10 years of Inception, a film that taught me to look beyond entertainment

10 years after release, there is little to say about Inception which hasn’t already been said. Let me elucidate what the film meant to me.

Inception, to my 13-year-old self, was a revelation. It changed the way I looked at cinema forever.

As a South-Indian boy who grew up feeding on popular regional cinema, bollywood, Star Movies, and DVDs of Hollywood action blockbusters, the purpose of films was solely confined to escapism. Although it sounds extremely dumb now, to me 10 years ago, movies meant only entertainment, a word that’s highly misunderstood in India. We mistake enjoyment for entertainment. Little did I know that getting sucked into a vortex of emotions is equally entertaining. In that sense, Inception was emancipation from pre-existing notions pertaining to movies. Cinematically putting it, the film held me with a hand, walking me to a door that had ‘look beyond entertainment’ written on it, while pushing my ignorance off the cliff with the other. 

It was also the time I discovered something called editing, an often unobserved facet of film-viewing. Unlike cinematography and music where colors are evident and beats reverb in ears, editing goes unseen, when done masterfully. Its noticeability is inversely proportional to the quality, making it the most arduous and tricky craft to judge. The marriage of editing and screenplay in Inception made me wonder if it was written that way, or was it mold on the editing table, especially in the last act, where the placement of shots preceding and succeeding each other are of utmost significance.

Every cut and shot selection makes a difference, leveraging which editor Lee Smith and writer/director Christopher Nolan, meticulously shape into a compelling drama. That was unlike anything I’d seen before. It was no more about making me go WOW with the visual effects or action set pieces, but what mattered was the emotional resonance while watching those unfold. 

Beneath all the layers of dreams and exotic locations, it is a human drama about a father, whose biggest adversary is his guilt that he has to overcome in order to get to his children. It’s about a son groping with inferiority, finding his foothold. Amidst the incredible action pieces going hand-in+hand with what could be one of the greatest soundtracks ever put together, there is a film suffused with brilliant ideas, accomplishing every one of them.

I think we take this for granted, but cinema, as an art form is still in its adolescence banking heavily on literature (and comic books), and is on the verge of falling prey to capitalism on the basis of ‘demand & supply’ theory, it’s films like Inception which keep both cinema and magic of cinema alive.

Further reading:

A piece on Udaan, which released on the same day as Inception.

Time by Hans Zimmer:

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