Monday, July 19, 2010

Of Inception in general and Ideas in particular

First of all, see the movie first.

Christopher Nolan is one of the brightest visionaries out there right now. I say visionaries and not filmmaker because I don't think that his movies capture the truest essence of what he is trying to say. And I say this not because he doesn't have great ideas, but because the medium of films lack that final dimension with which he can portray them. A poor worksman blames his tools, but you can't build a space shuttle with all the slave labour in the world if you have only bricks to work with.

What Inception does, and what many people will fail to realise, is challenge the viewer. It takes them out of the passive and makes them think, rehash scenes in the movie, different alternatives, other possibilities, all sorts of explanations. That's not to say that the plot is akin to the plot of The Matrix sequels. Anyone who's paying enough attention will understand what's going on. But Nolan, like always, doesn't deliver because his movies put you in a place where you want to be, but because his stories and ideas nudge you into spaces where you are least comfortable.

I won't dive deeply into the plot and the twists and the few weaknesses I felt were present the movie. But when I left the hall, I walked back in a trance like state. I walked a little faster while searching for a ride home. I picked up an extra cigarette and smoked it a little harder. I sweated a bit more because my brain wouldn't sit still. All the while wondering about what I'd just seen. Loosely, the film is about dreaming and different stages of it and how you dive in along with the protagonist into the subconcious before pulling he pulls himself and the viewer back out. I won't call it a great film, but Nolan's brilliance comes through in delivering one little detail that so many others have tried and few have accomplished. Think about 12 Monkeys, Blade Runner, Total Recall, Gattaca, and you get a sense of that feeling I'm trying to convey. When the credits roll up, you won't stand up and applaud the way you did for The Dark Knight, you won't leave with a sense of absolution and triumph. But you aren't supposed to feel those things; those come from movies that only tell you stories. When you leave the hall after Inception, you feel like you've dived into, and woken up from, one helluva crazy dream.