Sei sulla pagina 1di 17

Doru Pop Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania doruaurelpop@yahoo.

com Cyber(psycho-punk)analysis Interpreting a scene in Christopher Nolan's Inception

Abstract: Sleeping, dreaming and the technologies of imagination were deeply connected with the process of moviemaking. Cyberpunk literature and philosophy offered a background for this connection and became one of the most important references for the new conjunction between cyberculture and the dream-state. Using psychoanalysis as an interpretative instrument, this paper discusses Christopher Nolans Inception as a contemporary manifestation of cyberpunk cinematic. Keywords: Cyberpunk cinema; Psychoanalysis; Christopher Nolan; Inception; Simulacra; Dream interpretation. Rezumat: Somnul, visul i tehnologiile imaginaiei au fost ndelung asociate cu procesul produciei de film. Literatura i filosofia cyberpunk a oferit un fundal pentru aceast conexiune, devenind una din cele mai importante referine pentru noua conjuncie dintre cultura cyber i starea de visare. Cu ajutorul psihanalizei ca instrument interpretativ, aceast lucrare discut filmul Inception al lui Christopher Nolan ca manifestare contemporan a cinematografiei cyberpunk. Cuvinte cheie: Cinema cyberpunk; Psihanaliz; Christopher Nolan; Inception; Simulacra; Interpretarea viselor.

The central question of this paper is focused on the conjunction between sleeping, dreaming and the technologies of imagination? One of the answers comes from Philip K. Dick's famous novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), where we are confronted with an example of the relationship between dreams and cyberpunk culture, while the title itself contains the possibility of another connection, deeply rooted into the very nature of this relationship: psychoanalysis as an interpretative instrument for cultural products. Because it is not just about what happens to our ability to dream in a technologically wired world, but also how do we interpret such ability?

Dreaming, hallucinating, moviemaking It is not by chance that Philip K. Dick published his novel the same year when Stanley Kubrick screened his sci-fi masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Dreaming and building phantasies constructed by means of new technologies are intertwined, and Kubrick's movie was not surpassed in this endeavor. It was only several years later, when Ridley Scott turned Philip K. Dick's text into Blade Runner, the movie, starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer and Daryl Hannah, when this approach became the source for a type of popular culture, that influenced moviemakers and writers of cyberpunk culture. Allegedly it was William Gibsom himself who left the screening of Blade Runner considering that his ideas from theNeuromancer, at that time a work in progress, were too much incorporated in the production. The influence of Blade Runner allowed the apparition of the cyberpunk genre in cinema the cyberpunk cinematic, a combination of film noir and science fiction. Literature cyberpunk converges around the same idea, as William Gibson's Neuromancer is not only the first work to make use of the term cyberspace, but it is Case, the main character in Neuromancer, who defined The Matrix as a consensual hallucination. Gibson uses the term consensus-hallucination (Gibson 1984: 178) as a collective phantasm that we live every day, experienced by millions of people each minute. If cyberspace is one hallucination that we all agreed to have (Gibson 1986: 136) in a world where we connect our sensorial organs to computers and other technological devices that allow us to, then the movies are the main form of experiencing these hallucinations. The novelty that Gibson brought into place was the new imaginary produced by the interface between humans and their technologies. Fantasies opened to the most fantastic representations, the total manipulation of reality, manifestations and meanings to the limit of turning anything that seems real into something that might be unreal at any moment (Gibson 1986). The boundaries between real and imaginary are completely destroyed, the technology generates images of people and worlds that are material, visible and authentic, yet are creations of an imaginary effort. Once The Matrix, the movie, came into the public conscience (although the production was indirectly inspired by Gibson, since his term was first used by John Quarterman in 1990) the Wachowski brothers integrated the cyberpunk concepts in their vision (Matrix trilogy 1999, 2003, 2003). Humans live fictitious lives, allowed by the machines that control their ability to dream and fantasize. The plot in the Matrix is developed around the idea that humans are hooked by machines into an illusionary reality, generated by the technological Matrix itself, in order to control their bodies. Before the exceptional first instalment of The Matrix, a series of movies appeared, either inspired directly by Philip K. Dick, like Paul

Verhoevens Total Recall (1990) or under the influence of William Gibson, like Robert Longos Johnny Mnemonic (1995), or, as it was the case with David Cronenberg, integrating references from multiple cyberpunk sources. All these movies feature the same conjunction between cyberpunk, dreaming and imaginary formation. Total Recall, for example, which is a loose adaptation of the short story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, is centred around the idea that humans can be implanted with fake memories and they can live their artificially generated identities without knowing it. The boundaries between what is real and what is constructed are drawn similarly with the boundaries between sleep and reality. Johnny Mnemonic goes further in explaining how we can make use of memory implants in order to transport valuable data and images. And last but not least, David Cronenbergs ability to built (eXistenZ 1999) a very similar universe, a world where console games are played directly connected to our spinal cord, thus allowing the gamer to live an absolute experience of an alternate reality, proved the total conjunction between cyber-culture and dream-state. From here on there was no going back, cyberpunk cinema and dream-work were integrated inextricably and the dividing line between Real and Imaginary seemed to disappear.

