Inception! What does it remind you of? A cinematic masterpiece; the original idea of the decade; a brainchild of the greatest director of our time. But in the end, it’s all about the end. Thus, for once more, Christopher Nolan has explained the ending of Inception.
Inception is probably the only movie that left more questions than answers in the end. It was the pure combination of Nolan’s intellectual genius and cinematic brilliance that still keeps the movie alive in our brains and dreams. Though it wasn’t an easily digestible movie, its end was something so complicated, that any definite answer is still unknown to any movie philosopher.
Was it a dream when Cobb finally reunites with his kids in the end?
Or was it the ultimate reality?
It was supposed to be a reality, but then why the top kept spinning?
And if it was a dream, then what was the reality in the movie?
Ugh! There’s no sense in forcing your brain to find an answer that only the creator of the question knows. And guess what? Christopher Nolan has just explained the ending of Inception.
- Decrypting the ending of Inception – Through Christopher Nolan’s eyes.
- Michael Caine tells what Nolan explained to him about Inception’s ending.
- Christopher Nolan explains the ending of Inception – complicates it further.
- Got it? NO? Let us explain.
Decrypting the ending of Inception – Through Christopher Nolan’s eyes.
Inception was all about the contrast between dreams and reality. The conflict of what is real and what is not drove the story forward. The dreams, the reality, and the time was the prop of the story, the story itself, and the driving motivation for the characters.
In the movie, Cobb, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, synthesizes dreams of people to sneak into their mind when they are subconscious and tamper the ideas and thoughts in their brains. He’s supported by a team of experts, starring Tom Hardy, Ellen Page and Joseph Gordon Levitt, who joins him inside the dreams, and they work together to execute their plans by going deeper into the layers of dreams, and then get out of them before they get stuck in them for forever.
To keep themselves aware of the difference between reality and dream, everyone in the team keeps a totem with them. In the case of Cobb, the Totem was a spinning top. If it keeps spinning, it’s a dream, and if it falls after a few seconds, then it’s a reality.
For Cobb, everything he did in the entirety of the movie was an effort to get back to his kids, to his home. But in the end, when he finally reaches to his kids and spins the top, it keeps spinning. This made the fans go crazy, no one could understand what the end meant. And that’s why Christopher Nolan had tried to explain the ending of Inception a couple of times afterwards.
Michael Caine tells what Nolan explained to him about Inception’s ending
Michael Caine, who played Cobb’s mentor and father-in-law in the movie, has revealed that Nolan had explained to him the ending of Inception during the script reading. He said in an interview to Esquire magazine—
“When I got the script of Inception, I was a bit puzzled by it, and I said to (Chris), ‘I don’t understand where the dream is’. I said, ‘When is it the dream and when is it reality?’” Caine continued further by quoting what Nolan said “He (Nolan) said ‘Well when you’re in the scene it’s reality.’ So, get that – if I’m in it, it’s reality. If I’m not in it, it’s a dream,”.
Now, because Michael Caine was present in the ending scene, we could interpret that it was reality. However, it seems like a rather overly simplified answer to an extraordinary conflict. Thus, to understand it better, we need to look at the explanation of Inception’s ending that Christopher Nolan gave in detail.
Christopher Nolan explains the ending of Inception – complicates it further.
In 2015, while Christopher Nolan was giving a lecture on “reality and dreams” at Princeton University in New Jersey, he tried explaining Inceptions ending in a grander scheme of human phycology.
He said— “In the great tradition of these speeches, generally someone says something along the lines of ‘Chase your dreams,’ but I don’t want to tell you that because I don’t believe that. I want you to chase your reality… I feel that over time, we started to view reality as the poor cousin to our dreams, in a sense….I want to make the case to you that our dreams, our virtual realities, these abstractions that we enjoy and surround ourselves with – they are subsets of reality.”
“The way the end of that film worked, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Cobb — he was off with his kids, he was in his own subjective reality. He didn’t really care anymore, and that makes a statement: perhaps, all levels of reality are valid. The camera moves over the spinning top just before it appears to be wobbling, it was cut to black.”
“I skip out of the back of the theatre before people catch me, and there’s a very, very strong reaction from the audience: usually a bit of a groan. The point is, objectively, it matters to the audience in absolute terms: even though when I’m watching, it’s fiction, a sort of virtual reality. But the question of whether that’s a dream or whether it’s real is the question I’ve been asked most about any of the films I’ve made. It matters to people because that’s the point about reality. Reality matters.”
Got it? NO? Let us explain.
Indeed, Nolan’s explanation made it more complicated. He gave an answer that doesn’t satisfy your idea of an answer. However, what we understand from it is that the movie ended in a way to not have a definite answer. That was the whole purpose, for you to think of what matters.
Technically, when the scene cuts to black before we could see if the top stops, it was a purposeful cut, to not provide a definite answer, because there is no definite answer. In the case of Cobb, his desires were fulfilled in his subjective reality when he met his kids.
Then, he no more cared if it was a dream or a reality. Because it didn’t matter to him. Thus, the ending of Inception was not about the completion of a dream, or of facing the reality. It was about the phycological state where one cares no more about reality over his desires. The end of the Inception was the fulfilment of Cobb’s desires, regardless of it being a dream or reality.