Inception: I Regret Nothing

I recently watched the movie Inception a second time and came to some interesting new conclusions. The most obvious realization is that the whole movie is a dream. This is the first thing someone realizes when one begins to probe, and there is a large body of evidence that supports this:

  1. The beginning of the movie starts in the middle of a sequence with no introduction for Cobb & Arthur, which is an indication of a dream as stated by Cobb.
  2. There are relentless agents (projections) after Cobb.
  3. The song used to indicate a kick and the end to a dream, Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien, is 2 minutes and 28 seconds while the movie is 2 hours and 28 minutes. (The biggest indication of a dream)

While understanding this point was satisfying, I was left with so many more questions, like did Cobb get lost in his subconscious, did Mal actually escape, is Mal even real, is anyone. However, the key to understanding everything is simple: inception.

If the whole movie is a dream and the title is “Inception,” the most logical conclusion is that the dream is centered around the planting of an idea. As one studies the process of inception, there is no doubt that Cobb’s story aligns perfectly.

Process of inception:
First, the idea is repeated in various ways on each level with increasing intensity. Second, the idea must have an emotional connection, which can be anchored in a person. Third, turn the person against his subconscious. Fourth, the specifics of this emotional connection must be probed in order to get the correct response. Lastly, the idea is positive giving a feeling of catharsis.

This is easily applied to Cobb and the scenes in the movie.

At first, I thought the obvious answer for the idea to be planted in Cobb’s mind is to “choose reality over the dream,” which is stated in various ways throughout the movie:

Choosing reality:
“Come back to reality, Dom” — Miles
“To remind you of something. Something you once knew. This world is not real.” — Cobb
How to choose reality:
“To convince me to honor our arrangement. — To take a leap of faith, yes. Come back, so we can be young men together again” — Saito then Cobb
“You’re waiting for a train. A train that will take you far away. You know where this train will take you but you can’t know for sure. Yet it doesn’t matter. Now tell me why. — you’ll be together” — Cobb the Mal
Why would you choose a dream over reality in the first place:
“Limbo is going to become your reality” — Cobb
“They come to be woken up. The dream has become their reality. Who are you to say otherwise, sir.” — mystical looking old black man

However, this is a red herring. The idea of “choosing reality over the dream” still leaves open the questions I had initially, so I reexamined the movie to find a more all encompassing theme. This led me to conclude that “living without regret” was ultimately the central theme, which is supported by two major points. The first point is Ariadne, who’s name references a princess in Greek mythology.

The princess is in charge of a labyrinth and helps Thesus (the hero) to navigate the maze to defeat the Minotaur and save the potential sacrificial victims (Cobb’s children). This aligns perfectly with Ariadne’s role in the movie. She is constantly probing him on his past and guiding him to confront his inner demons. Therefore, one should trust her words and guidance over the other characters, which can be considered, at best, tools to help or, at worst, obstacles in the labyrinth.

What is salient is that Ariadne never tells Cobb to get back to reality or awake from the dream. She helps him to forgive himself and slowly let go of the mistake he made with Mal as they go deeper into the dream. Ariadne’s progressive guidance culminates in him realizing that he spent a life time with Mal, and that there is not much more a person can ask for. This realization allows him to not care about all the real indications of him still being in a dream. He simply just spins the top and lives his life.

The second point that indicates that the central premise of the movie is to live without regret is the song, “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien”, which is translated as “No, I regret nothing.” The song truly has an all encompassing nature as alluded to earlier:

  • The length of the song and movie are the same;
  • the song is used as the kick;
  • elements of the song is also used in various parts of he score.

However, the lyrics of the the song really drive home the point. The singer is proclaiming to someone that she has no regrets about the past whether the memories be good or bad. This is repeated over and over again until the end when she reveals why: Because my life, my joys/ today, it begins with you.

As I realized the central theme, I began to realize what a masterpiece this movie really is.

A person can get lost in the euphoria and horror that comes with life. A person can relive and reenact his past with delight and pain to a point that his past becomes his character. He becomes so confused and unable to distinguish between the lessons that he has learned numerous times, but are now holding him back and the main lesson that will get him to move forward.

This is Cobb’s journey and this is the journey that one can go through when analyzing the movie. One can tirelessly wonder whether the Cobb wakes up, who is real and who is just part of his mind, and what actually happened in Cobb’s past and what didn’t. However, if a person did that, he would be missing the whole point of the movie.

While one might see the elusive nature of the movie’s central theme as a drawback, one should remember that a person must be unaware of the act of inception for inception to work.