Screenwriting Workshop with Award Winning Screenwriter Message Board › INCEPTION Part 6: Is Leonardo DiCaprio Dreaming?
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As discussed in Parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 of this series, Inception is built around a three step down and three step back up structure that closely mirrors the techniques of classical hypnosis. But just as the story is built around dreams within dreams, so too may it be built around an inception within an inception.
Is Robert Fischer The Only One Dreaming?
The spinning top at the end of Inception certainly leaves us wondering if Cobb is awake or simply at another level of his own dream. The question doesn’t have a clear answer, however the evidence that Cobb may in fact be dreaming goes far beyond the last image of the movie.
The most obvious evidence that Cobb may be dreaming is the “dream logic” that seems omnipresent in his affairs. Cobb’s big problem– that he needs to get back to America to see his kids– only makes sense within the dream logic world of the movie. In real life, of course, Michael Caine could simply put those kids on a plane to Europe, and Cobb could see them without performing any inception whatsoever.
Similarly, in the real world, executives don’t buy entire airlines before even finding out they need a plane, nor can a simple phone call from a high powered foreign executive forever clear the name of a man wanted for murder.
It’s possible that this could all be dismissed as sloppy action movie writing, however within the context of the film, even Mal points out the problem of Cobb’s dream logic, when she confronts him with the fact that Cobb’s “real” world is a lot like a dream, in which he’s being hunted by governments, corporations, and mercenaries, just like a persecuted dreamer. Mal’s disturbing worlds raise the possibility that all of the characters in his world are in fact simply archetypal projections of his own subconscious, filling up the architecture of the dream he constructed.
Is Cobb Incepting Himself?
What makes Mal’s theory most compelling is the way that the post hypnotic suggestion with which she wants to incept him, to “take a leap of faith” are repeated, again and again, by different characters in Cobb’s “dream”.
These words are first spoken by Saito, when Cobb (believing himself to be living in reality), asks Saito for a guarantee that he will be able to clear his name, if he effectively carries out the inception. Saito responds: “You don’t. But I can. So, do you want to take a leap of faith, or become an old man filled with regret, waiting to die alone.”
But these words,“take a leap of faith,” did not originate with Saito. They originated with Cobb. They’re the words with which he incepted Mal when he convinced her to lay down on the railroad tracks. The words which she repeats to him, as she tries to get him to jump from the building. The words she carries out in action when she jumps without him– an image which is echoed by the completion of Robert Fischer’s journey, when he and Ariadne get their first kick back to reality, by jumping from the top of the building in Limbo.
Even the post-hypnotic suggestion with which Cobb intends to incept Fischer is a variation on this theme: an invitation to take a leap of faith in his father, and to believe that his father has taken a leap of faith in him.
Finally in classical hypnotic form, these words come full circle when Cobb repeats them to Saito, after chasing him all the way to limbo to deliver the message to his friend. “take a leap of faith”.
Internalizing The Post Hypnotic Suggestion
In this way, Cobb comes to accept and internalize his own post-hypnotic suggestion (just as Mal has internalized the suggestion Cobb incepted in her, and Robert Fischer has internalized the suggestion Cobb incepted in him).
The question of course is whether the “leap of faith” he is intended to take is a leap from a building, or a leap of the mind, in which he chooses one reality over another, and accepts those children as real, whether they really are, or not.
Check in next week for the final article in the series: “Inception Part 7: Can the Words You’re Telling Yourself Really Change Your Life?”