Dream a little bigger, darling
You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling… This is one of my favorite lines in Inception. After all, saying: “Dream big or go home” didn’t come of thin air, right? Dream. Dreams! Everything is possible in the limitless dreamland. So, Christopher Nolan decided that he is not afraid to dream bigger. Inception is a movie designed and shot to be enjoyed in the IMAX environment… And just few days ago, I was able to watch it properly.
Don’t you want to take a leap of faith?
Funny – whenever I hear the expression “leap of faith” I think about Spider-Verse! But yes, Nolan took a gigantic leap of faith, when it comes to Inception. If we break the plot down, it’s a story about a father who wants to get back to his children, about tragic love and finally – about a heist that could help our protagonist get his life back. Or part of it, at least.
Cinemas in my hometown organized 10th anniversary screening, but it was clear for me, that I will choose Cinema City and IMAX. For this occasion, Inception got digitally refreshed – and let me tell you, the overall picture blew my mind. Firstly though, let’s talk about the background.
Nolan wrote an 80-page treatment about dream-stealers. Originally, Inception was supposed to be a horror film, but eventually it transformed into a heist film. Upon revisiting his script, Nolan decided that basing it in horror genre did not work because the story „relies so heavily on the idea of the interior state, the idea of dream and memory. I realized I needed to raise the emotional stakes.” It took him 10 years to finish the script and move into development.
You never remember the beginning of your dreams, do you? You just turn up in the middle of what’s going on.
This is weird, isn’t it? Because we don’t think about it, when we talk about dreams, we talk about that very moment we were thrown into, not how we got there… But that is “oh, so very Nolan-like”, remember? He loves playing with these concepts! Traditional heist movies have a heavy dose of exposition at the beginning – when the team assembles and the leader explains the plan. In Inception, this becomes continuous as the group progresses through the various levels of dreaming. This way, the momentum is built up and since the movie is very tricky, the “slow burn” is greatly appreciated.
I went to see Inception with my mum – it was our first time together in IMAX, so I was prepared for her being grumpy about too big of a screen, to loud noises… But she stepped up and took it like a champ! She was prepared to fully enjoy the experience – she has seen Inception 4 times prior to this extraordinary event. For me it was… 16th time? Probably, somewhere around there. Laughing yet? Good, I hope this is “Yup, that’s Julie” kind of laugh.
Dreams are fascinating. I mentioned, everything is possible and heck, you can even train yourself in conscious dreaming! Or is it called lucid dream? Anyway, there are various techniques on how to achieve that. But before I share what I found out during my research, let’s rewind for a moment. Dr. Stephen LaBerge became the pioneer of lucid dreaming research in the last 20+ years – he invented the most popular techniques, but also led various scientific studies in that regard. His work was a cornerstone for discovering therapeutic benefits of lucid dreaming: treating PTSD, recurring nightmares, and anxiety. How to achieve that state in our dreams?
- Reality testing – comes in the form of mental training your mind to notice your own awareness. According to Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, our level of metacognition is akin in waking and dreaming states. So, higher metacognition when we’re awake could lead to higher metacognition when dreaming.
How to: reality check – several times a day
a. Ask yourself: Am I dreaming?
b. Check your environment.
c. Notice your consciousness, your engagement with surroundings.
For that exercise you can, for instance, check if your reflection looks the same in the mirror; check if your hands look normal (no extra fingers) … But also, TIME! In a dream, the clock can constantly change, whereas in reality… We all know that feeling working 8 hours but seeing the clock move 8 minutes only…
- Wake back to bed, WBTB – entering REM sleep while still conscious.
How to: WBTB
a. Set alarm for 5 hours AFTER your bedtime
b. Go to sleep, business as usual.
c. Bells go off – stay up for half an hour, read a little?
d. Fall back to sleep.
When you go back to sleep, you’ll be more likely to lucid dream.
- Dream Journal – it’s one of the most popular methods for initiating lucid dreaming. When we write down our dreams, we are literally forced to remember what happens during each dream. It’s said to help you recognize dream signs and enhance awareness of your dreams.
You’re waiting for a train. A train that will take you far away.
Dreams can be the best and the worst thing. Sometimes we don’t want to wake up at all, because we are superheroes, famous movie stars or we are dating our ultimate crush (good luck to my brain for choosing ULTIMATE crush from that list). And other times… I find myself praying that what I’m experiencing is a dream. There are methods on how to wake up from lucid dream, but lucid dreams only:
- Call out for help – screaming in dream tells your brain it’s time to wake up.
- Blink – it’s a signal for the brain that it’s time to wake the hell up.
- Go to sleep in your dream (Nolan, y’all) – If we’re aware that we are in a dream, we should go to sleep in that dream so we can wake up in real life.
- Read – something, anything: a book, a sign… This could activate parts of your brain that aren’t used in REM.
