I’m required by law to tell you that after the jump, we’ll be discussing some Inception spoilers. Keep in mind, it’s basically impossible to “spoil” a movie as complex as Inception, and if you know anything about question marks in the headline, you know you’re not going to get a definitive answer here anyway. Now then. Are the kiddies in bed? Do you have your big-boy pants on? Let’s get to it. (If you don’t want to spoil it, you can just enjoy these Photoshops).
ThePlaylist discovered an interview with Inception costume designer Jeffrey Kurland over on Clothesonfilm. They ask Kurland the requisite question about the ending (does it end in reality, or was it all in Cobb’s head??). In his answer Kurland seems to hint strongly that the crew did intend to suggest one interpretation over the other.
COF: How much does costume reflect the inner machinations of the plot, particularly in a film such as Inception? For example, Cobb’s children are wearing the same clothes at the end of the story as they are in his dream ‘memory’ throughout the film. Is there something to be interpreted here?
KURLAND: Costume design reflects greatly on the movement of the plot, most significantly through character development. Character development is at the forefront of costume design. The characters move the story along and with the director and the actor the costume designer helps to set the film’s emotional tone in a visual way. In a more physical sense the costumes’ style and color help to keep the story on track, keeping a check on time and place.
On to the second part of your question, the children’s clothing is different in the final scene… look again… [emphasis added]
If the children’s clothes are different in the final scene, the implication is that it ends in reality, with DiCaprio’s previous dream-memory vision of them being slightly different than what he sees in reality at the end. (Though I suppose you could also argue that it could also just mean that his memories evolved over time, but Christ, people, we don’t have all day).
My favorite part of Inception, aside from the it-being-an-awesome-movie part, were the ditzy bimbos wandering the lobby afterwards asking people, “Was it real?” And not as in “What’s your interpretation of that movie? Was it real, or was it all in his head?” but as in “Give me a definitive answer, I did not understand the ending so I must have missed something lol!”
My take is that it works either way, and Nolan is brilliant for leaving it open ended, but still satisfying. Most of the time, ambiguous endings speak more to a director’s pretentiousness and inability to decide exactly what he wants to get across, but in Inception, it seemed like a nice little ribbon on top of an otherwise almost brutally expository film. And if you’ve ever seen my shih tzus, you know how much I love putting nice little ribbons on top of things. I recently commissioned a porcelain figurine of my shih tzu. It is my totem.
This is about the time my parents would ground me from Photoshop.