Who can save us from the Real, or does the Real exist anymore? It was Jean Baudrillard who first developed an explanation for this question, when he addressed the problem of the transformations undergone by postindustrial societies, from real object to simulacra and simulations (1994). But Baudrillard took the concept of simulation again one step further. After discussing the fact that we entered a new order of the simulated, the French cultural critic explained how we were witnessing the murder of the Real, as the perfect crime of our times. This crime belongs to the onlinegeneration, who defines its own reality according to the rules of the electronic era, which is, again according to Baudrillard, characterized by the reversal of the roles between real and unreal. Now the real has become impossible, it can be obtained only if dreamt of as one would dream of a lost object (1994: 123). It is the generation governed by models of a real without origin or reality. A hyperreal world substitutes the Real, whose vestiges persist here and there in the deserts that are no longer those of the Empire, but ours. The desert of the real itself (Baudrillard 1994: 1). In this desert the separation line between the real and the simulated has vanished so much that in the postindustrial world we became trapped in the illusion of reality as being our ideal. We see ourselves as living while we are actually dreaming, or, as it was best expressed in terms of the Lacanian mirror-stage, we are seeing

ourselves as illusions living our own fake reality. This is the case of Cypher, in The Matrix, who is choosing simulacra, a way out of the illusion by choosing his own fantasy. He plunges into the total pleasure offered by the simulation. Then who can save us from this illusion? He is the hypnotic Messiah, the cyberpunk-hero, who in The Matrix is Neo and in Blade Runner is Rick Deckard. In this respect Dominic Cobb, the main character in Christopher Nolan's Inception operates like Neo, and like Case, the hero in Necromancer, and many other cyberpunk heroes. They rescue others by embracing the simulation and by re-constructing reality to fit their needs. The same happens in Nolan's movie, Dom is the only one who knows how to come out of the limbo and how to bring others out (in the final scene he manages to get Saito out too), becoming a typical hypnotic Messiah. Analysing dreams and the tools to understanding cinema Sigmund Freud was the first to address the problem of dreaming in a scientific way, and managed explaining how desires are transferred, by means of their subconscious formation and manifestation through images, from our daily experiences into the fantasy world of our mind (Freud 1900). Psychoanalysis, as a technique, was based on this need to understand and interpret the mechanisms of image formation in our subconscious, and it was oriented towards the extraction of significations from what is hidden in our psyche and imaginary. Die Traumdeutung (The Interpretation of Dreams), which was first published in 1900 about the same time the first public representations of movies, was one of the earliest efforts in the direction of explaining the formation of images in our minds. The technique was based on Freud's clinical experience with the dreams of his patients and, most importantly, it was the first book where he has used his own dreams (from the self-analysis) in order to develop a coherent theory of the psyche. In this respect he defined dreams as hallucinatory fulfilments of irrational desires, an internal projection room where we use visual materials from our everyday life in a phantasm-like way. Freud made a clear distinction between latent and manifest expressions of experiences in the dream-work, and considered that the unconscious fulfils our wishes coming from the daily experiences in a strange way, in order to avoid the censorship of the consciousness. This is the repressing agency of the consciousness, as manifested by the The Master of reason and logic, the organizing force that consciousness puts into place (Freud 1900) in order to control our desires. What became clear from the very beginning of both cinema and psychoanalysis was the fact that dream-language is similar to the cinematic language, but while the connection between cinema and dreaming is as old as the two techniques, fantasy formation and imaginary world construction were hard to integrate into moviemaking, mostly because of the technology