It sounds easy, but I bet you all know from autopsy, that it’s not. Both lucid dreaming and waking up. I can’t tell you how many times I woke up crying, because it seemed so real… The physical pain, emotional distress, details – so agonizingly real. And that is one of the aspects of Nolan’s Inception – Cobb’s answer to Ariadne’s question: Why is it so important to dream? He said that in my dreams we are together.
Was it a good or a bad thing for Cobb? His wife was both an anchor and an obstacle, messing with his mind – already fragile and unsure of what is real, and what’s not.
They say we only use a fraction of our brain’s true potential. Now that’s when we’re awake. When we’re asleep, we can do almost anything.
What better way to explain the complexity of dreams, if not use it as a ground for epic heist? Though not a conventional heist – instead of extracting information, Cobb’s crew is tasked with PLANTING the idea in the target’s head. And that is INCEPTION. The biggest issue is, making sure that the idea planted is actually his – Fischer’s – not the team’s. The only way for it to work is to go another to another level of dream – a guarantee that the idea was self-generated.
Inception heist can be divided into 5 main levels:
- REALITY: Airplane
- First dream: Van chase (Yusuf is the dreamer)
- Second dream: The hotel (Arthur’s dream)
- Third dream: Snow fortress (Eames’ dream)
- LIMBO: Dream City
Each level is tricky and gets more dangerous along the way – while being in 2-5, the team needed a kick to come back to reality.
Nolan introduced a very interesting concept of totems – little, personal objects that we shall always have with us. When Arthur explains it to Ariadne, he says: I can’t let you touch it, that would defeat the purpose. See only I know the balance and weight of this particular loaded die. That way when you look at your totem, you know beyond a doubt you’re not in someone else’s dream.
So, what are totems presented? For Cobb, there are two items: his wedding ring and his wife’s totem (that spins continuously while in dream and falls down in the real world). Arthur, as mentioned, has a loaded dice that performs one way in a dream and another in reality. Eames, the forger, uses poker chips – maybe they can multiply when rubbed together (this wasn’t actually explained, so it’s my wild guess). Lastly, the least experienced team member, Ariadne came up with a chess figure – bishop, whose weight and heft is changing in dream and reality.
I am wondering, what would be my totem? What do you think could be yours?
Dreams, they feel real while we’re in them right? Its only when we wake up then we realize that something was actually strange.
In that short documentary about Inception, Chris Nolan explained that he wanted to make this film as real as possible – using very little help from CGI or a secondary unit. As we know, using real location over studio work is one of his best traits. Few weeks back I spoke with a friend, and we agreed that Inception aged very well. In fact, it didn’t get old in a conventional way – nor when it comes to technology or the plot. It is still very current and well, IMAX screening proved that it could as well have its premiere in 2020.
I remember that 10 years ago it was THE BIGGEST DEAL – I saw the first trailer, while watching some other movie and I told my filmgoer buddy that this was lit. Paradoxes, confusion, building the entire world from scratch – those are things we talked about some time ago in Nolan case study, remember?
But is that what makes Inception a great movie? Or maybe the fact that you need a day or two to let it sink in and then watch it again to actually understand what the holy heck is going on? Or maybe it is the epic soundtrack, composed by Hans Zimmer? By the way, if you think you heard it – think again. You haven’t unless it’s in IMAX.
All of the above and little more, to answer my own question – the plot that in the beginning seems convoluted, turns out to be very simple: father doing whatever he can to go back to his family. We’ve heard that before right? Though in this case, we should say that Interstellar core plot seems familiar 😉 What truly is complicated, is the HOW – HOW TO GET TO that point, Cobb’s ultimate goal. But Nolan presents the most realistic picture, in a very puzzling way – it’s freaking hard. Especially considering the circumstances Cobb is in – being accused of his wife’s murder.
Isn’t it dreamy? I mean beautiful? (High five to whoever understood that Twin Peaks reference). And that, ladies and gentlemen is why Inception is excellent. First-class of its genre.
The moment’s passed. Whatever I do I can’t change this moment.
Dream. Moment, that seems like eternity, but in fact is exactly what it is – a moment. Inception is one of my favorite movies, on my personal go-to list, when there is nothing good to watch. It’s about love – between star-crossed lovers lost in the un-real land; love between father and son… All skillfully framed in the form of dream-heist.
What if, all that we are experiencing right now is a dream? Or what if all of our “great” ideas aren’t actually ours? What if they were planted in 3rd level of someone else’s dream? How do I know… Yeah, those questions always come through my mind after watching Inception. Few years back, when I was dealing with a “light form” of sleep disorder, those questions were the main source of my anxiety. Today, with the help of a specialist, I am calmer when it comes to dreams. Sure, I know it’s my subconscious passing a message that maybe I’m tired. Or I want something, and I want it bad. But overall, I know that I am in control – not the dreams, but how I feel and manage when I wake up.
Thank you, AGAIN, Chris. You make me think. You scratch that part of my brain… And I love it. I crave for more!