Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Layers: Inception

I've seen Christopher Nolan's Inception twice now. How rare and wonderful a thing nowadays is a movie you can't completely understand on the first viewing.

By the way, I've been very careful, and there are no spoilers ahead.

After seeing it the first time, I was left with a couple of reservations about the film. The plot itself isn't particularly convoluted, but there was something vaguely unsatisfying that I couldn't put my finger on. Yes the music isn't quite right and I could edit out five to ten minutes of pointless gun-fighting scenes (this film actually would have been better with a smaller budget), but that wasn't it.

I couldn't get the film out of my head for a week and a half, so with a few theories in mind, I saw it once more to sort it out. As I watched again, I realized that what I was confirming wasn't the basics of the plot — as I said, it's reasonably straightforward — but the presence of another layer cleverly built in.

Layers are, for me, the most satisfying thing in art. It's why I'm less intrigued by painting and sculpture than by literature, music, and film. In Bach, Brahms, Adams, or Schwartz, in Dickens, McEwan, Kaufman, and Hitchcock, layers mean all sorts of different things, but always enrich the end product.

Someone could watch it once and understand (most of) the plot and have an enjoyable ride, but I would argue there's a deeper level to the film that only rewards those who do a little digging.

That — cinematic Bach in the age of one-layer pop tunes — is truly satisfying.

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