‘We created. We built a world for years. We built our own world.’

‘Man has, as it were, become a kind of prosthetic God. When he puts on all his auxiliary organs he is truly magnificent; but those organs have not grown on to him and they still give him much trouble at times. … Future ages will bring with them new and possibly unimaginably great advances in this field of civilization and will increase man’s likeness to God still more. But in the interests of our present investigation, we will not forget that present-day man does not feel happy in his God-like character’

-Freud, Civilisation and its Discontents.

This is something I suppose I’ve been wanting to write for quite a long time now, but for various reasons haven’t gotten round to until now. I realise it’s not the most timely topic for analysis.

http://theimpostume.blogspot.com/2010/07/inception- itakes-long-time-get-going-and.html, Carl the Impostume put forward this argument a couple of years ago on Inception, in which the film can be reduced to its essential component, identified as basically a chocolate-box love story between Dicaprio and Cotillard. And while it’s broadly convincing there is one scene that undercuts it.

About halfway through the film, after traversing Cobb’s subconscious and learning of the film’s conception of ‘limbo’, she comes to understand that Cobb has been there, and this is what is dredging up symbolic traces in the form of a speeding train which invade the territory of Robert Fischer’s subconscious space as the team work in it.

When stuck in limbo for around 50 years, Cobb is always aware of the un-reality of his situation, longs to get back to waking life, (I hesitate to call this ‘reality’) whereas Mol (Cotillard) locks away the totem which indicates the ontological status of the space she is currently in, in a literalisation of repression. As a result of this repression, carried out as a short-term coping strategy while she inhabits limbo-space, she loses her bearings as to which side is authentic, and becomes convinced once awake that that space is the dream, limbo is reality.

‘Individuals are dealt with only in so far as they are the personifications of economic categories, embodiments of particular class-relations and class-interests. My standpoint, from which the evolution of the economic formation of society is viewed as a process of natural history, can less than any other make the individual responsible for relations whose creature he socially remains, however much he may subjectively raise himself above them.’

-Marx, Capital

In limbo-space, Cobb and Mol are subjective Gods; they can build any scene that they like and shift to another at a time of their choosing, but this does not grant the happiness it would seem to promise. ‘It wasn’t so bad at first, feeling like Gods. The problem was we knew none of it was real.’ Given that Mol comes to confuse the two worlds, this explanation of Cobb’s is inadequate. The essential character which differentiates the two worlds is subjectivity: limbo-space lacks the operation of subjective power within it. They can create people if they want, but these are merely ciphers, projections from their own mind which exhibit no life of their own. Tellingly, Cobb and Mol don’t create any other people to inhabit their world, not even their children. This flies in the face of sentimentality.

Freud’s quote here confronts the next stage of subsumption to technology: the organs have grown onto them. But this presents Freud’s as an immanent critique of humanity’s striving to become Gods, as well as Film’s inability to depict the unconscious. It’s worth mentioning here that the visual technology of Inception is utterly stunning: the special effects open the opportunity for an entirely new depiction of the subconscious hitherto unimaginable.

Where the film fails to really create an uncanny image to be held up against the unconscious that really strikes has been held up its weakness, and certainly Nolan seems to be missing the point when he says that he wanted to do away with the surreal, (‘The unconscious without the surreal’ as Mark Fisher put it) so that its depiction of dream states was more immersive, more ‘real’. But it’s no coincidence that film’s combination of narrative and visual has never really been able to present such an uncanny reflection as successfully as these two components alone have: visual (Dali) and narrative (Joyce). The combination presents too much at one time, for something to qualify as Uncanny it must leave something out or distort the original. A Dopperganger is never an exact copy, a mirror image is not a duplication but a reversion. Where films have been more successful than Inception here have been when they obstruct narrative, leave things out.

Inception’s limbo-space love affair between Cobb and Mol presents an exploration of the point where two distinct but related ideological figures, the cyberspace consumer and soul-mates meet. TV on demand, a saturated market of culture available at the click of a button and short waits on downloads, cyberspace eyes seeing vastly more than pre-modern eyes could ever imagine. A person in the world for everyone, who will complete the other and bring heavenly contentment on earth.

This is the goal we have been set in our age, the thing we’re all supposed to want. And yet Cobb rejects it, despite being more or less immortal/omnipotent and with his ‘soul mate’ in limbo-space. He rejects it for the actual world in which dynamic subjectivities of people, that is the social character of life, interplays.


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