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Cinema and Technology: Inception

Zafar Anjum | July 27, 2010
As I exited the multiplex, I was wondering if we and our physical world, the universe, are really parts of a maya jaal, the Hindu concept of a web of illusion, a mere dream inside the head of God.

The film appealingly deals with concepts of time and the nature of the subconscious, the way we dream, and so on. The film works on the premise that dream-world time and real-world time act in a different calculus. Ten hours in real life can be equivalent to a week in our dreams. There is a sequence in the final act of the movie in which a van falls off a bridge and between the vans skidding and hitting the water, time in the dream world stretches on and a lot happens there in those few seconds.

Clever, isnt it? But this is not entirely a novel idea. In Gabriel Garcias Marquezs One Hundred Years of Solitude, as Colonel Aureliano Buendia faces the firing squad, the whole history of his family flashes before his eyes. I also could not resist remembering Prophet Mohammads night journey to the heavens, as described in the Quran: In the 7th century, Muhammad (PBUH) riding the mythological steed Buraq, was taken to the various heavens, to meet first the earlier prophets, including Moses and Jesus, and then God. The Buraq then transported Muhammad back to Mecca. This journey was completed at the speed of light, and between his flight to heavens and back, in our world, it took him only a few secondsan example of real time and cosmic time calculus.

Though the film was riveting, near the end, I was looking at my watch. I had the feeling that I was playing a video game where there are characters with clear psychological profiles, there are rules of the game, and there are different levels of gaming. I wont be surprised if the movie, after its success, is followed by a video game.

Also, if I were Nolan, I would have gotten rid of the mysterious dream-inducing suitcase (which The Economist calls a psychic Rube Goldberg contraption) that wires the dreamers up. Did you not hear of nanotechnology and mind control Nolan? Instead of Dileep Rao (Yusuf) playing a potion maker, the alchemist, I would have made him a neuro-architect. But never mind the wires. The audiences already love this movie (even in India, Inception became the number one at the box office, beating three new Bollywood releases).

In the end, for all you know, this movie is a crime thriller. Its all about corporate espionage, an Italian job, but at a brain level. This is a bit of a disappointment for me. Has Hollywood gotten bored with saving the humanity or the aliens (as we saw in Avatar)? After all that hype, Nolan, you disappointed me but I am glad you tried. This is way better than The Transformers for my ticket price.


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