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If level 0 is reality, the characters in the van are at level 1. The van drops off the edge of the bridge, and goes into freefall. At level 2, in the hotel, they experience the freefall as well. But then, at level 3, at the fortress, (and for that matter, in limbo) there is no freefall. Why?

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This question must by as cryptic as all get out to those that haven't seen the movie...but then again, they wouldn't be able to answer the question anyway. –  Beska Dec 13 '11 at 16:55
It isn't as cryptic as you may think, given that the movie was in fact pretty linear in its whole story and much less complex than everybody tries to make it look. I had expected more of a tree (or even graph?) than such a linear list of dream levels from this movie. But nevermind. –  Napoleon Wilson Oct 15 '13 at 12:19
@ChristianRau Um...you missed my point. I wasn't saying the movie was cryptic. I said the question would be cryptic to those that haven't seen it. Most questions are understandable (if unanswerable) by people that haven't seen the movie in question, but I was just saying this question would read very oddly to someone who hadn't seen the film. –  Beska Oct 15 '13 at 14:49
I understood your point. I was saying that the question isn't any more cryptic than any other question about a movie one hasn't seen. Yet a SciFi/Fantasy movie (or whatever we would call Inception) always has aspects that seem strange from the outside. It was more of a little side comment about the movie, not to be taken too serious, as your comment was, too. ;-) –  Napoleon Wilson Oct 15 '13 at 14:53

5 Answers 5

up vote 26 down vote accepted

It is slightly odd, because other senses appear to be able to penetrate more than one layer, although they are severely attenuated.

For example, when they are in Level 2 - someone says "did you feel that, was that turbulence on the plane" (which is Level 0), to which Eames says "no, too close, Yusuf's driving probably". He doesn't say - "of course not, you wouldn't feel anything down here, must be Yusuf's driving". Then there is the Edith Piaf song used to synchronize the kick. That is played by Yusuf into Arthur's ears in Level 1, yet is heard (faintly) in Level 3. Then there is the 'second kick' that they experience when the van hits the water, this is felt in Level 3 - showing that something should be felt of the free-fall even at that layer.

If senses are attenuated with each layer it would be more realistic to think that somewhat less than free-fall would be experienced in Level 2, and some effect would be experienced in Level 3. There is too much discrepancy between the total free-fall experienced by Arthur, and the apparent normality of skiing down a mountain that the team experience in Level 3.

Still doesn't spoil my enjoyment of it though.

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Best explanation is the time mechanic. Because time and other physics means for so little that deep, it could be that they are just deep enough that they do not feel it. Briefly going over the scenes of the movie, they appear to be strapped down in order to not cause this free-fall effect.

A more simpler explanation is that it is just an oversight on Nolan's part.

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The freefall was to wake them up from the next level (so they would feel it!)

This is how I see the "falling" happen:

Level 1: Van falling

  • Felt at Level 2

    • Level 3 feels nothing -- can get stuck.

      • How is this remedied?
      • Freefall on level 2 which will bring them back from level 3.

    • Ok Back from level 3 up to level 2 with freefall

  • Back up to level 1 with van freefall

Back up to level 0 with main freefall

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I think because when the van drives off the bridge in level 1, that is the 'kick' for the hotel level. When JGL activates the kick in the elevator, they feel it in the snow level.

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Perhaps this can be explained by assuming that:

  1. a controlled mental projection only has enough power to travel down one level, and

  2. a kick is designed to travel up, not down.

The first premise is supported by noting that Yusuf is the dream controller for level 1, and his need to visit the men's room at level 0 causes rain at level 1 but not level 2. Arthur is the dream controller for level 2, and his free fall at level 1 causes free fall in level 2 but not level 3.

Premise (2) relies on the idea that the purpose of a kick is to wake up all of the extractors at level 0. You may have experienced something like this when you are having a nightmarish dream and something extremely violent happens in the dream that causes you to suddenly sit up in bed.

If you think about a kick as originating inside the dream and travelling upwards, its downward effects (if any) become irrelevant other than as a warning that all of the dreams are about to end. It seems that each level needs an upwards kick since Arthur scrambles around setting up a kick with the elevator at level 2. Not sure why lower levels need an upwards kick, a level 1 to level 0 kick should suffice.

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protected by Dredd Dec 30 '13 at 19:07

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