of moviemaking. Even if movies work as dreams, it was not until computer generated images, virtual reality and other technological innovations that made possible for the illusionary worlds we choose to enter in the darkness of the cinema theatre to integrate common structural elements found universally in myths, fairy tales and, especially, dreams. It was after the experiments of the moviemakers named before that contemporary movies turned into today's dream factories. In the theoretical field the French structuralist school of film interpretation was the first to make use of the psychoanalytical instruments and concepts in order to explain cinematic language.One of the first analyses using psychoanalysis as methodology was the interpretation of John Ford's movie Young Abe Lincoln (Ford 1939), in Les Cahiers du cinma,issue 223 in 1970, where the movie was explained using the notions Freud put into place when he developed the Oedipus complex. Thierry Kuntzel (Communications 1975) made use of the Freudian concepts to discuss the manifestations of the unconscious in movies when he analysed The Most Dangerous Game (E. B. Shoedsack and I. Pichel, 1932). Kuntzel, together with Bellour, and Metz were continuing their efforts around this line of thought, focusing on explaining how films are ways by which we fulfil our unconscious desires, by means of identifying with the actions and characters on the screen. Among these film studies pioneers, Christian Metz was among the first to put into discussion one very important relationship between cinema and psychoanalysis, that is the relationship between desires, projections and images, referring to the fact that in film, like in dreams, our fantasies come into reality on a screen illuminated in darkness (Metz 1982). It was Metz who used Freud's theory in order to explain the functioning of cinema itself from the standpoint of the psychoanalyst who dissects the manifestations in the dreams in order to explain the deeper significations. As Michael Heim explains this connection between the inner technologies (namely psychoanalysis) and the outer mechanisms of illusion (cyberculture, virtual reality), we have cross-transferred their (Heim 1998: 93) capabilities, technology becoming our very symptom of dreaming, where the cultural dream of technology (Romanyshyn 1989) presents us with the memories that we created for ourselves.

Brief methodological clarification In this respect, my study uses the segmentation method, following the description of Christian Metz in his work on film and psychoanalysis (Metz 1982). I am using the syntagmatic interpretation elaborated by the French theorist, based on the idea that we can use a segment from a movie in order

to characterize the entire structure of the film, as, in a very similar way, Freud was using segments of dreams in order to explain entire structures of the formation of our mental world and imaginary (Freud 1900). Another methodological standpoint is taken from the interpretation of the cinema provided by Jacques Rivette, who described moviemaking as a form of projection in the dark, similar to what we do in the dream-work. Movies not only do the same things as in dreams (Rivette 1977), but this idea is developed in the interview Rivette made with John Hugues (The Director as Psychoanalyst, where he described the director of a movie as being secretly involved in levels of dream and fantasy, and suggested that we must see the director as a kind of psychoanalyst. This is the key hypothesis of my paper: we can identify psychoanalytical structures in Christopher Nolan's Inception and these elements are representative for the role of the director as analyst of dreams.

The work of psychoanalysis digging into movie scenes A first level of psychoanalytical interpretation comes from the example we find for the connection between dreaming and cyberpunk in The Matrix. When Neo meets Morpheus (symbolically named after the Greek god of sleep) he plunges him, by means of a telephone call, into a fantastic (albeit phantasmal world), where no one knows where reality ends and where illusions begin. Morpheus asks Neo whether he has ever had a dream that he was so sure it was real that he would not be able to wake from that dream nor know the difference between dream world and real world. This is fundamentally a question of the analyst for the patient and the role Morpheus plays is obviously the investigation for the experiences of the trauma victims, where the psychoanalyst deals with the repressed memories of the psychotic. Following the analytical path, Neo accesses his repressed desires and confronts the Superego, as the dominant Agent Smith, who put him in the manifestations of Mr. Anderson, that is to control his expressions and manifestations in the imaginary and the real. Agent Smith operated in the same way as the controlling institution of the Matrix, the source of imposing rules and order in the minds of the humans that are captive in the collective dream. Freud defines the superego as exactly this type of agency, one that prohibits fantasies to manifest and who controls the erratic manifestations of the Id. Any dominant authority who induces the castration (Freud 1923) is a manifestation of the Super-ego. Rick Deckard, the hero in Blade Runner is constructed in a similar fashion and he faces the same problems as the psychoanalyst. He must discern what is real and what is induced in our memories that makes us us. He knows that memories are not necessarily evidence for lived experiences or for the

possession of a Real past. When he meets the replicant Rachel, he takes the images of her childhood, which she provides as evidence for her humanity, like Freud is taking into consideration the dreams of Dora and points out to her that these images do not belong to Rachel, but to her father. The idea that memories may be simulated, and artificially implanted makes Blade Runner a good precursor for using the mechanism of dream-language into cyberpunk works. The replicants are described as having fake memories, which allows them to function as humans. It is for Deckard, the blade runner, to do the work of the psychoanalyst, that is to identify the symptoms or the authenticity of the latent experiences in their psyche. One of the most powerful scenes that we can bring into this discussion is the dialogue between Deckard and Rachel (available in the director's cut), where the detective digs into her private memories only to present their latent meaning, that is the fact that they are implants of memory, taken from a real human being. Again, this is extremely close to what Freud has described as happening in his interaction with his first patient, Dora, whom he treated in his early years as a psychoanalyst (Freud 1905). The second dream Dora recounts to the analyst allowed Freud to develop his Oedipal scheme, the daughter who wants both to kill and to seduce her father is quintessentially the hysteric who cannot work with the analyst himself. Of course, the transfer from the analyst to the analysed becomes even more important, since Freud has treated Dora in a very aggressive way, rejecting her and treating her as an object (Bernheimer and Kahane 1990), thus the double bind between the male and female figures (as external and internal) is even more complex. It was again Jacques Rivette who has used a similar comparison in his 1969 interpreting Dreyer's film, Gertrud (Rosenbaum 1977). Even if the film itself does not actually work as a dream, it is even more relevant since it functions like a session of analysis, where the roles are constantly changing between the viewer and the viewed, exactly like in the relationship between the interpreter and the patient move within the psychoanalytical scene. Inception (of an) analysis Inception was an exception among the 2010 movie releases not just for its remarkable box-office results (20 million dollars the first day), or because of the 8 nominations for the Oscars, but because of its complex narrative and its remarkable visuals (the movie did not get a nomination for best director, but got one for screenwriting and for art directing). This has to be connected with a confession that Christopher Nolan, who worked for two Batman movies (the gothic Dark Knight, and before that Batman Begins), made: that he managed to return to his original desires as cinematographer. I dont remember specifically where the idea came from except that once I started exploring the idea of people sharing a dream space-entering a dream space

