Inception - 'You're waiting for a train...' | Third Space

Inception - 'You're waiting for a train...'

Whatever Christopher Nolan said in 'Inception', he certainly said it well
Wed 5 Oct 2011

If Jesus saw our movies what would he say? 'Couldn't have said it better myself' or 'I want my money back!'

Whatever Christopher Nolan said in 'Inception', he certainly said it well. After turning the Revenge Tragedy genre upside down (or back to front) with his 2000 film 'Memento', Nolan spent 10 years writing the screen play for his 2010 masterpiece. Making 'Batman Begins' and 'The Dark Knight' in the meantime means he wasn't just biding his time, but viewing 'Inception' you can't help but wonder whether these films were just fundraising exercises for what he really wanted to say.

With its anterograde amnesiac hero 'Memento' parodied modernist trust in observation and system. Audience and protagonist alike were forced to 'question everything' because 'you can never know anything for sure', then, just when we thought justice might be done, hopes were dashed by the darkness of the human heart. 'Inception' picks up where 'Memento' left off, plunging audience and hero into the world of dreams. From Descarte to Beckett it's been a favourite question: 'Am I sleeping now?'; and with the aid of CGI and a semi-trailer sized rotating rig Nolan leaves us asking, 'did that spinning top fall?'

But Dom Cobb emerges from his postmodern malaise armed not just with a totem - the spinning top we'd like to watch for just one second more - he sees in the face of his children what he couldn't see below. What Cobb tells Mal, 'I can't imagine you with all your complexity, all your perfection, all your imperfection... You're just a shade of my real wife', Nolan also tells us, 'The real point of the scene - and this is what I tell people - is that Cobb isn't looking at the 'top. He's looking at his kids. He's left it behind'. Nolan adds to the phenomenological knowledge of 'Memento' relational knowledge - the certainty that forms the real foundation of life.

So what about Jesus? What would the ancient 'uneducated' carpenter say to Nolan and his avatar Cobb? Perhaps he'd affirm him with the even older words, 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate'... Jesus was the master of revealing priceless truth to some while frustrating the arrogance of others. And he too did it by telling stories. Nolan doesn't share all of Jesus' insight - the catharses experienced by Cobb and his mark are personal, not substantial - but he does take us full circle. 'Inception' delivers us back to relational knowledge - aka revelation - as the sure and solid starting point. Revelation - set aside by the enlightenment fathers, despised by their revolutionary children, thirsted for in the darkness that followed, but always bringing dawn to those who recognise it.

Jesus taught his peers that he himself is the starting point for certain truth, that his life was the greatest of all disclosures. In the 21st century perhaps Cobb has come to tell us something, something we 'once knew to be true'. Perhaps he's asking us 'to take a leap of faith', because we don't need to 'die alone' 'filled with regret'. Perhaps we too can sing Inception's theme, 'Non rien de rien... No, I regret nothing at all... not the good given me, nor the bad ('le mal')... because from today it all starts with you'.