Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Meditation on a Summer Film

Inception. You're probably sick of hearing about it already. Yes, it is a great movie; the acting is superb by almost all involved; the plot is creative and as close to original as we can get these days; the special effects are mind-blowing. All of this spells out a recipe for a chart-topping Summer flick. But I think there is another reason why Inception is resonating so thoroughly with audiences. (Spoilers to follow.)

The year is 2010. The economy is effectively in the crapper thereby rendering the American Dream just that, a dream. We live in a society where almost all that we eat is modified in some way, usually not for the better, from it's natural state. Politics are riddled with corruption. People are dying daily around the world, and we're made to feel guilty about it if we don't send a little money. Who wouldn't want to forget reality? We have out-sourced our social lives to the Internet.

Inception deals with a group people who can access other's minds by invading their dreams. While inside they can extract or steal ideas, or, more difficultly, plant ideas. You can share dreams with others and even get stuck in your subconscious. To leave the dream you either must be woken up by someone on the outside or die in the dream. Needless to say, it is easy to lose your grip on reality. DiCaprio's character's wife returns to reality after a long stint in dreamland with her hubby convinced that they're still dreaming. She kills herself.

The issue of what is real has been debated by philosophers for centuries. I have friends who could speak much more knowledgeably about the subject than I, but watching Inception I couldn't help but think of Plato and the illustration of the cave. Everything we see is merely a projection of the real thing, a shade, a reflection, a shadow. Form exists somewhere else.

I guess what I'm trying to say, however in-eloquently, is that so many people right now wish all of this life to be a dream. We are already beginning to live lives in alternative realities. How real, really, is Facebook? Isn't there a study that showed the more friends you have online the less you have offline? The Internet allows us to live lives apart from who we actually are. The awful Bruce Willis movie Surrogates tried to work through this theme too but failed miserably. (I stopped watching after 20 minutes. I almost never stop watching once I've started.)

Inception ends boldly, seeming to claim that it doesn't matter whether you're living in reality or in dreamland as long as you're happy. Is that what we've come to as a society?

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