Films & Architecture: "Inception"

Films & Architecture: "Inception"

This time we want to share a very contemporary film. An amazing story stunningly described by Christopher Nolan, in which dreams within dreams can be manipulated by “architects” who can construct an imaginary reality.

Imagine: being able, as architects, to create whole environments, just using our minds as the resource. Let us know your ideas in the comments below, and, while you’re at it, please let us know of some new films we can add to the list!


Original title: Inception Year: 2010 Runtime: 148 min. Country: United States Director: Christopher Nolan Writer: Christopher Nolan Soundtrack: Hans Zimmer Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Michael Caine


Former dream architect Dominic “Dom” Cobb and business partner Arthur perform corporate espionage using an experimental military-developed machine to infiltrate the subconscious of their targets and extract information while dreaming, their latest target being Japanese businessman Saito. Tiered dream within a dream strategies are used and dreamers awaken by a “kick” such as falling or by dying in the dream. If the dreamer is the one who awakens, the dream “collapses”. Each extractor carries a totem, a small object the behavior of which is only predictable to its owner, used to determine whether a dreamer is in someone else’s dream. Cobb’s totem is a spinning top that perpetually spins in the dream state. The extraction fails due to Mallorie “Mal” Cobb, Cobb’s deceased wife, whose memory projection sabotages the mission. Saito reveals, after Cobb’s and Arthur’s associate sells them out, that he was actually auditioning the team to perform the difficult act of inception: implanting an idea into a person’s subconscious while they sleep.

Saito wishes to break up the energy conglomerate of his ailing competitor Maurice Fischer, by planting the idea in his son and heir Robert Fischer to disintegrate his father’s company. Should Cobb succeed, Saito would use his influence to clear a murder charge against Cobb, so he can return to the United States and his children. Cobb accepts the offer and assembles his team: Eames, a conman and identity forger; Yusuf, a chemist who concocts the powerful sedative for a stable dream within a dream strategy; Ariadne, an architecture student tasked with designing the labyrinth of the dream landscapes; and Arthur. Saito accompanies so that he knows whether or not Cobb and his team succeeded.

When the elder Fischer dies in Sydney and his body is flown back to Los Angeles, the team share the flight with Robert Fischer and Cobb sedates him, bringing him into the shared dream. At each stage, the member of the team generating the dream stays behind to initiate the “kick”, while the other members sleep within the dream to travel a level deeper. In the first level, Yusuf’s rainy downtown dream, the team abducts Fischer. However Fischer’s trained subconscious projections attack and severely wound Saito. Eames temporarily takes the appearance of Fischer’s godfather, Peter Browning, to suggest Fischer reconsider his father’s will.

Yusuf drives the team in a van as they are sedated into Arthur’s dream, a hotel, where the team recruit Fischer, convincing him his kidnapping was orchestrated by Browning. In the third dream level, a snowy mountain fortress dreamed by Eames, Fischer is told they are in Browning’s subconscious, but they are really going deeper into Fischer’s. Yusuf, under assault by trained projections, initiates his kick too soon by driving off a bridge, sending Arthur’s dream world into zero-gravity and causing an avalanche in Eames’ dream. Arthur improvises a new kick using an elevator that will be synchronized with the van hitting the water, while the team in Eames’ dream races to finish the job before the new round of kicks.

Due to the effects of heavy sedation and multi-layered dreaming, death during this mission will result in entering Limbo, dream space of unknown content where the dreamer could be trapped. Elapsed time in each dream level is roughly twenty times greater than in the level above it; in Limbo, the deepest level of all, 24 hours of outer-world time would be experienced as about half a century. Cobb reveals to Ariadne that he spent “fifty years” with Mal in Limbo constructing a world from their shared memories whilst seemingly growing old together. After returning to the waking world, Mal remained convinced she was still dreaming and committed suicide, trying to persuade Cobb to do so by retroactively incriminating him in her death. He fled the U.S. and left his children behind, ostensibly in the care of his father-in-law.

Saito succumbs to his wounds, and Cobb’s projection of Mal sabotages the plan by killing Fischer, sending them both into Limbo. Cobb and Ariadne enter Limbo to find Fischer and Saito, while Eames remains on his dream level to set up a kick by rigging the fortress with explosives. Cobb confronts his projection of Mal, who tries convincing him to stay in Limbo. Cobb refuses and confesses that he was responsible for Mal’s suicide: having convinced her to leave Limbo by using inception to plant the idea in her mind that the world they had been living in for fifty years was not real, and hence the need to kill themselves in order to return to the real world, once back in the real world she continued to believe dying would wake her. Mal attacks Cobb but Ariadne shoots her. Through his confession, Cobb attains catharsis and chooses to remain in Limbo to search for Saito. Ariadne pushes Fischer off a balcony, bringing him back up to the mountain fortress, where he enters a safe room to discover and accept the planted idea: that his father wishes him to be his “own man”, and that splitting up the conglomerate might not be a radical notion.

All of the team members except Cobb and Saito ride the synchronized kicks back to reality: Ariadne jumps off a balcony in Limbo, Eames detonates the explosives in the fortress, Arthur blasts an elevator containing the team’s sleeping bodies up an elevator shaft, and the van in Yusuf’s dream hits the water. Cobb eventually finds an aged Saito and the two remember their arrangement, presumably killing themselves and awakening to outer-world reality on the airplane. Saito honors the arrangement and Cobb passes through U.S. customs once the plane lands in Los Angeles. Before reuniting with his children, Cobb tests reality with his spinning top, but he turns away to greet them before observing the results. As he plays with his children, the camera pans to the top, which is still spinning, at which point the film ends.


Previously posted on this section…

About this author
Cite: Daniel Portilla. "Films & Architecture: "Inception"" 29 Jan 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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