November 24, 2014

Watch: Is Christopher Nolan's 'Inception' a Metaphor for Filmmaking?

Was it all a dream? Or was it actually a multi-layered, complicated love letter to surrealist film?

Inception is just one of those movies that is fun to pick apart and analyze because it is so layered. We've even covered a separate analysis of the film by one of our favorite video essayists Darren Foley, so clearly this is one of those films that many have tried to decode, decipher, and deconstruct.

But this analysis by Kyle Kallgren of Brows Held High takes a look into Inception's many hat tips to surrealist cinema -- even cinema as a whole -- even filmmaking itself. Check out the video essay below to find out more.

Inception isn't really a surrealist film, as the essay clearly points out, but its many references to the style and movement really gets one thinking -- what was Christopher Nolan trying to say about it? Well, what is surrealism? It's irrational. It's dreamlike. It's an artistic venture into the subconscious. Sounds a lot like cinema, yeah?

Furthermore, Nolan consistently focuses on themes like dishonesty, lies, or the acceptance or rejection of reality (or truth), which is essentially what a filmmaker asks its audience to do when they watch a film. "Watch these still pictures go by at 24 frames per second, and even though they're not moving, believe that they are. Believe in the lie." Films offer audiences a chance to escape from reality -- it's one of the most important theories surrounding cinema, in fact.

So, did Nolan make a film about filmmaking in the most complex, even contrived and anfractuous way? Who knows? Well -- Nolan knows, but Kallgren definitely provides an intriguing point of view from which to examine this movie again.     

Your Comment

15 Comments

Wow! An interesting perspective. This really show the genius of Nolan in crafting a film that is so open for interpretatation for whoever whats to, but still remains a great movie for the average moviegoer.

November 24, 2014 at 5:04PM

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Samuel Zerbato
Aspiring Filmmaker / DP
8

This article was amazing René, being a fan of Nolan and more than anything of Inception, this really got me thinking.
This can't be a coincidence, and if it is, I second Samuel's comment: "This really show the genius of Nolan in crafting a film that is so open for interpretatation for whoever wants to"
Brilliant and interesting, thank you for sharing! More posts like this on NFS!

November 24, 2014 at 6:15PM, Edited November 24, 6:15PM

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Tommy Plesky
Director / D.P / Editor
1934

A great analysis of the film. My only wish is for Nolan to exclude his abuse of over explanatory dialogue in his films. It kills the need to reflect on what you saw and draw your own conclusions of the over all plot instead of just it's ending. Rob Ager's youtube analysis does a nice job f juxtaposing all his unnecessary plot explanations for you to see.

November 24, 2014 at 6:51PM

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Vincent Gortho
none
829

Although there is no evidence to support it Freud once reputedly said "Sometime's a cigar is only a cigar" in reference to his earlier famous comment that cigars were phallic symbols.

Sometimes a film is just a film.

November 24, 2014 at 11:33PM, Edited November 24, 11:33PM

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Jonathon Sendall
Stories
1694

I've heard this before as well, however it more of applies to beginner artists. Being written by a 40 year-old, very experienced and highly decorated director, I believe that at least some metaphors where placed on purpose. This was also his first completely original story written only by him since The Following.

November 25, 2014 at 9:23PM

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Zachary Will
Cinematographer
833

Isn't it the core of good art, however, that something can be crafted that reflects a number of different natural relationships and forces that work narratively in the world around us? I'd be very curious to hear what Nolan himself thinks of this theory, and I've read of many many artists who read post-analyses of their work and are surprised by the depth people bring to it. I'm not saying he didn't intend for that to be there - but it might be that we, as film-makers, see the direct relationship. If we were architects, lawyers, merchant marines, etc... could we see a different message within the film?

December 2, 2014 at 12:48AM, Edited December 2, 12:48AM

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Jared Adamo
Creative Director / Producer
212

I would love to be a fly on the wall when Chris Nolan sits down with his brother and maps out some of these movies. I always wonder how much we read into his movies that was never originally intended or if it was actually all part of his master plan all along.

November 25, 2014 at 12:41PM, Edited November 25, 12:41PM

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Garrett Fallin
Filmmaker | Editor | VFX Artist
72

Creativity is often inspired.

November 25, 2014 at 2:25PM

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Dantly Wyatt
Musical Comedy & Content Creator.
712

I can see the parallels. Although I've always seen "The Prestige" more as Nolan's ode to the art of filmmaking.

November 25, 2014 at 5:42PM

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This movie is amazing and drives me crazy. This was a great theory though. I wish Nolan would just come out and say what it's about. But that'll never happen...

November 26, 2014 at 2:25PM, Edited November 26, 2:25PM

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Kyle Sanders
Editor
272

Who's going through and down-voting every comment?

November 27, 2014 at 1:00AM

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Kyle Sanders
Editor
272

Hehe, it wasn't me, but it's keeping us all on edge. :D

December 2, 2014 at 12:49AM

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Jared Adamo
Creative Director / Producer
212

An interesting perspective, but let's be honest: it could be wrong. However, there are so many coincidences and references to other works that it's difficult not to admire the filmmaker's hability for crafting such a debatable movie, open to many interpretations.

December 4, 2014 at 12:03PM

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Mebil Rosales
Director, Screenwriter, Editor.
92

It is clear to me, that the worst part of the movie (action in the snow) is 100% Nolan original. The rest is just a collage.

December 7, 2014 at 12:20PM

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