Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Inception Is About Storytelling

"True inspiration is impossible to fake." "No, it's not."

This is the moment when I realized that Inception was a storytelling thriller. No matter how many bullets are fired, get this straight: Inception is all about storytelling.

Look at these words the characters use when trying to describe inception: catharsis, art, inspiration, subtle, depth, emotion, imagination. It sounds a lot like they're trying to describe the next great American novel, not a money-grabbing caper.

But isn't storytelling a caper? It requires countless moving parts, a huge arsenal of tools, adaptation, vision, and at an almost definitive level, deceit. You're sucking the reader into a dreamworld that you don't want them to remember to be fake.

Each member of the team embodies part of the writing process. Cobb has the vision, Eames has the character development, Ariadne has the setting, Arthur has the editing, and Yosef has the drugs--all critical elements of storytelling. (Except the drugs. Probably.)

And what's their big plan? It's not just to go three dreams deep, like some kind of ridiculous Russian doll scenario. It's a three act structure built around a character's development:

"On the top level, we open up his relationship with his father. Say: 'I WILL NOT FOLLOW IN MY FATHER'S FOOTSTEPS.' Next level down we've accessed his ambition and self-esteem. We feed him: 'I WILL CREATE SOMETHING MYSELF.' Then, the bottom level, we bring out the emotional big guns: 'MY FATHER DOESN'T WANT ME TO BE HIM.'"

Inception can't be a logical procedure wherein they persuade their mark to an idea. Emotion must drive it, and so their plot becomes intimate and personal. In fact, the most emotional part of the movie, for me, was when Fischer finds the pinwheel in his father's safe. As I was hit with this powerful emotion, I suddenly realized, "Wait a minute. This is all fake, and I know it is because I saw them plan and execute it. Why is it still emotional?"

Apparently, Cobb is right: you can fake inspiration. It's called storytelling.

But "fake inspiration" is a label I've never attributed to it. When you read a great book, do you think to yourself, "That was really inspiring, but it was all fake, so it doesn't matter?" Are great works of art nothing but fake inspiration, a manipulation of our human nature? I don't think so. I think, more accurately, great art and, particularly, great stories aren't faking inspiration so much as they are forging it. I agree with the conclusion that the movie asserts, which is that when it comes to inspiration, the boundaries between Fake and Real aren't as meaningful anymore.

Now if only bullets would fly and gravity would fluctuate while I write my own stories.


Michael Horvath said...

"Now if only bullets would fly and gravity would fluctuate while I write my own stories."


Josh Hoyt said...

Great post!

Jayrod Garrett said...

Such a beautiful analogy to Inception. Never thought of it that way before, but it is true. So many good things going on in that movie.

Eden Mabee said...

I never saw Inception, but I do take your analogy. And I do, because you're right... The "fake" inspiration that a writer forges is as real and valuable to our minds.

Wonderful post. Thanks

The Wordsmith said...

*unrelated* You have been nominated for the Liebster Award! Details here.

ben268 said...

Wow, I never clued into this analogy before. The fact that story telling and inception both have three parts really makes the comparison obvious.