much time recently mucking about with R#1 it’s good to see that the art of movie-making is not dead.

    Finally, it’s so nice to see the delectable Cilian Murphy in a big movie. He first caught my eye in the BBC’s “The Way We Live Now” playing opposite Miranda Otto – wow, they really brought the hotness to Anthony Trollope.

  12. serendipity says:

    I know it’s not cool to “double-dip” into Comments, and I know it’s a huge bore to talk about one’s dreams, but I had a really interesting one last night.

    In my dream, I was visiting friends and when I left them I looked for my bicycle but couldn’t remember where I’d parked it. And in my dream I realised that it was impossible to remember where I’d parked it because I had gotten to my friends’ flat IN THE MIDDLE OF A DREAM. So I knew I was dreaming. But at the same time, I was consumed by the problem of — how then am I supposed to FIND MY BIKE? In other words, I knew I was dreaming, but I still believed that my dream was real. How is that even possible?! I boggle myself.

    And I haven’t even been thinking about Inception, but clearly Chris Nolan has wormed his way into my subconscious. Help!

  13. mookie says:

    It took me a whole week to unmesh myself fr the movie. Spending it in the wild beautiful touristy Yellowstone helps. Not having the use of my left hand also helps (in me not reading ANYTHING about it still…first words I read about it is here <3)

    I went to see it w/ 7 other dear friends, 5 of us went to see Memento together in college, they ALL interpreted it either #2, #3. I was called too much an optimist (my id welcomes that w/ open open arms though my ego disagrees).

    like @serendipity I'm an avid dreamer, not only do I dream in myriad of colors and I dream in dreams almost all the time… my dream is extremely odd (I was told) as I can dream in BW but with highlights of sometimes colors, sometimes that person I'm observing suddenly was like fr the brushes of VanGogh or Picasso as if they r cued, begging for my attention to that spec detail in my dream, I always am aware I'm dreaming, observing myself dreaming and very 'Choose Your Own Adventure'-esque in being sooo alert I'm dreaming and ie not real, I can go back in 'dreamtime' and ctrl-atl-del. I'm so much so a dreamer I ponder when I woke up not in deep sleep, the dream I just had, unconscious to me, must be the dream of my life and I ponder what interesting things must've happend…every single time! 🙂

    I spend a week debating w/ my Hubs just on the v. last second of that minute toppling alone. I'm firmly an interpretation #1 girl, when the credit is rolling 'Christopher Nolan' that is the exact moment the totem stop the spinning and I'm agreeing w/ all your brilliant theories and interpretation 100% (wuxia and Inception twin, we are). I was in tears watching that almost perfect totem spin…. to me Cobb can finally dream in reality, just like he can spin the totem as impossibly perfect. He had lost the innate ability to 'dream a little dream' like what I've taken for granted before that instant of seeing his children. He'd never been able to spin that totem w/ any success in 'reality' for 'dreaming' for the impossible for a chance was too loaded… but now, after seeing those faces, his reality and dream can coexist and mesh again. Hope can be real, a simple dream can come true, leap of faith does not have to be heart-wrenching. I smiled in the midst of my happy tears.

    but the other 7 friends of mine's 2 cent (on the toppling alone): that quivering does not signify it eventually toppling, it can still be spinning indefinitely imperfectly…it's dream-state and anything can happen. (the limited physics 101 left in me is telling me a wobble= eventual toppling. )

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