In the words of Mr Darcy, “in vain I have struggled, but it will not do”, you must allow me to indulge by delving into my latest obsession, the genius idea that forms the basis of the film, Inception.
The idea expounded in the new film is an artistic development on the familiar concepts of lucid dreaming (a dream in which one is aware that one is dreaming) and dream incubation (a practiced technique of learning to “plant a seed” in the mind, in order for a specific dream topic to occur) and is the brain child of Christopher Nolan.
The film posits the notion that it is possible for lucid dreamers to enter other people’s dreams. At this point the lucid dreamer can then either steal information from the sleeper’s subconscious (“extraction”) or, as is the thrust of the story, plant an idea in the sleeper’s mind (“inception”).
A fundamental principle of inception is the concept of a dream within a dream. This relies on the proposition that there are different levels of consciousness and with each subsequent dream (within the original) the dreamer drops down to a deeper level in the mind. The bottom point is “limbo”, at which point the dreamer is effectively lost in their own subconscious.
The human brain has been likened to a stereo: When the stereo is on, 100% of it is being used, but if the volume knob is only set at 2 (out of 10) then it is not fulfilling all of its potential. I am not a scientist and I don’t pretend to know …well, anything about the complexities of neurology. The idea that our sleeping brain can do things an awake brain can’t is still controversial, however recent research shows the sleeping brain to be an active, secretive intelligence that comes out for its “nightshift” to do some serious work.
Research is continuing into the realm of lucid dreaming, in particular the difference between dream-initiated lucid dreams and wake-initiated lucid dreams, and the relative value that time has in such dream states. A 1995 study in Germany, for instance, indicated that lucid dreaming can have varied time spans, in which the dreamer can control the length. These kind of results do not strike me as too far removed from the basics of the Inception script. Moreover, the “totum” that features as the dreamers’ mode of distinguishing between dreaming and reality in the film is actually mightily similar to our technique of ‘reality checking’ that includes, for example, looking at text or one’s digital watch (remembering the words or the time), looking away, and looking back. The text or time will probably have changed randomly and radically at the second glance.
I would wager that there is much more to be discovered about the human brain and at present we have only scratched the surface. I am not about to start hooking myself up to other people and sedating them in order to try and obtain their credit card details, however, as far as ideas for an intriguing, thoughtful and exciting film go, ‘inception’ and ‘extraction’ are high on my list of contenders. It is rooted just enough in real scientific theory to make it a thoroughly fascinating concept, but outrageous enough to satisfy even the wildest imagination.
Also, the anti-gravity action scenes and pretty faces help…..