and sharing a dream. That gives you the ability to access somebodys subconscious. What would that be used and abused for? That was the jumping off point. And clearly being able to extract information from somebodys brain would be the obvious use of that because obviously any other system where its computers or physical media whatever, things that exist outside the mind, they can all be stolenup until this point or up until this movie I should say, the idea that you could actually steal something from somebodys head was impossible. So that, to me, seemed a fascinating abuse or misuse of that kind of technology. (Weintraub 2010). Nolan says that he had the idea of a movie centred around the theme of dream thieves since 2001, thus he waited for 9 years to make his dream come true and this looks very much like a repressed desire, maybe even one with childhood roots, since the son of the British director, Magnus Nolan, is acting as the boy of Dominic Cobb. In a recent interview Nolan recognizes that the root of wanting to make this movie lies in the infantile projection of his own: Ive been interested in dreams since I as a kid and Ive wanted to do a film about them for a long time (Hiskock 2010) Before moving forward, one must note that in terms of cinematography, Nolan has integrated some elements that link him to three of the most important masters of the cinema of fantasy (Tarkovski, Kubrick, Scott), and it is not by chance that they are all preoccupied with dreaming and building (im)possible spaces. Nolan's 2010 movie is not only a demonstration of his directing virtuosity (his techniques as a cinematographer are now mature) but he proves that he can creatively integrate Tarkovskian elements (the constant presence of rain and water, as symbolic and symbiotic connections with the emotional stages of the character and the various levels of tension building), visual structures that re-create something of the atmosphere in Blade Runner, and sequences that resemble the zero gravity cinematography of Space Odyssey 2001. In this sense Nolan represents the case of a screenwriter/director of the decade, returning to a type of cinema that is very much an author cinema. The cinema auteur, inspired by the French new wave is using literary sources (Borges is one of the writers Nolan admits have influenced him), where elements from painting and other arts are integrated, Escher and a sort of surrealism we find in the works of Salvador Dali. Nolan recreates a new imaginary space, one where time and space are curbing, in an aesthetic and intellectual bricolage possible only in the movies. Yet Nolan brings to the syntax of this kind of cinema his personal view, the idea of shared dreaming, which is the key to the displacement in themes that Nolan uses (which makes his approach different from The Matrix or Blade Runner). Shared dreaming operates similarly with some of the contemporary technologies, since it is described as a former military project (very much like the Internet or Virtual Reality devices), and allows several individuals to have common fantasies in a dreamlike world. Here the

role Leonardo di Caprio makes is essentially similar to that of Rick Deckard (I must add that di Caprio has reached his acting maturity with this movie). Dominic Cobb is a thief of dreams, specialized in the very tricky art of extraction, that is the ability to steal information from the subconsciousness of his targets, while they are in an induced state of dreaming. During sleep thoughts are vulnerable, thus prone to theft (extraction). Relevant for this discussion is the fact that the process of extraction is similar to that of interpretation during the psychoanalytical sance. I know how to search your mind and find your secrets, boasts Dominic and by this allowing us to connect it with the statement Freud made about the role of psychoanalysis 'The psychoanalyst, like the archaeologist, must uncover layer after layer of the patient's psyche, before coming to the deepest, most valuable treasures... Saxa loquuntur' (Freud 1896), that is the most deeply buried matters of the mind must be extracted and made to speak for themselves. Just as it is in the case of the therapy, where the subconscious is blocked by the consciousness, the mind of the dreamer in Inception can be trained to protect itself from the extractors, and only by professional intervention these barriers can be crossed. But, at the same time, pulling their victims into dreams the dreamers can talk to the subconscious of the subject, and once he is projected into his/ her dream, can find out things about the dreamer. The very notion of inception must be linked with the concept Freud used with respect to the Oedipus complex: interpreting the primal scene is the first stage of psychoanalytical technique. The main contention of psychoanalysis is that most of our fantasies are connected to the image on this primal stage. This maybe a violent act, a sexual crisis, or any original traumatic moment that causes us to act and react in a certain way. So, in psychoanalysis we are looking for the origin of our traumas, sometimes by means of interpreting our dreams, and in order to do that Freud has identified four main mechanisms of dream-work: condensation, displacement, indirect representation and symbolism, that have become fundamental to understanding most of our mental life (Freud 1900). The inception is also a cyberpunk notion, as it is described as an idea implanted in the subconscious like a virus, which grows from the smallest seed into a fully-fledged thought. Once the cancer of the idea is implanted into Mal, this virus destroys her and this is the only way for Dominic to exit the dreamworld he and his wife constructed, based on their memories. These mechanisms are explicitly present in Inception. For example the name of Dominic's wife: Mal (Mallorie Cobb). The fact that Albert Moll is the author from which Freud is supposed to have taken his concept of libido (ntersuching ber die Libido sexualis), becomes relevant for the dynamics of the character in the movie. The name itself, Mal, is a shortening for the latin malus, malignant. And, if we associate the fact that Gustav Jung

