The movie Total Recall (1990) plays with the possibility that everything in the movie is just a dream, suggesting, in the end, that it probably is.

But in the beginning, when the machine seems to fail because of the hidden memory of being a secret agent, there is a scene which does not follow Quaid's perspective but shows an outside perspective of the failure.

This scene seems to break with the possibility that everything is a dream as the events in this scene cannot be from Quaid's memory.

Is there some explanation for this scene? I cannot believe the producers really wanted to break the ambiguity, which is the plot twist in the movie.

1 Answer 1


According to the director it is not.

During his directors commentary for the film, Paul Verhoven goes to great lengths to demonstrate his maintenance of the parallel plot device and does indeed cite this very scene as both the possible objective and subjective break within the story, stating that, despite seeing events from a third person perspective "what the characters and the audience think is a fuck up of the machine, may also be the beginning of the ego trip" (depending on what side of the plot choices the viewer decides to take at face value).

Although Quaid features in most scenes, not all are shown from his perspective (particularly those involving Cohaagen), so despite some variation in character P.O.V.'s the film maker's are adamant that the ambiguity is intended to be sustained from the moment Quaid first enters the implant chair at Rekall through to the final shot

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    I think the same, just because the movie is set up as a mindf*ck. But I read people reasoning, that this scene proves that it is not ambiguous, but proves it cannot be a dream. And indeed it seems to be the only scene, which really breaks the illusion. I may need to re-watch the movie looking for other such scenes on mars.
    – allo
    Oct 2, 2018 at 9:05
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    Again, I would urge you to listen to the commentary - just because the scene is played from the perspective of the Rekall technicians it does not 'prove' that everything from this point onwards actually happened, it just furthers the double perspective of the 'Hauser' personality either a; breaking through before the implant takes place or b; being the underlining feature of Quaids ego trip. Oct 2, 2018 at 9:10
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    @allo Have you never had a dream where you were mostly in your own body, but occasionally experienced "third party" scenes where you yourself were "not present"? It has certainly happened to me, and if you take the position that the movie is all a dream, I don't see why it couldn't have happened to Quaid. It's a pretty neat experience, especially when you're just enough awake to recognize what your brain is doing, but decide to let it go ahead anyway.
    – Steve-O
    Oct 2, 2018 at 13:55

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