INCEPTION: A Movie Using Illusion to Dispel Illusion

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“I am here to remind you this is a dream.” When Leonardo DiCaprio spoke this line of dialogue near the end of the movie, Inception,
I knew this was more than another shoot ’em up summer blockbuster.
Beyond the chase scenes and explosions, beyond the clever story concept
of making the mind the scene of the crime, Inception does something that few movies do. It uses illusion to dispel illusion.

As
all magicians know, the illusion of pulling a rabbit out of a hat is
easily accomplished by drawing the eyes of the audience to the sexy
woman standing next to the hat. Inception performs its magic by keeping us focused on an intricate plot, flashy locations and great acting. But the movie takes an audacious step further. It lifts the veil of illusion to reveal a deeper magic. If we have the eyes to see it, the Inception’s
elaborate dream reveals the dreamer. It delights the mind by uncovering
the awareness behind the mind. This is the greatest magic of all,
performed by the wisest and most compassionate artists, spiritual
teachers and healers among us.

The
first clue in the film that this hat trick is afoot is the character of
the architect. Her name is Ariadne, the name of the Greek princess who
gave the hero, Theseus, a golden thread to guide him through the
labyrinth. Architecture, the most solid of forms, is used to experience
the mind’s illusions. In the film, architecture folds back on itself,
portraying consciousness weaving within itself to create form.
Structures unexpectedly morph from one form to another in response to
the characters’ shifting dreams. Buildings crumble, reflecting their
crumbling beliefs.

A subtle hint that the movie uses form to
point beyond form is given in the Paris classroom where the Leonardo
DiCaprio character seeks out the Michael Caine character. The chalkboard
behind the desk is covered with drawings of the Pantheon in Rome. This
2,000 year old building is infamous for the shaft of sunlight streaming
through the single circular opening at the apex of its dome. The occulus
opens the confining mass of this ancient temple to the vast freedom of
the sky and the animating power of the sun. It reminds us that the
purpose of the structure is to reveal the vital reality behind the
structure.

Like the Pantheon, the movie uses the illusions of
story structure, acting and special effects to point beyond the
illusions. It entertains in ways the take us beyond entertainment. Inception plants in our minds a rare wisdom: “I am here to remind you this is a dream.”


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