attributed the libido with the value of universal force that drives all instincts, not just the sexual ones Mal becomes clearly a figure of the libidinal drives of the hero. As a matter of fact she behaves exactly like the libidinal power, for her the idea that the world is not real becomes painful and haunts her, and ends up by killing her. Mal kills herself on their anniversary jumping from the balcony of their apartment, because when the reality that is dreamed becomes the only reality in order to wake up from that reality one must die. Displacement is the other mechanism used in Inception, this being the most important instrument for the architects of the dreams to keep their victims inside the constructed dream. As Dominic puts it, dreams feel real while we are in them, only when we wake up we realize that something was wrong, that there was an element of strangeness. This strangeness, which was identified by Freud with The Uncanny is another Freudian term used to produce reactions in the narrative of the movie (Freud 1919). In order to avoid such situations, Arthur, Dominic's friend and partner, explains to Ariadne how to use the Penrose steps function of the dream. The infinite staircase of Escher is an example of displacement operating in visual terms. Arthur tells Ariadne, the newly trained architect of dreams that the trick is to create closed loops, which function by displacing elements from reality so that the dreamer does not realize what is happening. It is precisely what Freud identified as the protection mechanism of dreaming, we are displacing the real source of the dream so that we can avoid the conscious control. When there is a collision point between the familiar and the strange, the uncanny appears. For Freud the uncanny is produced when the distinction between image and reality is erased, as when something that we have regarded as imaginary appears before us in reality, or when a symbol takes over the functions of the thing it symbolizes (Freud 1919: 244). The extractors, like the analysts and the interpreters, use exactly this creative part as the niche where the extraction (of significations, of data, of messages) happens.

The elevator scene press the psychoanalytical button The scene discussed here starts at the minute 54 of the film and lasts for six minutes, up to the first hour of the movie. It begins when Ariadne projects herself into the dream of Dominic and it is relevant that the sequence is placed at the very centre of the movie, after this the entire plot develops into the action style narrative (in itself dreamlike, but at the level of manifest content). I consider this one of the most suggestive sequences in the movie because, in terms of psychoanalytical interpretation, this is the key to the entire narrative. Dominic's climbing and descending on the

various floors of his own subconscious, where he faces several repressed emotions, some manifest, some latent, some positive, some aggressive, some on the upper level and others on the underground, where the monsters of his own guild reside, is deeply rooted in the Freudian concept of the psyche. This was be expressed clearly in Freud's theory of the mind, as composed by the Id, the Ego and the Super-ego - in Freud's terms das Es, das Ich, and das ber-Ich (Freud 1923). This is one of the most important definitions of mental formation in the classical theory of psychoanalysis, and defines three levels of our mind, where the unconscious is just one of the manifestations of the Id, while instincts and libido (together with other repressed materials) are other manifestations of its existence. In even simpler terms, following the formula Arthur Asa Berger applied, the Freudian interpretation can be transferred on the main characters of any movie, as it is the case withStar Trek, where Captain Kirk can be described as the Super-ego (since he is always the manifestation of duty and control, Spock as the Ego (belonging to the Real and the Reasonable) and McCoy being a manifestation of the Id (as encouraging the emotional side of Kirk). Yet, while Berger notices that these components of the psyche operate as meaning formations outside the creative process (Berger 2000), I consider that these attributes are intricately connected with the sublimation process of the artistic work. Ariadne, the girl who became Dominic's apprentice/ guide, is the manifestation of the Super-ego. She enters the elevator, which starts at the 8th floor of the main building in Cobb's dream and goes up to the 9th, yet in a paradoxical way the lift is descending, and Ariadne stops at level of the cabin of Dom and Mal, and there she witnesses them standing by each other, re-refreshing their shared existence in the imaginary world. This is the first explicit reference to what Freud has identified as the relationship between the elements of our mind, the original identity of the Id and the Ego (Freud 1937). The Id and the Ego (Mal and Dominic) are peacefully coexisting until the outside intervention of Ariadne, as the Super-ego. Ariadne functions here in a similar way the analyst operates inside the therapeutic effort, and even the camera is doing this identification, she sees them from a subjective perspective, allowing us as spectators to connect to her intervention. As Super-ego, Ariadne forces the Ego into appropriating those parts of the self that were conquered by the Id, so that it will be able to function normally. Actually this is the very problem Dominic faces. Once he is in the dream of a victim, his own Id (as Mal) appears on the scene and destroys his efforts to extract information. Once Ariadne finds out about Mal, she goes together with Dom into the repressed memory of his own past. In the second movement of the sequence Dominic realizes that Ariadne is watching him and Mal, an outside observer that sees the unseeable. As Dominic moves towards Ariadne the camera changes position, we observe

