Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Mind

Inception: Rarely Is Getting Your Mind So Messed With So Fun

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

inception-poster-202x300.jpg

You’ve been running for hours, chased by a crazed grizzly bear. Suddenly you lose your footing, and you’re balancing on the edge of a cliff. Your stomach lurches as gravity pulls you down. Instantly you’re jolted awake and find yourself teetering precariously over the edge of your bed in your New York apartment. You’ve been asleep for just 5 minutes. Like me (or whoever I stole that bizarre-o dream about the crazed grizzly from), everyone has dreams that strangely intertwine with reality. That’s what makes Chris Nolan’s newest thriller, Inception, so fun to watch. It plays with ideas we’ve all experienced—how dreams can reveal our most guarded memories, feel like days when only hours have passed, or affect our emotions when we wake up. Inception’s Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, a man trained in the art of stealing personal info using a process called dream sharing. He builds the world of a dream, brings his subject into that world, and guides events so he can extract needed information, or plant a life-altering idea. Cobb is charged with creating a dream to convince Robert Fischer, the son of a multi-billionaire businessman, to use his inheritance to build his own company. To do this, Cobb and his crew induce an incredibly deep sleep, and enter a dream, within a dream, within a dream, and at one point (I think) within another dream. Sure, busting into dreams and planting very specific ideas in someone’s mind is pretty far removed from even the most leading-edge brain science, but Nolan got the basic idea right: Neuroscientists say sleep plays an important role in memory consolidation. While we’re sleeping (or perhaps dreaming), our long-term memories stabilize deep in our hippocampuses. If someone were to plant a memory in a dream, who knows how long it would persist. As the plot develops, the dreams are so realistic that it becomes challenging for the characters—and audience—to distinguish the dream state from reality. But that’s all part of the game, drawing us in as we attempt to sift fact from fiction. The film’s cinematographer, Wally Pfister, told me that in his earliest conversations about the film with Nolan, the director said “Remember, this is a dream world. When you’re in a dream, it feels real and you want to believe it’s real." This warped reality triggers some moments of confusion (as you try to keep track of which dreamscape you’re in, and how actions in one realm affect the others) but by the end my brain had adjusted to the scheme. I emerged from the theater into a chatty crowd—some firing questions excitedly at their neighbors or calling friends to announce how confused they were, while others praised the film’s brilliance. Fans and critics alike, everyone was talking. —DISCOVER reporter/researcher Amy BarthYZPKT7YEG2K9

    2 Free Articles Left

    Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

    Want unlimited access?

    Subscribe today and save 70%

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In