Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Some thoughts inspired by Inception

This year we're taking it easy at the Fringe. We haven't booked a flat in Edinburgh and we've only got three days of shows booked. This is the most lightly programmed Fringe we've done together. 

Having woken up a little late on Sunday and lolled around in our dressing gowns for most of the morning we conceived a plan. We would wander over to Hamilton and eat a late lunch at Amigo's with salty margaritas then go to see Inception. Julian had already seen Toy Story 3, our first choice, and Sally had recommended Inception. Martin Easterbrook had too, but my vote was swayed by Sally. And the fact that it was skiffy.

So. Inception. I loved it. A nested thriller that communicated unease and terror amazingly well. How scary to have a technique that allows someone to enter your dreams to take information or, worse, to implant something that isn't so. 

Once in the dream, time passes more slowly so that the operators have time to achieve their mission. It is possible to enter a dream within a dream, which is complicated, much deeper and has another slowdown of time passing. Wonderfully, what is happening in the dream level above the one you are in affects you, so when in one level the sleeping bodies are falling, in the waking dream they are in free-fall. 

In the big operation central to the film a set of four nested dreams were planned. It had been established at the beginning that if you die in the dream you wake up back in the real world. Somewhere, though, in the early stages of the big operation it is revealed that the technology and choice of drugs means that this time there is no safe release from the dream. With the time extension afforded by the dream the protagonists could be lost in the underlying chaos state for decades. This change increases the tension many fold. 

I am fascinated by the nature of reality - one of the worst things you can do, in my faith system, is to hide truth from someone. This is a huge betrayal because it doesn't allow a person to make reasoned decisions based on reality. (Whilst I'm typing this Alec states, 'An engineer might steal your wallet, sleep with your wife but he will not lie to you on technical issues.) 

We all do hide truth, of course, mainly to protect our own fragile ego. Last week, for example, Sam came to look at my house because I have some work that needs doing. I thought about spending every evening of the week cleaning and tidying so that, as I told Ali, he wouldn't know what I was like. The two things that stopped me were not moral principles, of course, but laziness and futility; should he spend any time at my house the thin facade of tidiness would end up on the floor with all the other detritus and half-read books. 

Well, yes, Inception was a film that I was expecting to find morally bankrupt but, surprisingly, it was a supremely intelligent thriller that made the danger of this manipulation concrete and clung hard to the need to reattain reality. The most moving moment in the film was when the central character abandoned the dream of his wife and determined to return to his children and responsibilities. And that was the other strength of the film. The characters had some depth and I cared about how it turned out for them.

There were moments reminiscent of 'Better than Life'. There have certainly been times when I have why anyone would ever step outside that game. The Red Dwarf crew certainly had no responsibilities to ground them in reality. Perhaps I'll dig the DVDs out and re-watch them. 

Later, we spent the evening watching last week's and then this week's Sherlock Holmes. I'm sort of thinking that I might make it the other reason to turn  my TV. Other than Dr Who. The new Sherlock Holmes is a Moffat & Gatiss idea that brings the stories into the 21st century. Sherlock is both beautiful and monstrous and Watson is the only truly sympathetic character. Unlike most of fandom I've never read any of Conan Doyle's books and the films I've seen have never made me want to, but this update has tempted me to reconsider the books that are, again, all about discovering the truth.

It occurs to me that following the rules of the Inception world you could 'live' almost forever if you submerge yourself in deeply nested dreams. This would, however, require you to have a completely happy subconscious so you don't undermine your world, a bloody good imagination to people your world with and/or a fully compatible companion, and someone to keep your body maintained in the real world.

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