Inception (2010)

Insides of Emma (The Fall of Angels)

When I watch a movie, all sorts of machinery kicks in. I am aware of only some of that, and can massage and train only a bit of it — of what I see of myself.

This machinery is based on layers, folding, recursion. It is just how the mind works, this business of seeing self.

Some art — I would argue all — fits into this equation in some way: surfing, deflating, revealing some part of the flow. The most exciting to me are those that expose the machinery itself, the folding dynamics. Oh, I have no illusion that this or any simple equation is “the answer” to some profound question, but it seems that we do live in movies, our life is the movie we make. If we want valuable art, it will be art that reminds us of that fact: a movie that is powerful enough to let us know the limits of its power.

Nolan will get credit for making an entertaining artefact. The intelligence — no simply the complexity — of the story makes us invest. It is why folding works with the marketplace: it increases the entanglement we make with the story. Then Nolan can drag in cinematic effects that otherwise would be ordinary: bombs, gunfights, carchases… and we see them as extraordinary because of the perceptive entanglement.

This works as well for our relationship with the actor. In interviews, Leonardo is talking openly about what first level actors know: that you deliver the character, but you also deliver a folded presentation having to do with the knowledge the actor and viewer share about the whole process. How does one play a character that is a character within? How do you project an awareness of withinness?

As with “Following“ and “Memento,” it isn’t just about the layers; it is about how they affect one another and how they include the folds of the presentation as a film, and as we live.

I would like to remark on only one aspect of how Nolan put this together: space. We have all sorts of life values represented here. We have the noir detective, the pilgrimage to family, the deceiver, the drivers… all with designated characters. In there we have the architect. She is the fourth that we know. The first is the father, played by Michael Caine. He is a master professor of some stripe — we don’t really know. What we do know is Caine’s face, one of the most familiar in film. Nolan knows him as Bruce Wayne’s caretaker, the keeper of the enabling space for Batman (including the space carried in the costume-cape).

His son, Leonardo’s character, has taken his dad’s empire of the mind and broken it down for use in layers. The other father here is a surrogate for Cobb’s. Cobb is presumed to be the master architect, but is hampered, so he has to seek others. One we see briefly at the beginning, someone who fails. The one of interest to us is recommended by the Dad as superior to Cobb. Enter Ariadne, the goddess of the labyrinth, what in the business is called a four, a reality savant.

She is the designer and guide of everything we see, everything. She is the magi, the creator; everything we see is something she made, even the illusion Cobb, has that in an inner dream he made something and lived in it for decades. Even, even the possible illusion that he returns. Even the more ambiguous architecture of lives that Cobb believes he experienced — a lifetime with his wife.

There is one scene where this is not so — where the world is not Ariadne’s, and for me it is the key scene. I hold it as the anchor around which I build everything.

Our actual romance (Cobb and Ariadne) are in their first shared space— her first dream experience. This is Cobb’s dream, his architecture. They are sitting outside by a Paris cafe, one of filmdom’s most seductive places. (It seems to quote “Irma la Douce” in more ways than one, but certainly in the set.) He is seducing her into helping him build an inner world — risky, more engaging than anything can be. It is for the purpose of regaining his children (as he settles with his father) and incidentally saving the world from energy tyranny.

He is grizzled, worn out from past wars of the mind. He has just suffered a defeat because of an inadequate architect. He is at the end of his life; this will be his last job. She is at the beginning of hers. Her face is fresh, her self open, her mind powerful but innocent. He explains that everything she sees is created by him. He then proceeds to create what has to be the best use of cinematic space I know; the environment deconstructs. It doesn’t explode so much as is ceases to become boundaries of space and becomes space itself, dense, breathable. It is the most powerful, erotic thing I have experienced on screen; his space penetrates her skin to the core. When they awake, he knows he has her — forever.

My belief is that Nolan opened the possibility that Moll was something he and she co-created as part of the labyrinth we go through with them, noir-wise. It is all about the fall, the connection among layers, the penetration into the soul. Nolan drapes a thriller around this, almost as a joke. But this is about seduction, spatial seduction. I image Chris with Emma. The question here is where is the idea planted and by whom. You may be fooled.

Ted’s Evaluation — 4 of 3: Every cineliterate person should experience this.

IMDB

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