Analysis Of Specific Elements In The Film Inception

Psychoanalysis was founded by Sigmund Fréud. I believe Christopher Nolan has shown this with Inception. Cobb, regardless of whether it’s his dream or someone else, is constantly in a dream. Everything that happens in the dream results from what they are thinking. Cobb’s former wife Mal, appears in Cobbs dreams. Cobb feels guilty because Mal killed herself, and his children have no mother or father. This essay will provide examples and explanations of certain elements as well as their roles in the story. I will also demonstrate where the film uses repetition and similarity, as well as why they occur. I will explain my understanding of variation, development, unity and disunity through examples and quotes from Film Art: A Introduction.

Inception has many elements that have different functions. Each character in Inception has their own job and function. Dom Cobb, the protagonist of the film, is the most important. Christopher Nolan, director and writer, has not created all-rounded characters, it has been claimed. Dom Cobb is the only character fully explored in Inception. Kristin Thompson writes on her co-owned blog: “I agree with Cobb that Inception’s characters are not assigned any traits” (Bordwell, Thompson, 2010). Thompson continues to explain that the characters, except for the protagonist, only have one function or trait that makes them important in the film. Yusuf who knows how to manipulate sedatives. Fischer, the young man in a complicated relationship. Saito, Cobb’s Japanese friend. Arthur, Cobb’s dream partner. Eames, Cobb’s “forger” who can alter into other people through dreams. A spinning top is an integral part of the movie. Dom Cobb uses a spinning totem as his “totem”. The totem helps him distinguish between reality and dreams. The spinning top will stop spinning in reality. However, it will spin in dreams. Everyone should keep a personal totem. Only you will know their weight, feel and dimensions. If it’s not done correctly, it won’t work. Also, the ending film has a crucial role for the spinning topper. The film also features music. Edith Piaf’s song “Je ne regrette rienrien” plays whenever someone is ready to go back to real life. It alerts the dreamers to finish their “mission”. This film portrays the totem as a central motif. Film Art: A Introduction explains that a motif can be any repeating element that is significant and contributes to the overall structure. It could be an object. A colo[u]r. a place. A person. Or a sound. The music plays at the beginning and the end of the film. Yusuf straps headphones onto Arthur’s head so they can synchronise the “kick” of each dream level. To make the dreamer wake up, kicks are used. The dreamer is made to wake up by falling and being woken up. Yusuf explained that the sedative was designed to not interfere with inner ear function. This allows the sedative to penetrate a dream layer. Cobb can see a repeating pattern in each of his dreams. Mal appears when Cobb enters a dream state. The audience discovers that Cobb has no control over this dream. The audience later discovers that she keeps showing up because Cobb is living with guilt about his wife’s death. It is crucial to remember that dreams end when the participants die. Cobb believed dreams were real. As a result, she believed she was still dreaming when she woke from her sleep.

Every dream is unique. Every dream is different. Each dream could have a different host, architect or mind obstacle. This is Nolan’s method of juxtaposing characters and their environment. This is particularly evident in Cobb’s dream missions into Fischer’s brain. There are four levels to Cobb’s mission. The first level is in a modern urban area. It’s raining because Yusuf, Yusuf, forgot to empty the bladder. The second level is held in a luxurious, high-end hotel. Arthur loves to dress up so it makes perfect sense that he would be there. The third level is set in very snowy terrain. Mal comes along and kills Fischer. This brings Cobb and Ariadne to Limbo, the fourth level. Limbo was believed to be unconstructed, but Ariadne surprises to find it to be the contrary. This is the same place that Mal and Cobb were in when they left.

Inception is a story about the development of ideas. The movie opens with a scene that seems like it is a flashback featuring Cobb or Saito. Near the end, Cobb enters Limbo to search for Saito. He had just died in level 3. It is a scene that you will be pondering throughout the film. You also wonder about the significance of Cobb and Saito’s relationship in the film’s plot. The film tells the story of Cobb’s needs and the benefits to Cobb. We are able to see that Cobb needs Saito for entry into America. Because he believed Mal had killed herself, he fled the country. The film tells the story of Cobb’s death and how it impacts his dreams. Film Art: An introduction states that filmmakers often see formal development as a progression from beginning to middle to end. (Bordwell und Thomson 2013 :67) This is exactly the movie’s purpose. This kind of development is easy to comprehend and makes the film more effective.

“Unity in a film is explained by Thompson and Bordwell” A film that is unified is called “tight” when there are no gaps between its parts. They also stated that film unity is not always possible and that there will be unanswered questions in some films (Bordwell, Thompson 2013:70). Although Inception has a lot of loose ends, it does not resolve all the questions. We never know why Eames is able to transform into other people (or forge his identity) and how he does it. Is it because he forges documents? The film’s ending is a clear and deliberate disunity. Cobb is unable to believe that he finally finds himself back in the place he had been longing for throughout the film. He spins his totem, possibly out of habit after waking up from a dream. But he doesn’t wait to find out the outcome. Instead, his children are hugged by him. The film ends with the totem spinning still and then, just when you’d expect it to stop spinning… black. The movie concludes. The film ends. This disunity is very effective. It’s also very effective because the filmmaker knows this ending will be remembered by the audience for many years to come. Bordwell & Thompson explain: “In these ways, momentary diunities can fulfill specific purposes or suggest a thematic meaning.” (Bordwell & Thompson 2013, 70).

Inception director Christopher Nolan was able to include important film forms. A function was a film form that gave an element a specific function. Christopher Nolan, for example, gave the spinning top an important function in his film. Concerning repetition and similarity, I used the song that plays each time the ‘dreamers’ have to complete their jobs or synchronise actions such as setting off a kick. In the film, the difference and variation of dreams are shown through the four levels. The entire movie is about the audience discovering things they didn’t know. The protagonist also takes the audience on an adventure. The film ends with unity and disunity. It ties up any loose ends about unity, but also chooses to end it in a disunifying fashion to leave viewers wondering.


Adams, S. (2010). Everything you need to know on “Inception”. [online] Salon. Available at: [Accessed 23 Aug. 2016].

Bordwell D. & Thompson K. (2010). INCEPTION. Or, Dream a Little Dream Within a Dream With Me. [online] Film art observations. Available at: [Accessed 23 Aug. 2016].

Bordwell, D. & Thompson, K. (2013). Film Art: A Introduction 10th Edition. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill.

Inception. (2010). Christopher Nolan is a film director. Saunders Calvert (2011) suggested that… Inception: Films, Dreams, Freud. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Aug. 2016].


  • kaydenmarsh

    I am Kayden Marsh, 34yo educational blogger and school teacher. I am a mother of two young children, and I love spending time with them and learning new things. I also enjoy writing about education and children's issues, and I hope to continue doing so for the rest of my life.

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