Dom from the point-of-view of Mal. He realizes that the presence of an outsider poses a threat to his hidden dreaming, so takes her to the 12th floor, the top floor of his own psyche. There, at the top of his psyche, is a solar beach near a sea, where Mal is with their two children are peacefully playing. This is the highest level of consciousness, where the Id is totally tamed and under control, fully exposed to the viewing of the Super-ego. Then Dominic takes Ariadne again to the inferior floor, but forbids her to push the B sign on the lift list, meaning the basement, that is the place where the most hidden aspects of the psyche are hidden. As we will later understand, this is where the Id dwells. The intermediate level is manifested in the form of trauma, where the two children live, where the guilt of abandoning them has formed. Having access to memories that are not supposed to be shared makes Ariadne run away in the elevator, as the Super-ego does not want to cope with the pain of the Ego and does not accept traumatic experiences as being real. In the elevator she pushes the basement button and reaches the lowest level, where the Id is. In terms of mise-en-scne this is the place where the death of Mal took place, where the violent nature of the psyche manifested. The meeting between the two women, between the Id and the Super-ego, between the subconscious and the conscious, the repressed and the innocent is described in terms of the classical Oedipal episode. Mal behaves like the Sphinx when he meets the son of Laius, telling Ariadne ariddle: You are waiting for a train that will take you far away, you know where you hope this train will take you, but you don't know for sure, but it doesn't matter. When Ariadne says that she's trying to understand, Mal moves against her, trying to kill the intruder. This is obviously a clear manifestation of the subconscious that attacks any intruder (the analyst) who wants to bring change, who separates the Ego and the Id, and it is the expression of the deeply violent nature of the Id. This libidinal/ Thanatic subconscious, who is now violently attacking Ariadne, has already stabbed the girl, when Dominic took her to a bridge in the beginning of the movie. Mal comes forward abruptly and stabs Ariadne, waking her from the dream, a clear manifestation of the destructive instincts that dominate the Id. Unlike her first encounter with Ariadne, now Mal behaves like a hysteric woman, an clear expression of the Id as furious energy that scares off any reason. As Ariadne and Dom leave, the camera moves into a view that presents Mal from a high angle, putting her into the perspective of a captive beast. It becomes explicit why Mal is the source of anxiety for Dom, just as the Id is provoking the anxieties the Ego cannot face and process (Freud 1926), she becomes the expression of the inability of the subconscious to discern between reality and fantasy, between desires and actual life, thus trapping the Ego into a traumatic, repetitive behaviour. Also, that fact that Mal lives in the basement of Dominic's subconscious, similarly with the repressed instincts in the Id, is turned into a significant structure when Dom

comes to save Ariadne from the furious attack of Mal (as the violent Id) and he is blocking her using the elevator doors, thus using the barrages of the psyche protecting the self from the impossibility of the Id and the Ego to live together. Here it is clear that Ariadne is the expression of the Super-ego, the young girl helping Dominic to recover from losing the grasp between real and illusion. Just as Ariadne in the Greek myth saved Theseus from the Minotaur, the beastly manifestation of the animal drives, the young architect in the movie saves Dominic from his own libido, from the drive of Death provided by the Eros. From this point on, the movie changes pace and it is immediately after this scene that the action movie starts, in a similar way the dream-work generates manifest content. What is relevant to the continuation is the fact that the climatic sequence analysed above constitutes now a key to interpreting the apparently linear and action-based part of the film. It is here that Nolan was criticized to be making concessions to Hollywood action cinema, that the film's plot is developing as a thriller, action and adrenaline packed, with car chases, shoot-outs and twists of dramatic resolutions, but my contention is that the director shows not only a virtuosity in entertainment, but also philosophical issues, ideas and mind sets, beyond the sheer cinematic pleasure.

