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Inception begins with Cobb waking up or lying on the beach in the water. He is brought before Saito. Later on, we learn that place being limbo.

From Eames' dream (level 3), Cobb and Ariadne go a level deeper to get Fisher back. Everything in the movie points out to that level also being limbo. One proof being Cobb presuming to find Saito there.

If he wants to find Saito, why does he 'play around' in the ocean?

  • Did he stumble over his own-made cliff?
  • Did the search take a lot of his strenght, making him too tired and fall asleep on the beach?
  • Was the fourth level not limbo after all or not the limbo Saito was in, and did Cobb go another level deeper to get to Saito's? This could explain Cobb getting in random surroundings if limbo had much changed because of Saito's long presence there.
  • Was the opening scene just a nice piece of cinematography without much eye for plot?
  • Or am I simply missing something?
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1 Answer 1

up vote 7 down vote accepted

You ask a difficult question! A lot of people have different opinions about this, and as the film continually skirts the line between awake and asleep, there is a lot of ambiguity that is left for the viewer to resolve.

The best clues to the logic of Inception can probably be derived from the interview between Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan, which can be found in the book Inception: The Shooting Script (Insight Editions - you can read it in part at the link to Google Books).

Christopher recalls being in college, when he would get up after a couple of hours of sleep, go have breakfast, and then come back and sleep some more. This after-breakfast sleep was different - he calls it active dreaming (also known as lucid dreaming) - when you realize you are dreaming and take control of the dream. This got him interested in the "infinite potential of the human mind." He talks about how in dreams we create whole worlds and we think we are having conversations with people, but we are actually putting the words in the other person's mouth.

Inception ...is about a more everyday experience of dreaming...It doesn't question an actual reality. It's just saying, "Okay, we all dream every night. What if you could share your dream with someone else?" And it becomes an alternate reality simply because the dream becomes a form of communication - just like using a telephone or going online. I wanted it, then, to have a rule set, a set of reasons that you could graph for why it's not chaos and anarchy - for why it has to be order, and why you need architects and an architectural brain to create the world of the dream for the subject to enter.

The story is moved along by the mind's conflicting tendencies to create structures to defend itself and protect information and also to leak secrets when worried.

There is a hand-drawn diagram in the book "detailing the team's path through the various layers of the heist dream , and their subsequent 'kick' back to reality." Here it is in part: enter image description here

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I have read this answer multiple times by now, but I cannot find an answer in it. Do you mean that the viewer has to make up a reason for Cobb awaking in the water? That's against the logic and the explanatory character of the rest of the film, isn't it? –  NGLN Dec 20 '12 at 17:47
I have read countless reviews of this film, and it appears to be a case of the latest Hollywood MO - movies with unexplained bits that keep people talking about them and going back to watch them a second time. In an interview with Nolan that has now been removed from the Internet, Nolan says that Cobb is "an unreliable narrator" and "For the ambiguity at the end to work, you need to see that Cobb's world and the dream world are very similar. And you need to doubt Cobb." Of the argument that the whole movie is a dream, he says "I don’t think I’m going to tell you about this.” –  MJ6 Dec 23 '12 at 23:58
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