Inception–Is Life Just a Dream?   3 comments

On Sunday afternoon, August 15, 2010, my son James and I went off to the Harkins Theater at Scottsdale Fashion Square to see Inception.  I had been hearing about this film for weeks, and the choice Sunday was between Inception and Scott Pilgrim. Both are special effects movies, but Inception seemed to have more meat to it. At age 63, it’s kind of hard to get excited about the romantic struggles of some air-headed 22-year old–sorry, Scott!

Inception turned out to be about a team of Dream Extractors who have to get into a man’s mind and plant an idea so deeply that it will be acted upon in real life.  Like all good caper movies, this involves a complicated plot, pulled off at great personal danger.  This leads to chases, explosions, fights–all the action any action junkie like me could possibly want.

Without going into any detail about the plot, which can scarcely bare any examination, I will say that I liked the movie after it finally got going.  For the first 45 minutes I was in serious danger of falling asleep there in the theater. Perhaps it was the power of suggestion, but seeing the characters repeatedly fall asleep made me want to fall asleep also.  Things finally got going and I stayed awake for the last hour and a half of the film.

The best thing about Inception, imho, is that it is a movie that can make you think. It certainly roused all kinds of thoughts in my mind.  The worst thing about is was, paradoxically enough, the special effects.  It’s hard to explain, but state-of-the-art computer effects, when pushed too far, just look fake.  There was a burning car. For several seconds a violent flame washed over a parked car, but the car remained totally unharmed.  There was lots of flame, but no smoke: the upholstery on the seats didn’t char and disintegrate; the paint didn’t bubble and burn off the car; the vehicle didn’t rock and shudder to the impact of wild winds and eddies of air caused by the blame.  The special effects artists could have put these things in, but they didn’t think of it. I have seen fire. I have felt the hot wind that comes from an open flame.  This was fake–just an image of flame superimposed over the image of a car. And the movie was just full of these fakeries! I could go on for pages talking about all the fakey things the movie showed us. Buildings collapsing and exploding, hundreds of bullets being poured into a vehicle in a high speed chase without even causing that van to wreck, and many more.  The zero-gravity scenes were fun to watch, but real–no way!

My son said, “Of course it’s not real, Dad, it’s a dream.”  Well, my dreams don’t work that way.  Do yours?

Another thing that bothered me about these movies was that the dream worlds they entered were so incredibly sharp and realistic in appearance.  They seemed like perfect replicas of real life.  From my own experience, I know that is not how dreams are.  Dreams tend to be short, fragmentary, and to wake you up in those places where you wish they would most continue.  Real dreams are often full of intense emotion, and the dreamer knows things the same way we remember things in reality, but they are rarely full of detail.  The dreams people have in deep rem-states are not like the imaginative visions a person constructs while awake.  They can be very intense, but you simply don’t get the kind of controlled action that the film gave us.

One disturbing idea that the movie planted was that we awaken from our dreams when we die in them.  Have you ever actually died in a dream and woke up?  I did–just once in my life. I dreamed I was target-shooting with a rifle, and I missed and got a ricochet that came back and hit me right in the chest.  I felt the impact.  I felt myself fall, and the world around me went black. I remember thinking that I’ve killed myself.  I remember thinking that I was dying, and then I remember my fierce rebellion against the fact, and how I told myself over and over that I couldn’t die–I was just dreaming, and I knew I was dreaming.  Gradually, or at least it felt gradual, I woke up, soaked in sweat with my heart pounding like a drum. I remember how important it seemed to me that I not allow myself to die in the dream–if you die in a dream, really die, then you’re dead in the real world, too. 

The people in the movie took dream death as nothing. It was just a fast way out of a dream that wasn’t going their way.  That just seemed wrong to me.

I wondered if there will be a wave of suicides from people who see this movie.  Are you tired of the dream you’re in?Just kill yourself and wake up.  I don’t advise it, folks. If life is a dream, you want it to last as long as it can, unless your life is really, really terrible.  We all have good times and bad times, but remember, the good times will come again if you can just endure.

One thing is certain–this dream we call life will end when we die.  But is life a dream?  I don’t think so. It doesn’t feel like a dream.  Hang in there, people.  There are waking dreams that are far superior to sleeping dreams.  Thngs can be dream-like and still real.  Those dreams that you make true in reality are far superior in quality to those that just happen when you close your eyes.


Posted August 17, 2010 by atroll in Uncategorized

3 responses to “Inception–Is Life Just a Dream?

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  1. “We all have good times and bad times, but remember, the good times will come again if you can just endure.”

    I love the inherent optimism of this statement. Of course, it’s just not true. An example (almost a cliche) where this was not true was the Holocaust. For many of its victims, things just kept going from bad to worse and so many never saw good times again. There is no natural law that states good must follow bad, or vice versa. It’s a random world and there’s no predicting what the future holds.

    That said, I enjoyed the movie Inception. We all have different thresholds, but in this case I was able to “suspend my disbelief.”

  2. As always Ken, very insightful. I did notice the inconsistencies that you spoke of, the fire, the bullets, the incessant sleeping, the incredible realness of what was to be a dream… But I did enjoy the story line and the idea of it. Though not consistent with reality, or even the dream state, taking yourself out of the reality and thinking of the possibility of what could be, it was fun to get lost in it, to take apart the pieces and try and put them in place.

    I love your closing thought that all said and done, there is something better to come. Whether we meet it before we leave this world or after. This thought gives us hope where hope would not be. Even in the struggles, we can gleam some light whether it be for our own betterment or for the betterment of someone who may learn from our experience.

    You are a dear!


  3. Really nice description of this movie I haven’t seen but now want to. thanks. I love a de/constructionist mind bend! Or whatever it’s called…Was that a dern happy note your essay ended on? Cuz I thought I heard purple unicorns, yeah I’m pretty sure I did. Nice! And I thought you were such a dark lord!

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