I am certain many viewers walked out of Inception with great delight at the concept. Its creative expression is brilliant. However, as someone who has been teaching Extraordinary Dreams such as lucid dreaming, dreams within dreams, mutual dreaming, for a very long time, I left the movie with some questions.
Although the movie draws attention to extraordinary experiences in dreams, I wonder about the message this film is conveying. Of course the movie is Science Fiction, but beyond every novel or any science fiction, there is scientific and narrative truth. In a recent interview, Chris Nolan stated that he did not do much research into dreaming and that the script is based primarily on his own experiences. His personal experience has provided him with enough qualitative material to convey states of consciousness that some people access easily while others manage to attain only through effort, incubation or invocation.
Whether the knowledge is gained from within or outside, the incorporation of his personal experience with dreams and literature in the movie is brilliant and the visuals are stunning... although the thriller content of chasing and killing were far from being original or interesting. Haven’t we all had those “recurring dreams”? Can we be thrilled with something else?
Maybe I am numbed by the state of the world conflict, but somehow taking a subject so incredible and inoculating it with another chasing theme is not an exciting dream-movie to me. Yes, the incorporation was fabulous... but such nightmares are no longer subconscious material. I was hoping that as the characters went (as they called it) “deeper,” that their subconscious would illuminate something different than that with which we are already surrounded. Perhaps there could have been a profound solution of how to go beyond our psychic warfare? Violence is no longer deep in the subconscious. Violence is what we deal with on a daily basis. We should not forget that at this moment violence is in our backyard, it is not in someone else's. It is not in the world of imagination, it is here. We just have to tune into world news on a daily basis.
The thrill for me as an audience was the anticipation of waiting to see if they could arrive at a place within consciousness where the seed of wisdom lies, beyond the reptilian brain of fight or flight. I suppose that was my dream: that they would reach a transformative state that not only elevated the characters to greater lucidity but also awakened the audience to new levels of consciousness.
In the movie, the last level they reached within the main character’s subconscious, was powerful psychological work and offered the kind of choice-making that lucid dreaming practices have been promoting for years. There was hope that we’d see emotional resolutions. Rather, the movie illustrated that such practices can cause delusions and thus the danger of not being able to distinguish the dream state from reality. This is a clear example of how great phenomena such as lucid dreaming can be taken out of context.
What I appreciated about the movie was the incredible creativity in visual animations, clever plot of dreams within dreams, perceptual play and the fact that, as an audience, we were captured in the layers of the repetitive dream within dreams to the extent of forgetting where the line is: the distinction between waking and dream reality?
The main actor (DiCaprio) performed beautifully, as do many of our dream characters. We are often caught in those dreams and we believe in them. The actress (Ellen Page) was truly the lucid one who practiced non-attachment to the emotional illusions and made the choices that kept the nightmare from turning into further tragedy.
Of course all of us in the field of dream studies will likely watch this movie over and over again. It provides a great topic for discussion about dreams, extraordinary experiences in dreams and waking reality. But I ask again, can we not create a larger vision, using higher states of consciousness to move beyond conflict, greed and violence? Perhaps as humans, we have no example of “what it is like” to be and live in such a state of consciousness. Is that why we keep repeating our old dreams?
Since Nolan is deeply interested in dreams, I hope, in his next film, that he continues to face the psychological shadow and move even deeper into the spaces of the Soul/Mind where he can allow the natural wisdom phenomena to reveal itself. Perhaps then we will see not only the resolution of the inner conflicts but the display of a workable solution for a world desperately in need of harmony. ∞