Recurring Cinematic Dream Therapy

Inception
 
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio,
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page,
Cillian Murphy, Marion Cotillard
Directed by Christopher Nolan

 


(Possible spoilers ahead — “possible” because I’m not sure given the ending of this movie…and this very review may be just a dream!)
 
Patient Moviegoer: Dr. Filmcritic, thanks for seeing me today. I know this is not our scheduled time for our therapy sessions, but I could not wait after having just had this disturbing dream about a film called Inception.
Doctor Filmcritic: That’s ok, Moviegoer. I am happy to try and help. Please continue about this dream.

PM: Well, like I said, it was a movie called Inception. As I recall, it was
highly touted by some of your colleagues, you know, with those praising quips that they post on the ads, things like, “A masterpiece on the order of 2001: A Space Odyssey.” So, I was already anxious to see it. 
DF: I see. It appears that we film critics are actually getting through to you moviegoers as we are now infiltrating your dreams with our commentary. That’s a good thing. It may suggest that we are making progress. Please, continue.
 

One of the many surreal dreamscapes from the movie Inception.
Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures

PM: Um, ok. I’m trying to remember as much as I can. It’s kinda vague and fading. Let’s see. Oh yeah. I remember sitting in the theater watching it…I’m not sure how I got there or even if I was eating popcorn. I remember I was with a couple of people, but they seemed to be asleep. I was kinda freaked out by that as I could not understand why they would come to a movie and fall asleep. But then I realized that they were dreaming about watching movies. So, I fell asleep — in my dream! — and found myself sitting in this same theater with these people. Is that even possible? Have you heard of this before? 
DF: Actually yes, I have. It is completely normal. Please, go on, what happened after you fell asleep in your dream?
 
PM: So, I was with these people and they were now alert and watching films. But each of them was watching a different film. Does that make any sense? 
DF: Uh, what do you think?
 
PM: I don’t know. It just seemed weird. As I looked at each of them, and then looked at the screen, I could see that they were each watching something different, and yet we were all watching Inception. It was so unnerving. 
DF: It’s ok. You are here with me now and you are safe. Try to relax and recall more about the dream. Do you remember what each person was watching?
 
PM: Um, it’s hard…let me think…uh yeah, I remember that one person was watching an episode of “Star Trek: Voyager,” you know, the one where the entire crew falls asleep and they are all dreaming and interacting in the same dream and Commander Chakotay is the only one who realizes that he is dreaming and when he sees the moon — in a control panel, on the viewscreen — he realizes he is dreaming and can wake himself. Do you recall that TV series? 
DF: I do, but let’s keep this to movies, shall we? This is not about me. What do you make of that?
 
PM: I’m not sure. I think it’s meant to suggest that Inception borrows heavily from this narrative. I also have this feeling that it seems to have been done much better on this TV show than in Inception. But that may have something to do with the fact that I got to know the characters on that show much better — after seven seasons — than in a two and a half hour movie. 
DF: That’s understandable. Do you remember what others may have been watching?
 
PM: Well, I do remember seeing an entire cityscape being reconfigured right before my eyes! I remember seeing whole skyscrapers rattle and rumble as they jut up from the ground and take over the space of previous buildings. Then, some building morphs around us and we find ourselves occupying whole new spaces as the new cityscape is created. I remember this from something I have seen before…uh, I know I have seen this…come on, where was it…? 
DF: That’s ok, take your time.
 
PM: …I know I’ve seen this…oh! I know, it was a movie called Dark City! That’s it. That was a really cool movie that seemed to exist in a dream world. Only in Dark City, unlike Inception, the dream-like qualities were much more creative and…well, dream-like. And I seem to also remember one of the others was looking at a different film where buildings were crumbling all around people who seemed to be deconstructing a dream. I think that one was called Sunshine of a…something… 
DF: Spotless Mind…I think you are thinking of a movie called Sunshine of a Spotless Mind with Jim Carrey…
 
PM: Yeah! That’s it. I remember that it was about a guy who was trying to forget a past lover and these “mind technicians” were erasing all memory of her and this was depicted as the house they shared crumbling around them. I remember it was a really cool effect, and I remember thinking that Inception failed me here. 
DF: What’s going on? Can you tell me how you feel right now?
 
PM: Yeah, I just feel kinda sad that Inception did not measure up to these other films in their depiction of dreams. 
DF: It’s ok to feel sad. There’s a box of tissues on the table next to you if you need ‘em.
 
PM: (sniff) Thanks. Give me a minute…Um, I am also remembering one of the audience members watching The Matrix. As he did so, I remember him looking over at me and he just turned into this stream of green glowing symbols except that I could see him smiling…he was all a stream of rows of green symbols, but his teeth were still bright white and smiling. It was the darnedest thing… 
DF: What do you make of that?
 
PM: I get this feeling that he was really enjoying The Matrix, as opposed to Inception
DF: I see.
 
PM: Oh, and I remember another person was watching Shutter Island where, like in Inception, Leonardo DiCaprio may also have been dreaming and also had a troubled relationship with his wife and remembered seeing his kids playing on the lawn outside a kitchen window… 
DF: Why do you think that person may have been seeing that?
 
PM: I’m not sure, but I think it may be because there are similar visuals and scenarios in Inception…they just recall these other experiences, especially since they include the same actor. 
DF: That’s good. You are making important connections. In my business we call that “projections” or “projecting.” It helps for you to see that.
 
PM: I understand. Um, would it also be “projecting” to remember that others were watching elaborate heist, secret agents being chased on skis, and skewed reality movies like Oceans 11, Repo Men, Synecdoche, NY, Minority Report, For Your Eyes Only, Mission Impossible, The Italian Job, Topkapi, Oceans 12, Oce… 
DF: Yes, yes, those all could be projections. Can you tell me how you felt about them?
 
PM: Well, I remember having very strong feelings about them, just not really strong feelings about Inception…except a strange woman who was…a theater usher, I think. She kept aiming her flashlight in my eyes…it was really annoying, especially when I kept trying to get a good look at her face. I seem to think that she looked like my wife, but that’s… 
Wife: Moviegoer? Moviegoer? Wake up. Please, wake up…
 
Moviegoer: What?! What!? (cough) Where the…oh, wow! I just had the weirdest dream! I dreamt that I was in a therapist’s office talking about a movie called Inception — a movie about stealing and implanting information by invading people’s dreams. And it wasn’t very good, but others were saying it was, and the therapist would not tell me what he thought of it. And you were there….and… 
Wife: Uh, Moviegoer…you’re still dreaming. I’m dead.
 
Moviegoer: Noooooooo! 
Wife: (waking up) Whoa. That was a weird dream!

Doug Young is our award-winning real life film reviewer and critic, no dream!