Spectacular Attractions Podcast #4

[Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010)]

This week’s episode is a slightly expanded version (i.e. a couple more things occurred to me while I was speaking it) of my review of Inception. It seems like the internet is flooded with analysis and argument about the film, a lot of it becoming increasingly negative, but I’ve kept the mostly positive tone of my initial review in place. It has become common to slap Nolan’s film with criticisms of its coldness or its sexless, prosaic dreamscapes. It’s the opposite of those Lynchian non-sequiturs that we expect from films about dreaming, deliberately bringing into lucid focus what we might usually expect to find blurred, partial and discontinuous. You’ll probably enjoy Inception more if you go with these idiosyncrasies as calculated properties of the film rather than as thoughtless mistakes by an immature filmmaker. Of course, you don’t have to have an opinion about the film just because everyone’s talking about it. You can always ignore the hype and watch something else. I’m happy to answer questions about my Inception review, or engage in discussion about the film in the comments section, but this will be my final post on the topic: there are plenty of excellent, insightful considerations out there, and I don’t feel like I have more to add beyond what I’ve said here, but thank goodness for a blockbuster that got people talking, arguing, puzzling and thinking a bit.

Spectacular Attractions Podcast #4

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7 thoughts on “Spectacular Attractions Podcast #4

  1. Thanks Dan for an insightful and balanced set of reflections on the film, identifying its strengths and weaknesses with generosity and a sense of the place of this film within Nolan’s wider oeuvre. I saw the film last night so the podcast was well-timed. I was carried along reasonably enjoyably by Inception, but was disappointed that the early dialogue reference to the architecture of dreams became the pretext for a kind of architectural literalisation of the film’s ideas – dreams within dreams become vertical layers, secrets are hidden in safes, a disintegrating mind is represented by disintegrating buildings, etc. Full points for clarity but it left very little to the imagination. For me the film’s pleasure lay in its textures – from the suits to Ken massaging the yellow rug to the slightly uneven surface of the spinning top, and the paradox of physical effort within dream, beautifully encapsulated in the middle level’s mid-air scrap and the efforts to simulate falling without the aid of gravity.

  2. For a two and a half film it sure did go quick! There were so many interesting concepts in the film and so many excellent set pieces, the film hardly did them all justice. To much action and not enough talking (revealing).

    Imagine if it was a six part mini series: by the end of episode one you find out that everything you have watched is a dream in which the participants are auditioning (The Audition – now that was a great film…) to enter another dream…

    • Thanks, Sean. Yes, it flew by, despite it’s length. I agree, I could’ve endured a lot more talking, but even less exposition. More contemplation, in other words. That was the only time I didn’t feel “trusted” as a viewer to stay interested. Maybe Nolan subscribes to the old adage that there’s nothing more boring than listening to other people tell you about their dreams and felt obliged to ramp up the action.

      Actually, I think it would make a great mini-series. They could explore the concept a lot more, and use it in a range of situations.

  3. Thanks to you, Lisa. You’re right that the labyrinth set-up didn’t pay off with a big Escher-inspired climax (though that might remind us too much of the end scenes of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth), and we’d all love to have seen that. We could’ve watched Joseph Gordon Levitt fighting in zero gravity for hours, but can you imagine the tortuous plot turns they’d have to contrive to make that happen? You’re also right about the literalism – add to your list the elevator to the unconscious (perhaps they could’ve gone all out and used a Freudian iceberg). It’s as if Nolan looked for an original way to treat dreamscapes, and the only thing he could up with was making it rule-based and physical, to break away from the fluidity of their usual representation. He tells us that the dream has to look real to the dreamer so that they don’t get “forced out” of the fiction – it’s almost like a screenwriting workshop the way he sets up the rules for creating dreamscapes.

    Were you listening for grunts during the fight scenes? (For the benefit of other readers, I recently heard Lisa give a wonderful paper at the Screen Studies conference about the noises people make during movie fight scenes – I hope it gets published so that more people can read it, because it’ll change the way you watch action sequences) I remember the noises being fairly minimal, and nobody seems to break a sweat.

  4. Pingback: Inception « Spectacular Attractions

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