In nine days Inception arrives, redeeming this shitty summer at the movies. For the next two weeks I’ll be running sporadic feature articles counting down to this occasion; some will be directly related to Inception while some will be conceptually related. I’ll try to remain as spoiler-free as possible. And I’m not trying to make the two week wait unbearable… but that could be one side effect of this series.
9 Days to Inception: Ten Years in the Making
What’s the incubation time of an original idea? For Christopher Nolan’s Inception it’s been much of his life. ‘I’ve been fascinated by dreams my whole life, since I was a kid, and I think the relationship between movies and dreams is something that’s always interested me, and I liked the idea of trying to portray dreams on film,’ he said at the Los Angeles press day for the film. ‘I’d been working on the script for some time, really about ten years in the form that you’ve seen it in, with this idea of this kind of heist structure.‘
Inception could be a leading example of why it’s sometimes better to make a creative person sit on an idea for some time. Nolan first came to the studio with Inception around the time of Insomnia, but conditions weren’t right. We should be glad. Nolan has been accused of being a cold filmmaker, of valuing the technical over the emotional, and his original vision for Inception would have fit right into that. ‘The pitch was very much the movie you see,’ he explained. ‘Although I hadn’t figured out the emotional core of the story – and that took me a long time to do. I think I sort of grew into the film in a sense. I had the heist theme, I had the relationship between architecture and dreams, the idea that you would use an architect to design a dream for somebody else and all of that. All of those things were in place for several years, but it took me a long time to sort of find this idea of emotionally connecting with the story. Because when I look at heist movies, and I wanted it to feel like a heist movie, they tend to be almost deliberately superficial; they tend not to have high emotional stakes, so what I realized over the years and the thing I got stuck on was that doesn’t work when you’re talking about dreams, because the whole thing about the human mind and dreams is that it has to have emotional consequences and resonances. And so that was really my process over the years, finding my relationship with the love story, the tragedy of it with the emotional side.’
That’s an interesting admission to make, as without the emotional side there is no movie. To me Nolan enters another level of filmmaking because of the emotion he’s able to get into Inception; this isn’t just a movie with a neat gimmick but it’s a movie where the neat gimmick enables the director to really get into character and to say something about how we deal with feelings that simply can’t be dealt with.