The Inception Movie and Dreams: 5 Things I Really Liked About This Film

26 Jul

SO I’m thrilled to say I saw INCEPTION tonight for my 30th birthday at IMAX.


It was pretty awesome.

In fact, I’d say this is the best film that’s come along that is specifically about dreams and the architecture of the dreaming mind since Vanilla Sky was released in 2001.

Instead of a movie review, I just want to bring up some points of the film that intrigue me. If you’ve not seen the movie, I don’t know if you will want to read any further!

…still with me?

OK, here we go!

1) The use of dreams signs.

Sort of.

But if you’ve seen the film and you’re familiar with lucid dreaming, you probably know what I’m referencing: in the movie they use small, unique objects that only they know something distinct about. Because of this uniqueness, they are used as a test of their reality, since someone else designing their dreamscape or dream landscape would be unable to replicate what’s unique about the object, and thus, the dreamer would know this meant the experience is a dream.

I thought this was very cool twist on the lucid dreaming community’s use of dream signs as a way to test reality to realize you’re dreaming.

2) The discussion on how dreams just “start” without a beginning.

In the beginning of the film, Leonardo Dicaprio is training his new dream architect and asks her how they got to where they are now. She cannot remember and realizes that they are actually in a dream right then and there.

This is definitely something familiar to lucid dreamers as a means of lucid dream induction. i.e. to train yourself to  ask the question “How did I get here? What was I doing 20 minutes ago?” so that you do it while dreaming, and it becomes a lucid dream cue.

This is very cool and I don’t believe I’ve seen any film on dreams mention this concept.

3) The huge use of dreams within dreams and false awakenings.

The idea that within each dream inside a dream one is closer to both the subconscious and an increasingly unstable dreamscape is awesome. They did a really good job on this one I think.

4) The nature of dream time.

The idea that dream time gets exponentially longer as you move down each level of a dream within a dream was very clever both as a plot device and just as an idea on dreams.

But I couldn’t help thinking of Stephen LaBerge’s lucid dream experiments where they had a subject fall asleep, become lucid, cue the outside world that they were lucid (I believe with pre-approved motions of their eyes, which move in real life parallel with the subjects dream movements) and then count from 1 to 30 followed by a second eye movement cue to signal the count is complete. From what I recall, the research found that the time experienced in the subjects dream was basically the same as the time experienced outside of the dream.

In other words, time passes the same in a dream as it does when awake.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that all dreams experience time like this, does it? Perhaps it was just that one dreamers experience and that specific dream.

For me personally, I’ve never had a dream experience that led me to believe that time can stretch in huge ways in the dream world. But I have had visitors here discuss in the comments that they’ve had dreams that lasted years or entire lifetimes – something I must admit I find hard to believe, but nevertheless, am eager to hear about.

Do you have dream experiences that stretch the concept of time?

5) The notion that characters in our dreams are projections of our subconscious.

Yep, they hit the nail on the head with that one and it was nice to see it be a strong part of the story. I loved how the dream characters became resistant to the people coming into the dreams when they sensed someone was messing with their world, like a subconscious psychological defense of the dreaming mind.

. . .

All in all, a kick ass movie about dreaming, for sure!

If you’ve seen the Inception dream movie already, I’d love to know what you think!

Did they “got it right”?

What did you like or dislike?

How does it compare to other movies about dreams?

And most importantly, did you think it was a little silly how many people they had shooting machine guns at each other while skiing on a mountain side? I did.. 😉

[ReviewAZON asin=”B004FT2F8C” display=”inlinepost”]

10 Responses to “The Inception Movie and Dreams: 5 Things I Really Liked About This Film”

  1. jonah July 30, 2010 at 7:45 pm #


    I liked your discussions. As an avid lucid dreamer, I’ve been extremely energized by Inception and all the dream buzz its created. I’ve put something similar to your post together on my blog, I tackle some of the same topics and open up discussion on some others too… would love your feedback/input.…-lucid-dreamer/

  2. Kris July 31, 2010 at 1:52 pm #

    I loved “Inception”. It was one of the best movies I’ve seen about dreams, and it was one of the best movies to cover the philosophical territory of reality versus dreams since “The Matrix”.

    #2 on your list was one of my favorite little details in the movie. I loved how they incorporated the idea that dream scenes just begin at a random starting point with nothing leading up to them, and you can use that fact to determine whether or not you’re dreaming. I’m pretty sure you’re right that this detail has never been pointed out in another movie before.

    I also found the movie’s take on dream time fascinating. I’ve had dreams that covered weeks of time within the dream. I suspect this might happen because our mind edits the dream, similar to how a movie is edited — we only see the important scenes and all the mundane details are skipped — so a dream that covers a span of weeks or months of dream time can take place in an hour of sleep time.

  3. inceptinquirer August 1, 2010 at 2:12 am #

    Yes, wonderful movie.

    Great ideas – I likes the ideas of Caprio incepting his wife (mal) the idea that their life was “a dream” – and that this was the secret she was supressing and “forgotten”.

    How often do we conveniently supress important matters and forget that what we are engaged in might be superficial and somewhat illusionary distraction ?

    Isnt a lucid dream partly “forgetting you are dreaming” leading to a paradoxical awakening within the dream ?

    I am amazed by how our minds construct other peoples characters as projections in dreams – the detail is astonishing. What is interesting is we walk around everyday whilst awake doing exactly the same thing without realizing it. Literally interacting with delf created projections in many cases.

    Also some interest on the time distortions – at the deepest level they gave the idea of “eternal limbo” – isnt this scary ? Some people are concerned with eternal after lives as if eternity is a reward for “good deeds” in this life via religion – but isnt the very idea of eternity look more like the ultimate horror. Niezsche explored this in his existential philosophy – and we know what conclusion he ended up with !!! Its actually a very deep idea.

  4. jonah August 1, 2010 at 6:59 pm #

    oops… here’s a link that works…

  5. Andre August 2, 2010 at 12:12 am #

    Perchance to Dream a The Twilight Zone episode in which time was stretched in a dream that seem to last an hour when it only lasted a few seconds in reality. I wonder as we die if we go into a state of eternal limbo. I liked the concept of Inception. There are many other movies that have dream concept but it is not the central theme like the movie Titanic.

  6. jonah August 4, 2010 at 7:53 pm #

    I’ve got another interesting link for all you Inception buffs out there.

    Are you interested in seeing where YOU stand as a dreamer? Do you have mad dream skillz or still have much to learn? Find out by taking my Inception-Inspired dream quiz:

  7. Kevin August 27, 2010 at 11:26 pm #

    The time distortion of Salvia Divinorum has a common denominator as the concept of time distortion in Inception, this is so interesting as I have been reading on Erowid, Salvia Divinorum Experiences.

  8. Ben August 28, 2010 at 4:11 am #

    Interesting. Would be curious to hear more about this.

    Is it tied into the idea that moving into the 5x/10x/etc salvia realm, at each successive jump in potency, there’s a further (exponential) time jump?

  9. Chris September 8, 2010 at 7:12 pm #

    Hi Ben. I, too, thoroughly enjoyed Inception! Regarding the whole dream-time concept, I’m not sure there is a consistent formula to apply between real time and dream time. While in my own dreams it does seem like much more goes than is possible in the short amount of time actually spent dreaming, I think perhaps things happen in almost 3 or 4 dimensions, and then recalled in 2-dimensional linear time. The movie itself seemed to have a problem applying a consistent correspondence, except when it was vital to the storyline.

    I need to see it a second time. 🙂

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