Christopher Nolan has made a career out of explaining the ending of Inception, one almost as lucrative as filmmaking itself. Hell, some of his performers have had to give him a hand on occasion. Despite this, the film’s ending is usually the one thing that either makes people love Inception, or hate it with a religious fervor. Maybe that’s why the 2015 graduating class at Princeton University got all excited when speaker Nolan decided to talk about it on Monday.
No, Nolan didn’t give a definitive “this is what the spinning top means” explanation for the needy. Instead, as the Hollywood Reporter notes, he tried to provide some real world context within the confines of graduation:
In the great tradition of these speeches, generally someone says something along the lines of “Chase your dreams,” but I don’t want to tell you that because I don’t believe that. I want you to chase your reality.
I feel that over time, we started to view reality as the poor cousin to our dreams, in a sense….I want to make the case to you that our dreams, our virtual realities, these abstractions that we enjoy and surround ourselves with — they are subsets of reality.
Basically, Nolan told the Princeton grads that their dreams were crap (and would always be crap), but not because they sucked at dreaming. Rather, dreams play second fiddle to reality, or at least they do before college tries to drill “follow your dreams” into students’ heads.
Then Nolan brought it back around to Inception:
The way the end of that film worked, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Cobb — he was off with his kids, he was in his own subjective reality. He didn’t really care anymore, and that makes a statement: perhaps, all levels of reality are valid. The camera moves over the spinning top just before it appears to be wobbling, it was cut to black.
I skip out of the back of the theater before people catch me, and there’s a very, very strong reaction from the audience: usually a bit of a groan. The point is, objectively, it matters to the audience in absolute terms: even though when I’m watching, it’s fiction, a sort of virtual reality. But the question of whether that’s a dream or whether it’s real is the question I’ve been asked most about any of the films I’ve made. It matters to people because that’s the point about reality. Reality matters.
It’s a beautiful explanation, for sure, but it’s also one of those artistic and flowery means of saying something without really saying anything at all. I mean yes, Nolan’s right — our reality should matter more than our dreams, at least when waxing poetical about the latter becomes more important than improving the former.
BUT HE DIDN’T SAY WHETHER OR NOT COBB WAS STILL DREAMING OR AWAKE.
(Via the Hollywood Reporter)