Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Music and Script of Inception

After talking about the spinning hallway in Inception during class it got me thinking about this complex and intriguing movie. Underneath the effects there are many other great things this movie has including its music and story.

First for those who have not seen the film, Inception is a 2010 film written, directed and co-produced by Christopher Nolan one of my favorite directors who has done movies like The Dark Knight and Memento. It was also nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Leonardo DiCaprio stars and plays Dom Cobb, a specialized thief. Instead of robbing, banks he steals ideas from the unconscious minds while they are asleep and dreaming. This is called extraction. Cobb has been on the run and unable to go home to America to visit his children because he is wanted for his wife's murder. Cobb is offered a chance to go home and have his old life back if he could perform the impossible task of inception; the planting of an idea into someone's subconscious. That is Inception in a nutshell. It is a lot more complex and a definite watch for anyone who loves science fiction, action or heist movies.The music from Inception is just beyond epic. Hans Zimmer, who has worked on movies like The Lion King, The Dark Knight, and Rango, completed the score. Now the score is described as a very electronic score but the coolest part about Zimmer's Academy Award nominated score involves Charles Dumont's 1956 song "Non, je ne regrette rien." In the movie this song is used as a "kick" to wake up them up. To know they are running out of time in the dream the song softly starts as headphones are placed on the dreamer's ears. The music builds and then they are awakened.

Now as explained in the film, time moves differently when people are dreaming or when they are dreaming within a dream. ("It's a week the first level down. Six months the second level…"). Zimmer used this information and incorporated this into his soundtrack. Listen carefully to "Non, je ne regrette rien" and then to Zimmer's "Half-Remembered Dream" from the soundtrack. Do you see what he did there? When slowed down the song, like it would be in the dream world for the characters. Check out this video for an audio comparison. Another user also did the opposite and sped up "Half-Remembered Dream" to have it sound like Dumont's song!

Two final points, one small and one large, I want to bring up involve the story and the script, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Let's start small first. Nolan was so detailed when writing the script that some of the character names are allusions. Ellen Page's character Ariadne is an "architect" who creates the various dreamscapes, which are designed like mazes. The name alludes to a princess in a Greek myth who aided by the hero Theseus by giving him a sword and a ball of string to help him navigate the labyrinth, which imprisoned the Minotaur. Ariadne in the movie aids the hero Cobb and the rest of the characters on how to navigate the dream mazes.

The other point I must bring up when talking about Inception is the ending. The ambiguous and controversial ending involves a spinning top wobbling. For the characters in the movie they each have a totem that allows them to find out if they are dreaming or in the real world. For Cobb if the top stays spinning he is dreaming but the ending fails to show if the top falls or not because of the abrupt cut. In other words the audience is unsure if the final sequence of the film is reality or just another dream. While many of speculated and even came up with theories involving Cobb only wears his wedding ring during dreams and that is your clue to look for, Nolan has denied this. When I first saw the movie I was a little confused and looked for clues to find out what happened but after my second viewing I realized how it doesn't matter what happened. Whether he is dreaming or not, Cobb is not looking at the top for the answer but is looking at his kids. If he doesn't care, neither should we. Nolan has backed this in interviews but the audience is free to believe whatever they want. Maybe they should sleep on it and dream their own ending to this wild movie.

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