The film entitled Inception is a science fiction movie like no other. In a typical science fiction movie the audience is treated to storyline that talks about the future, outer space, time travel, a space ship that can crisscross galaxies in the speed of light and of course aliens bent on destroying humans. But in Inception the journey is within the mind of the person. The access to the mind is through a hypnotic technique where people can enter the subconscious through a dream.
Using that medium they can influence their targt to do the things that they want or to divulge sensitive information. The director, Christopher Nolan was able to create a believable science fiction movie because of his clever use film-making techniques such as those that pertains to camera shots, lighting and visual composition.
The movie begins with a close-up shot of surf hitting sand. The camera then focuses on an unconscious Leonardo DiCaprio – the lead character – who suddenly came to life but moving slowly and trying to get up.
He was then taken to a fortress built near the beach and presented to the big boss – an old Japanese businessman who obviously had amassed a great deal of wealth in his lifetime. It turned out that both of them knew each other. At first the audience was made to think that this is some sort of a time-travel movie but then the main character pulled out an object that signaled the beginning of a complex story about dreams.
The first half of the film attempted to explain to the audience the meaning and purpose of a technique that allows for the extraction of information as well as the planting of the same. The subplot was all about the complexity of this “inception” method and how it can destroy the mind of the person who is trying to enter in, and the person who is being violated due to a type of psychological intrusion without permission. The middle part of the movie also revealed the reason why DiCaprio was driven to go to uncharted territories when it comes to using his skills as an inceptor. He needed to clear his name through the help of his employer.
The movie had a complex ending because Ken Watanabe the actor who played the part of the billionaire-businessman had to take part in the “inception” and yet he was injured during the operation. DiCaprio may succeed in inserting the information on the mind of the target but without a healthy benefactor he could never expect his record to be expunged and his name cleared from a false accusation that he murdered his wife. So he had to go back to the deepest recesses of his employer’s mind to rescue him. However, the ending was not clear if he succeeded or if he was still in limbo in dreamland.
This film would not have been made possible if not for the use of film-making techniques such as camera shots, lighting and visual composition. The director used a variety of close-up and medium shots to bring the audience closer to the characters and for them to understand what they are going through. Nolan rarely used a long shot except in a few scenes where he had to show how a dreamer sees his or her world. In a popular scene for instance the dreamer saw the landscape folded as if it was a piece of paper; it was meant to communicate how the dreamer can manipulate the objects within his dream.
Nolan preferred soft light as opposed to hard light. The purpose was to shift the spotlight away from the physical characteristics of the actors so that the audience can direct their focus on the story. Another reason is to create a dreamlike atmosphere especially when the shadows fall on the face and the audience is only given a partial view of the character.
It seems as if there are different layers to this image – imagined, hidden, and real. Visual composition was made to create a surreal world so that in the first and middle part of the film the audience can easily distinguish the demarcation line between the dream and reality. But as the story was nearing to a close it was revealed that the wife of the lead character committed suicide because she can no longer distinguish the difference between life in the real world and life in the subconscious.
Aside from the use of the camera, the acting was superb and it made the audience believe that such an outlandish idea is possible.
The goal of the director was to convince the audience that the inceptors, such as the character played by DiCaprio and his team can infiltrate the mind of a target and steal corporate secrets and at the same time plant an idea, a suggestion that the target willingly accepts as his own. This requires the use of camera shots, lighting and visual composition techniques that will allow for the merging of the real and the surreal. The director used soft lighting such as diffused light that created shadows a subtle message that there is more than meets the eye in this film. Since the separation between fantasy and reality exists in the mind of the characters the movie showed a great number of close-up shots and medium close-up so that the audience can have access to the emotions of the characters. Superb acting complemented everything to produce a compelling movie experience.
Inception. Dir. Christopher Nolan. Perf. Leonardo DiCaprio Ken Watanabe.
Warner Bros., 2010.