More interpretations (instead of conclusions) Cobb is using the induced sleep to plant an idea into a victim (the rich heir of a global energy holding, Robert Fisher) and the group of sleep thieves (the extractors) must go beyond the barriers of conscious censorship in order to obtain information. Dominic is portrayed as being able to do something that no one believed to be possible, he manages to induce the roots of a thought into his victim's psyche. This is the inception. It is relevant for this interpretation that Maurice Fisher is the leader of an energy company Freud not only described two main energy sources of the psyche: Eros and Thanatos, but he also elaborated one very important concept: the economy of psychic energy, or the economic principle of the mental apparatus (Freud 1900). Briefly put, the amount of energy we have is limited and our strive is to consume as little as possible. The fact that Fischer, the Father, is on the death bed, while his son is trying to get his affection represents the energy tension between Death and the strife for Love. This is a fundamental relationship in psychoanalytic terms, Freud himself discussed the importance of the loss of the father for the formation of mental identity. The Interpretation of Dreams was written with a very strong personal relevance, as a part of the self-analysis of the psychoanalyst, used to understand the traces of this tragic experience

(1900: xxvi). In the relationship between Maurice and Robert Fisher the disappointment of the Father for the inability of the son to be his image is relieved when the son discovers that the pressure of the Law of the Father - here the Super-ego is Maurice Fisher can be overcome by accepting the roots in the Id of the conflict here, represented by the extractors, is the Ego and the Id is Robert Fisher himself. The reading of the triplet analysed in the elevator scene, Dominic (as the Ego), Mal (as the Id) and Ariadne (as the Super-ego), can be retraced in several other levels of signification in the movie. This is valid, for example, in the relationship between Dominic (again, the Ego) his friend Arthur (as the Super-ego) and Saito (as the Id). These roles, as in the mental formations, are interchangeable. For instance, both Arthur and Ariadne function in various moments as manifestations of the Super-ego, not only because their names begin with the letter A, but because their intervention is one of bringing order in the chaos of Dom's manifestations, as it happens in the scene where Ariadne kills the malefic manifestation of Mal, from the depths of the subconscious, in order to save Dominic. She acts like the liberating analyst from the Freudian scene, not only deciphering the dreamwork, but also deciphering the meaning of the entire movie. Even the various levels of dreaming in Inception are described in a similar way to the distinctions Freud made between the three types of different dreams. The first level is the one of the dreaming as simple wish fulfilment, what we experience in daily life. This corresponds to the level of entry for the dream thieves. The second type is the one of the dreams as unconscious wishes made possible in complex dream-works, and here the extractors operate. While the third level is that of anxiety dreams, the dreams that are fixed into our subconscious and we seem to repeat them, and this is the limbo,as the imaginary space dreamers build and are trapped into. In fact the entire movie is populated with psychoanalytical symbols. The elevator, for instance, is a symbol for the descent and the ascent of mechanical intervention, similar to that of the psychoanalyst inside the psyche of the patient. But the lift is also, according to the symbolism Freud himself elaborated, a substitute for the sexual act, based on the movement similar to copulation (as is the case with climbing stairs in dreams). The rhythmical patterns in copulation are also represented by trains, and one of the shared fantasies of Dom and Mal is the train coming to kill them (where the Erotic drive, again, is connected to the Death drive). Another concept borrowed from psychoanalytic terminology is totem, in the movie this is an object you have on you all the time, to re-connect you with the Real, this is how you know you are not in someone else's dream. But the totem is, for Freud (1913), deeply rooted in the animist belief in the power of thoughts, it is a magical device to control one's faith. In Freudian terms, the totem is the guardian spirit, and this is precisely the role these objects have in Inception. The totem helps the dreamer to pull himself out of the

