Spoiler alert, again.
It’s been a long time since a film, a major Hollywood film at least, has sparked such a whirlwind of conversation about its meanings, its secrets, and trying to connect all the dots so as to traverse the maze like Christopher Nolan’s Inception has. I’ve wrangled with the details and rules set up by the movie, and it really is a maze. While debate rages on as to whether or not portions of the product are real, at this point I might as well say the whole movie is a story being played out in the mind of Amber Lamps.
NolanFans has a lot of us Totem Geeks asking, answering, and theorizing about it. As Anthony pointed out in the comments of my last post, there’s supposedly a distinction about Cobb that I’d missed, declaring distinction of dream state vs. reality.
There is one simple piece of information that proves this beyond a doubt. Cobb’s ring. Every time the movie presents Cobb as dreaming, he is wearing his ring. Every time he is presented as awake, he is not wearing his ring. This is something that Christopher Nolan did not just “Overlook”, this is actually the key to deciphering the true nature of the movie. The ring is Cobb’s true totem. And just for clarification, he is not wearing his ring when he gets off the plane until the end of the movie. Therefore the scene with his kids at the end is 100% real.
But, apparently his ring hand isn’t visible at the end. And I’d suggest that the reason it’s seen in dream states is because Cobb’s deepest subconscious feels like he’s still married. Not a totem, just a dead end in the maze. And then there’s the pleading from Mal and Grandpa for Cobb to come back to reality, not this crazy world where faceless corporate goons try (poorly) to gun him down.
Cinema Blend has had an open discussion of the questions raised, including one the commenters have yet to address:
Was Ariadne somehow aware of the numbers Fischer would come up with or did she change the hotel’s floor plan so that 491 would be below 528?
A: It seems impossible that they could have known in advance, they must have left a blank place in their design to be filled in with the numbers as they learned them. If anyone has any other theories on this, sound off in the comments!
At first blush, I’d argue that they needed Fischer to remember the numbers for the dream safe. But this, too is a dead end; Stage One Fischer uttered those numbers off the top of his head, and we never see Ariadne program Stage Two. Or does it go deeper?
There’s probably tons of blogs typing similar words right now, and understandable, as this movie has layers and figuring it all out is like navigating a plot maze, where everywhere you turn is a dead end. Saito, Limbo, Mal… the knowledge that Nolan leaves nothing to editorial chance, and therefore begs the structure of the first seconds through to Kyoto. I invite my readers to share their own ideas, even if you think it’s a straightforward dream heist movie.