This week’s episode of Zach On Film (look for it this Friday!) contains a can’t-miss heavyweight discussion of the movie ‘Inception’ and it’s themes of dreaming and multiple levels of reality.  I won’t spoiler any of the cool stuff we come up with here, but one thing that even the panel can’t fully agree on is the significance of the final scene and what it means to the reality of the film and the film of the reality.  Leaving the heavy lifting to the audience was a rather controversial choice by the film-makers, and one that has led to many theories about what it all means, as well as a few people writing the whole exercise off as “dumb” or “meaningless” because no concrete answers are given, which in turn begs a query…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) has had some dreams that were Cirque Du Soleil freaky, asking: Do you think the top falls over or not?


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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


  1. I read a convincing theory that Cobb’s wedding ring is his totem, because in his dreams he was still married, so in the final scene we see no wedding ring on his finger (if I’m remembering everything, it has been a while since I’ve seen inception)

  2. Not to be esoteric, but I think the simple posing of the question is the point of the final scene. With the lines blurred as well as they were in the film-the ‘question’ is raised to have the viewer create a personal opinion or even stake in how the story ends…thus solidifying an opinion formed as the movie was watched.

    If at the end, you can see,in your mind’s eye, the top stopping, then that would be a belief formed as you watched the movie about if a person has power over their mind and ultimate control of themselves…if the top keeps spinning, you’ve decided that people don’t have this control and are blown about existence on the whim of the universe. Either way, the final scene is more about the watcher than the story you just watched.

    OR….they were just too lazy to take a stand either way and thought it’d be cool to have a pseduo-intellectual cliff hanger. :)

  3. I say the tops falls.

    I’ve read plenty of theories explaining how and why Cobb is still in the dream or the entire movie was a dream, but my biggest problem with the whole thing is, I don’t think it adds anything to the narrative or themes of the film.

    Say the top never falls and, therefore, Cobb is still in the dream world. Okay. And..? What does that add to the story? How does that contribute to the theme?
    From my perspective, it only adds even more questions.

    Compare this to something like American Psycho, which also has an ambiguous ending that makes the audience question what really happened and how much was just in the character’s head.

    Whether Patrick Bateman really killed all those people or not, he’s stuck in a vacuous, shallow world where nobody cares about anything. He could very well be a deranged killer, and no one notices. It could all be in his head, but it doesn’t matter either way.
    The last line of the movie sums it up: “This confession has meant nothing.”

    The ambiguity ties into the movie’s narrative–being the point of view of a severely disturbed, unreliable narrator–and its overall theme about shallow, empty, indifferent people.

    For all its complexity, I think Inception is actually a very straight-forward movie. Cobb and co. are given an objective, they prepare for said objective, and accomplish it, overcoming various obstacles along the way. The end.

    Having the end turn out to be all a dream doesn’t really contribute anything–at least nothing I can see. If it was still the dream world, then that just strikes me as a twist for the sake of a twist.

  4. Ryan 'Halite' King on

    It doesn’t matter. Can you really tell if you are in the dream, even with a totem? Are you dreaming right now?

    I think its the same as if Rachel has a short life span at the end of Blade Runner, or if Deckard is a Nexus. We all don’t know if we’ll live to tomorrow, so what is the difference?

  5. As I still haven’t seen the movie (I’m not avoiding it, I simply haven’t gotten around to it yet because after a couple months of it not being in at the video store, I kinda just forgot about it), I’m just going to give a completely random Grampa Simpson type answer.

    I think it all boils down to how do you define “falls over”. If you consider the impact of reversing the polarity of the neutron flow, then you open up many doorways to other variables that shift the gravitons and graviolis into a quantum state of neon purple, or as we called it back in the day, snicker whiskers. Dividing by 42, we come up with the rare integral energon component of rhubarb pi, which is actually a state of union between two bees wearing tutus while dancing the Japanese riverdance of shame.

    In other words, I have no idea.

  6. I’m going to be a *&^% and say it doesn’t matter if it falls over or not. What DOES matter is that HE DIDN’T WAIT TO SEE IF IT FELL OR NOT. The point is that he is home, his ordeal is over, and doesn’t care if it’s real or not.

    On another note, go read Philip K Dick’s UBIK. The plots are rather different, but Inception pulls a lot from it.

  7. I think it kind of has to for the movie to work. The mere fact that it wobbles is a sign that it will soon fall. It was a ballsy choice to have an ambiguous ending for American audiences who mainly like to have things laid out in front of them. That is was is great about the film though, is that it can cause a discussion like this and make you think about it after your viewing.

  8. I don’t think the point is whether it falls or doesn’t. I think the power of the image comes from its poetic literalization of the idea that we all live in “dream worlds” when it comes to perception and memory. So, in a sense, we are all dreaming all the time, and so the “meaning” of the film becomes more a commentary on the stuff of actual existence than a resolution to a sci-fi plot (which is not meant as disrespect to sci-fi plots…in fact, it’s the sheer allegorical power of genre films that makes me come back to them again and again)

  9. First, as is my habit, I’ll define what the two options mean to me.

    If the top stays spinning, it means that Cob is stuck dreaming, the whole movie has been his own defense to keep dreaming, and his wife is not dead, but has been trying to save him the whole time. She has failed, Cob is comatose and probably going to die soon, never really seeing his family again.

    If the top falls, Cob is awake and the whole heist was real and a success. His wife is dead, which is sad, but he gets to be with his family again.

    It’s very much like the classic The Lady and the Tiger choice.

    I choose that the top falls. My reasoning being that THAT is the movie I want to see.

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