multiple realities taking place simultaneously, where not knowing which one is authentic might lead to the destruction of mental integrity. A recurrent symbol in the movie is the hidden safe-deposit box, the objective of the dream thieves being to reach into the vault of their victim. But the vault has double meaning, one is that of the internal hidden meanings (the subconscious) and the other is the psychoanalytical relevance of primal memories. This is the case with young Fisher, the businessman they are about to insert, who holds not only his important data in a safe, but also his most profound memory (a childhood toy) in this receptacle. As Fisher moves closer to the vault, he discovers his own father lying on a death bed, his own super-ego loosing power. Dominic also breaks into the secret hiding place of his wife to plant the virus of the inception, and Cobb also keeps things away from his friend, Arthur, because of Mal's dangerous actions. Water and urban structures are other symbols Nolan relies upon, in order to convey visual significations. At the end the the movie, when Cobb and Ariadne return to the reality Dominic created, they are walking up on a worm beach from the cold of the winter reality they previously were. Here we witness Dominic's worlds collapsing, and all over the sea shore concrete buildings and constructions are crumbling into the water. The city is a representation of the protection the Id has build, which now are destroyed by the organizing force that controls the psychic powers of the individual, the fact that its outskirts are destroyed is a sign of the dismantling of the protection fields around the drives. As we can see in the beginning, when Ariadne and Dom enter his dreams, as they move deeper into the inner city, this becomes more and more geometrical, structured with columns and straight pillars. Now this apparently ordered universe collapses, the destroyed urban space being a remnant of Dominic's fantasies crumbling. Inception deals with many aspects of the relationship between different realities, questioning the manipulation of our imaginary, discussing if the psychic reality is as important as real reality. Vividly describing the paradoxical universe of dreams, with their close relationship between real events and the dream state as reality driven, Nolan uses the idea of inception as a concept to visualize the moment where dreams and reality converge. In fact the inception is more than a concept that describes the beginning of a thought, it is relevant for what cinema is about: the ability of capturing us in a dream state and to place feelings, emotions and thoughts in us, without the intervention of our conscious barriers. Cyber-culture is a place similar to the limbo described by Nolan, the Dantean universe, neither Heaven or Hell, where time and space loose their relevance. Key to our interaction with these technologies, and the premise of the movie, is that we can enter and exit these fictional universe without damages, but enriching our experiences. Inception manages to convince us to stay more than 120

minute in the fantastic limbo of the movie theatre, and this is better than dreaming.

References Baudrillard, Jean, The Vital Illusion, Columbia University Press, New York, 2000. Baudrillard, Jean, Simulacra and Simulation. Trans. Sheila Fariar Glaser, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1994. Bellour, Raymond, Thierry Kuntzel, and Christian Metz, eds. Psychoanalyse et cinema, Editions du Seuil, Paris, 1975. Berger, Arthur Asa, Media and communication research methods: an introduction to qualitative and quantitative approaches, Sage, London, 2000. Bernheimer, Charles and Claire Kahane, In Dora's case: Freud-hysteriafeminism, Columbia University Press, 1990. Cavallaro, Dani, Cyberpunk and Cyberculture. Science Fiction and the work of William Gibson, Athlone Press, London, 2000. Cahiers du cinma, Editors, 223 (1970), Young Mr. Lincoln de John Ford, pp. 29-47. Communications, Psychanalyse et cinma, no 23, 1975. Dick, Philip K., Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (originally published in 1968, reprinted by Granada Publishing, 1977. Kerman, Judith, ed., Retrofitting Blade Runner:Issues in Ridley ScottsBlade Runner and Philip K. DicksDo AndroidsDream of Electric Sheep?, Ohio, Bowling Green State University Press, 1991. Freud, Sigmund, Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria, The Standard Edition of the Complete Works of Sigmund Freud (SE, vol. 7: 3122), trans. J. Strachey, London, Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psychoanalysis, 1905. Freud, Sigmund, The Ego and the Id, (SE vol 19: 147-154), 1923. Freud, Sigmund, The aetiology of hysteria, (SE, vol. 3: 191-221), 1896. Freud, Sigmund, Analysis terminable and interminable, (SE, vol. 23) 1937. Freud, Sigmund, The ego and the id, (SE, vol. 19: 1-66), 1923. Freud, Sigmund, The uncanny, (SE vol.17) 1919. Freud, Sigmund, Inhibitions, symptoms and anxiety, (SE, 20: 140-141) 1926. Gibson, William, Neuromancer,Ace Books, New York, 1984, available at www.voidspace.org.uk/cyberpunk/neuromancer.shtml. Gibson, William,Count Zero, Arbor House, New York, 1986. Heim, Michael, The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality, US, 1993. Hiscock, John, Inception: Christopher Nolan interview. Daily Telegraph, July 1, 2010, available

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/filmmakersonfilm/7866677/Inceptio n-Christopher-Nolan-interview.html). Metz, Christian, The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and the Cinema, Macmillan, London, 1982. Rivette, Jaques, The Director as Psychoanalyst, interview with John Hugues, available online http://www.rouge.com.au/4/hughes.html, 2011. Quarterman, John, The Matrix: Computer Networks and Conferencing Systems Worldwide, Digital Press, Austin, 1990. Romanyshyn, Robert, Technology as Symptom and Dream, Routledge, London, 1989. Rosenbaum, Jonathan ed. Rivette: texts and interviews, British Film Institute, London, 1977. Weintraub, Steve, Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas Interview. Collider, March 25, 2010. available http://collider.com/director-christophernolan-and-producer-emma-thomas-interview-inception-they-talk-3d-whatkind-of-cameras-they-used-pre-viz-wb-and-a-lot-more/20567/.