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ftp901's avatar

What do you think the movie Inception is a metaphor for? (SPOILER ALERT)

Asked by ftp901 (1312points) August 8th, 2010

If you’ve seen Inception, give us your thoughts about the “big idea” or philosophy behind it. Do you think it is a metaphor for a particular religion, philosophy, theory?

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16 Answers

MrItty's avatar

No. It was just a movie.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

I think the ‘big idea’ was to get people shot, blow up things, and risk everyone’s lives. The whole mind games and planting of ideas was just an interesting backdrop to the action.

Trillian's avatar

Why does it have to be a metaphor for anything? It was a pretty cool concept, well fleshed out. Isn’t that enough?

jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

I didn’t sense that there was any sort of philosophy/metaphor/whatever behind it, just an interesting concept, as @Trillian pointed out.

anartist's avatar

Why does it have to be a metaphor?
It was the same old competition issues that make a thriller,
just with a new playing field: the mind.

ftp901's avatar

I don’t think it has to be a metaphor but some movies are (Star Wars, The Matrix) and I got the feeling this was one of them. I suspected it was drawing on some big ideas from Buddhism (awakening from a dream/unconsciousness) and the Dao De Jing or Deconstructionism (there is no omnipotent view/reality, life is experienced from one perspective or another). Also something about a collective unconscious and mass media.

We are all “sharing a dream”. Each person has their own perspective yet it is still the same dream. Our ultimate goal is to wake up from this unconscious state to an awakened state.

Megan64's avatar

I’m sure we could find some metaphor. Let me think on it for a couple days and get back to you.

CMaz's avatar

Its a metaphor for things to come.

All of us, living our lives virtually and in a dream state.

SuperMouse's avatar

I was entirely too busy trying to keep track of all the levels of dreams that were happening to even have time to look for a metaphor.

Austinlad's avatar

I haven’t seen it so I can’t comment, but your comment, @ChazMaz, makes me think of “The Matrix.”

CMaz's avatar

There is nothing after the Matrix. But, re constituted Matrix.

absalom's avatar

Mostly just regurgitated Baudrillard, isn’t it, but dealing more with dreams? The end of what we call ‘reality’ and its replacement by hyperrealism. Our inability to distinguish what is real from what is unreal. The ‘big ideas’ are not Nolan’s, but French philosopher Jean Baudrillard’s and probably also Carl Jung’s.

zophu's avatar

Our perception of reality is reality, but there is reality beyond perception. If there’s one paradox that is going to fuck our brains forever, it’s this one.

That’s what I got out of it.

ftp901's avatar

@absalom that’s the kind of answer I was hoping for. Can you elaborate on this Baudrillard connection and how it relates to the movie? I don’t know much about him.

absalom's avatar


Baudrillard’s hyperreality depends on the function of the simulacrum, which is just a simulation or image without an original model or a thing to represent. A sign which signifies nothing. And according to him, the simulacrum now precedes the reality it’s supposed to have come from. So he might say that a dream (as in Inception) no longer represents or even simulates (i.e., pretends to represent) reality, but instead the dream ‘engenders’ or produces the alleged reality around it.

It’s fitting then that in the film, the ‘inception’/birth of an event or image in an individual’s dream takes immediate effect on the external and so-called ‘real’ world. More than that, really, because the entire ‘reality’ of the diagetic world in the film is like directed and maybe even constructed by events that are ‘happening’ on a subconscious and totally not-physical level.

Nolan also demonstrates this somewhat cleverly by putting what is roughly the last point of the movie (i.e. chronologically) at the beginning. The film starts on that island or wherever it is, and we eventually find out much later that this first scene is yet another dreamed-up limbo world where Saito has been chilling for some decades (the dream has supplanted his former reality here, etc.). And it serves as an easy example of the simulacrum or unreal preceding and thus significantly informing/shaping what follows: ‘reality.’

Baudrillard was something of a fatalist and talked about the end of reality. I don’t know that the film goes that far, but it certainly intends to confuse viewers and render the dream world of the film at times indistinguishable from the real world of the film (e.g. the ambivalent spinning top at the end which is supposed to signify whether we’re in a dream or in reality, and it seems like it might topple but we never find out, so we don’t know whether this is yet another dream or just a fundamentally shaken but still in-tact kind of reality for Cobb, and we pretty much have to just literally guess as to what’s real and what’s not real in the film, much like in ‘real’ ‘life’), and this is certainly Baudrillardian.

Of course it gets especially confusing with the topic of dreams though because dreams are already mere simulations of reality. Meanwhile the narrative of the film has people further infiltrating and manipulating dreams whose original relation to reality is already unclear. And so if ‘real dreams’ (oxymoron?) existed before inception, they obviously don’t anymore because they have now been, like, tampered with and manufactured to some degree and are thus even less representative of what is supposedly real. They become pretend dreams, simulations of dreams (which themselves are simulations): essentially just simulations of simulations, or dreams of dreams (within dreams within dreams…). However you say it this is basically what Baudrillard is talking about with hyperreality.

Winters's avatar

Eh, Christopher Nolan just specializes in Movies that require you to think, that’s all.

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