It sound like an exaggeration, but Inception changed me literally overnight. Or rather, in a summer’s afternoon. July 16, 2010, began with me purchasing the album “Planet Jedward” on CD, my final pure, culturally naive act of childhood, and ended with my belief in the possibilities of cinema enriched by one hyper-ambitious blockbuster by a twee Englishman called Christopher. Inception jump-started my youth, my individuality of taste and my investment in a notion of cultural passion that extended beyond the infantilism of Harry Potter.
I finished primary school in June of that year — it was a melancholy day, a class outing to the funfair didn’t seem like a very fun way to celebrate such a sad moment to me — and I left the house to go sit on a brick wall on my street that would — to this day — become my “thinking wall”. It felt different to other summers, I was overcome with uncertainty over who my friends would be come the autumn, and I felt adrift in my own experience as a pre-teen. I wasn’t particularly active online, to the extent that I only found out Shrek Forever After was coming out a few weeks before its release date. My entire online experience revolved around Harry Potter fan sites and an good bit of Twilight too. Sensing a lack of adventurousness in these interests, my parents seemed happy to push me to get excited about another expensive Warner Bros blockbuster that was about to come out. From the guy who directed The Dark Knight, a film which — hilariously, in hindsight — I hadn’t seen in the cinema but my parents had. These were relatively smart, well-packaged movies with genre elements starring adult actors and not burdened with tedious ‘fandom’ lore. They were, maybe, my way out. I started immersing myself in the marketing of Inception, I installed a motion screensaver of the spinning top on the family computer, I watched the trailers a bunch, I distinctly remember Ellen Page’s appearance on The Graham Norton Show. I certainly wasn’t at a Potter level of anticipation, but I had designated this movie as one of my “things”.
July 16. I picked up the Jedward CD in Galway city. Then we headed out to the EYE to see Inception. I was riveted. Absolutely swept away by the plottiness, the scale, the originality, the literal world-building Nolan exhibits. Everyone has a film they fall in love with at just the right moment, somewhere between the ages of 12 and 14, that just clicks into place in your consciousness and never becomes eroded. For many of the generation a decade older than me, it’s surely The Matrix. Prior to that, Blade Runner or one of the Spielbergs. My imagination was seduced — or, rather, my brain was infiltrated — by Nolan’s Inception.
Shockingly, I didn’t watch it in a cinema again until January of this year when the Lighthouse screened it as part of their ‘best of 2010s’ season. My second viewing was at Christmas when I got the special edition Blu-Ray, packaged in a metal box resembling the dream kit of the film and including a limited edition spinning top, as a gift and I gorged on the film and bonus features for days on end. I’ve watched it more or less annually since, and I always make an event out of it, the lights dimmed and the volume at max, a truly effortful construction of a cinematic environment I the only other action films that matter as much to me. The soundtrack is a regular on my Spotify, especially the track “Mombasa” which has gone culturally underrated in my opinion for the past ten years. It reminds me of Inception, but it also reminds me of being 13, of going to see incredible films in the EYE in Galway without an inch of cynicism or franchise fatigue, and of my home in Galway more generally.
Inception is not a particularly emotive film by the standards of today, although the Dom and Mab storyline is moving in pretty profound ways in my opinion, but I have an emotional bond with it that’s really hard to quantify but lingers in my mind every day of my life. If Inception isn’t my favourite film — and it might be — it’s certainly the one I think about most regularly, just in terms of the imagery and tonality that defined, that summer, what I look for in contemporary cinema. And, obviously, I’m sure my dreams have been influenced by this film more than I can count.