Thursday, August 12, 2010


There's something computer game-y about the movie, Inception, which I saw last night after writing my piece yesterday about computer games. At least so I imagine. As I wrote, I'm not really in a position to know, not being a gamer; but the sheer speed from which we move from one level to the next, the cartoon-like quality of visual effects and the non-stop (virtual) violence are a part of what I imagine to be involved in the experience of computer games.

It was a curious experience. Unusually, I went alone, because this was a film that Ellie did not want to see and she had arranged for a girls' night out with friends to see a film that I did not want to see about Joan Rivers--a chalk-on-the-blackboard voice as wince-making, for me, as Sarah Palin, though in a different key. The audience for "Inception" consisted of three people and myself. Two of them, elderly and apparently a bit deaf, chose to sit in the row I had decided to occupy, and saw fit to comment rather loudly at intervals about the action on the screen. I could have moved...

No matter, the somewhat surreal quality of the the actual, theater experience, was a good match for the surreal quality of what was happening on the screen. It took me a good few minutes to get past the initial scenes, in some Asian locale, where the inexplicable dialogue between what would turn out to be the main characters took place against a background of multiple, equally inexplicable explosions and panic in the street outside. The dramatic explosions, along with an unending series of "virtual" deaths by gunfire, proved to be a staple of the movie, alternating with scenes in which, with a stretch of the imagination and a great deal of suspension of disbelief, the plot actually began to make some sense.

The idea of "inception" has to do with the penetration and plundering of other people's minds. I was never quite sure why this involved quite so much violence, but it was as an exploration of the mind and its activities that the movie did engage me and carry me along. It was a matter of moving between different levels of dream and actual experience ("reality"), without ever being quite sure at which level one might be at any particular moment. It was, as the script was at pains to remind us at intervals, a dream within a dream within a dream--or, rather more frequently, a nightmare within a nightmare within a nightmare. The story involved the attempt to enter the mind of the scion of a multinational corporation and implant an idea that would alter the course of human history. Along the way, we encountered the more personal--and generally Oedipal--obstacles of both the mind-penetrator in chief (Leonardo di Caprio) and his intended target.

I left unsure as to whether I had enjoyed the movie or not, and indeed as to whether it was a good movie or not. I battled mightily throughout with the sheer implausibility of the action and, as I mentioned, never quite cottoned to the necessity of so many assault weapons and explosives--unless to cater to the tastes and expectations of the computer-gaming audience. As an exploration of the mind, I think I enjoyed the quieter Being John Malkovich more. Still, it was certainly a lot of fun and games. And, as I say, by the end of it all you could put together a plot that held together and came to a cathartic conclusion that was, in the terms set up by the movie, reasonably credible and satisfying.

Bottom line: I say, see it, if you're up for having your mind bent and can tolerate a good deal of (virtual, remember!) violence.

1 comment:

CHI SPHERE said...

Yes Peter, it is the virtual violence and the hi speed structure of gaming that spins content like cotton candy and at times like nightmares in a tornado of deception and discovery.

The article in the August 9, 2010 edition of The New Yorker titled, PAINKILLER DEATHSTREAK by Nicholson Baker, is my most recent source of technology info. Like the author who has teenage sons who game a vast number of games, AVATAR is their new passion thankfully, the crossover of editing in films like INCEPTION, THE MATRIX, and video games is blurring and defusing reality.

I am balancing my teenagers exposure with plenty of face time, reading and time spent in nature far away from screen life. When my oldest son Cole, who is 14, arrived in Georgia to visit his grandpa he discovered his cell phone charger was broken. The first thing he did when he could was order one to be sent to him asap. The interruption of contact on FaceBook threw him off balance. A day of fishing and rafting erased these feelings quickly I'm happy to report.