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Nolan on his thoughts on filmdirection Inception

Nolan on thoughts behind film inception- article is from a filmmaking blog

Wired: A common observation about your movie is that the grammar of dreams and the grammar of filmmaking have lots of overlap—Inception seems to be a movie about making movies. Saito is a producer, Cobb’s a director, Ariadne’s a writer, and so on. Was that your intention

Nolan: I didn’t intend to make a film about filmmaking, but it’s clear that I gravitated toward the creative process that I know. The way the team works is very analogous to the way the film itself was made. I can’t say that was intentional, but it’s very clearly there. I think that’s just the result of me trying to be very tactile and sincere in my portrayal of that creative process.

Wired: One of the rules in Inception is that, in a dream, you never know how you got somewhere. But in filmmaking, by necessity, you cut from one place to another—for example, from Paris to Mombasa. Does it indicate that Cobb is in a dream because you don’t see how he got to Mombasa?

Nolan: Certainly Inception plays with the relationship between films and dreaming in a number of different ways. I tried to highlight certain aspects of dreaming that I find to be true, such as not remembering the beginning of a dream. And that is very much like the way films tell their stories. But I wouldn’t say I specifically used the grammar of the film to tell the audience what is dream and what is reality.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt on the set of Inception. Photo by Stephen Vaughan, via Wired

Wired: As a filmmaker, are you broadly trying to “incept” your audience? Are you trying help them find some form of catharsis through your work?

Nolan: Well, I think that there’s a fairly strong relationship in a lot of ways between what the team is trying to provide for their subject, Fischer, and what we’re trying to do as filmmakers. For me, a key thing is what Cobb says about how positive emotion trumps negative emotion every time. I think that’s very true. I also think it’s noteworthy how the team must use symbols to construct an emotional narrative for Fischer.

This is extremely similar to the way a filmmaker uses symbols to give an idea to an audience. The use of the pinwheel, for example, in Fischer’s emotional story. It’s a very cinematic device. A lot of people have related that toCitizen Kane. And that is exactly the point—it’s Rosebud, a visual symbol that sticks in your head from earlier in the story and then can take on new meaning later on. Inception definitely seems to be a film about itself, the more I talk about it. [Laughs.]

Wired: In the movie you have five levels of reality, at least four of which are moving at different speeds through time, and you managed to pull off the distinctions among them using only color palettes. How afraid were you that you were going to lose people?

Nolan: I was concerned, but I was invigorated by the challenge. And the crosscutting at the end of the film and the interrelationships between the levels were the jumping-off point for the whole project. That was what I first conceived of, and for 10 years I was trying to figure out how to get to that point at the end of the film. One of the things that gave me that confidence was that the last 20 minutes of The Dark Knight are based on very similar principles of crosscutting, parallel action. So we went into the climactic action of the film knowing the things you need to know to distinguish environments.

One of the limitations we put on ourselves—Wally Pfister, my director of photography, and myself—is that we didn’t want to do any post-processing on the image. We wanted to have the distinctions there in the design and the feel, so I wrote it into the script. It’s raining in level one, it’s a night-interior in level two, and it’s an exterior with snow in level three. Even if you’re cutting to a close-up of Yusuf in the van in level one, you know where you are because the rain is there.

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