Saturday, August 28, 2010

Inception: A Few Things I Learned...

Usually it takes at least a decade or two for a film to be remade and adapted in light of technological and cinematographic developments.  This was not the case with Inception.  While I agree with most reviews that it was a good, if not great, film, it was far from innovative.  I actually found the film somewhat predictable and way too closely related to the Matrix trilogy.  Nonetheless, there is much that can be learned from in this highly successful film:

Cultural Longings for an Escape from Reality: As with Avatar, this film taps into the cultural obsession with creating fictitious worlds to escape the pressures, disappointments, failures, and tragedies of this world.  This is nowhere more evident than in Dom Cobb's inability to let go of the death of his wife and to confine particular memories of her, even his subconscious image of her, to the lowest level of his dream world.  However, it is even more diagnostic of this cultural condition when we discover how Mal (Dom's desceased wife) died in the first place. Spoiler Alert:  It is unveiled that Mal was Dom Cobb's first experimentation of this "Inception."  They eventually utilize this as a form of therapy to escape the "real world" and grow old together in their highly developed subconscious dream world.  Eventually Mal is unable to decipher the real from the dream world and takes her life, thinking that she will then be woken up from what she believes to be a dream, in effort to return to her children.  Dom Cobb would forever be plagued with guilt and accustations of homicide, which eventually affects the team of agents' ability to carry out their mission later in the film.  In essence, we are reminded that running from and crafting cheap imitations of reality as a form of escape eventually catches up with us and may have ruining effects later in life.  I am sure more could be said....

Cooption of the Mind and the Inception of the Memory: I find this particulalrly interesting, especially in light of the political battles that continue to rage on, as each side calls the other to remember who we are as a nation, a people, and even a faith tradition. [1]  Yet all our memories that lead to these challenges are surely contextual and adapted to fit our particular political, corporate, religious, etc. agendas.  To be honest, nowhere is this more evident than in the church.  Our definitions of the gospel, ecclessial agendas and missions, and political ethics as both individuals and faith communities often have been intercepted by the agents of media, celebrities, advertising companies, and Western ideals and made it difficult to decipher what is gospel and what is some sort of co-opted tradition held captive by particular sectors of the political and corporate world.  In this light, the church is desperately in need of a fresh "kick" to bring us back to reality and live into the prophetic and revolutionary message of Jesus that is to and for the world, especially the poor.

The Power of a Seed (mis)Planted: One of the greatest lines in the whole film comes from Dom Cob when he says, "The seed we plant in this man's mind will come to define him.  It will become his reality and change everything." As with the commentary above, this line reminds us that there is so much power in words, illustrations, and particular experiences.  Similar to the Butterfly Effect, we are reminded that certain things, even if they appear random or non-consequential, can have a greater lasting impact than we may ever have realized or been prepared for.  As a youth pastor, church leader, teacher, preacher, etc. I was reminded yet again of the power behind what I say and do that may (or may not) have impact either for the positive or negative.  In other words, I was not aware that Inception would "kick" my vocational conscience. However, I do believe that the above quotation serves as yet another prophetic attestation to the manipulation and subliminal attempts of culture to coopt the imagination, define our ideals and ethics, and become the reality in which we choose to live... May our eyes and ears be open and able to discern the voice of the Spirit from the voices of evil that so often are masked as preffered and prosperous reality.

[1] I was entertained to learn that one prominent (better said, infamous) political leader chose Saturday, August 28, 2010, as the date for his speech, "I Have a Plan." This Saturday marks the 47th anniversay of Dr. King's, "I Have a Dream" speech that surely spoke for social and racial justice, reconciliation, and a concern for issues that affect the weak and wounded of this world.  Although the ads for this "new" speech call us to "remember" Dr. King (along with a long list of other prominent figures), no two speeches, no two people, no two movements could be more different than each other.  This is yet another example of co-opted memory and the inception of political and religious ideals. Just a thought :)