|If you haven't read this,|
Urusula LeGuin’s The Lathe of Heaven (1971) deals with George Orr who suddenly finds he has effective dreams—whatever he dreams changes the world that he lives in and no one remembers it any different. Plagued with a desire to commit suicide, George is sent to an oncologist—a dream doctor—who realizes George’s gift. Dr. Haber decides that he can change the world through George, so he begins suggesting dreams: creating a Haber Institute to study dreams, curing the world’s population problem [by wiping out 2/3 of the people with a plague], solving the race problem [everyone turns grey], and eventually taking the ability to dream away from George. The only thing Haber doesn’t know is that George began dreaming when the world was blown up in a nuclear war and all his dreaming, in fact all of reality, is only happening in the few moments before the world ends. As long as George can dream, the world will continue.
- People can share dreams.
- People’s hidden ideas can be stolen in dreams.
- People who die in the dream wake up [although later this changes if the dreamer is on an opiate—then they end up in limbo forever].
- People can feel pain.
- The dreamers require some kind of kick to jolt them from their dream—music, being thrown into water, knocking a chair over.
- Another thing we learn later is that the dreamers must carry a totem with them—an object which reminds them that they are not in someone else’s world. Cobb, for example, carries a small gyroscope top which was his wife’s. When it stops spinning, it convinces him he is not in someone else’s dream. That image of the totem spinning ends the film and establishes one of the major mysteries. [In fact, that image is available as a screensaver from the Inception website.]
- Who is the dreamer of the film?
- Who is the architect?
- Why is Cobb never able to see his children’s faces until he has finally confronted Mal and gone beyond his guilt?
- Ariadne has a specific place in Greek mythology. Why evoke her name for this character? In what way does Nolan play with that idea?
- Cobb says, “Positive emotion trumps negative. We all seek reconciliation.” How does that play out in terms of his character? How does that play out in your own life?
- Many 20th century philosophers suggest that time is only a man-made construct. What point does Cobb make when Mal says, “You promised we would grow old together”? Describe the ways that the film proves time is only a man-made idea.
- What does Mal as a suffix mean? Why is it appropriate for the character’s name?
- For me, one of the best dreamworld images in the film is Arthur ferrying the team to the elevator in a weightless world. Compare that scene to Belle’s traveling to her room in the Beast’s castle, from Cocteau’s La Belle et le bête.
- Cobb says that in a dream we often don’t know how we got there… and it’s only at the end of the dream that we realize things were strange. Give examples from the film which show how that is true.
- Why do Cobb and Ariadne feel that memories have no place in the dream world?
- If every dreamer must carry their own totem, one constructed or found by themselves, what does it mean that Cobb carries Mal’s totem as his own?
- Justify that the entire film is or is not ultimately only another dream layer.