jungian archetypes in INCEPTION

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jungian archetypes in INCEPTION

Post  catherineleggett on Thu Jan 27, 2011 12:04 pm

Inception is a movie that questions how we view reality. Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, it stars Leonardo DiCaprio as "Cobb" - a very desperate man with a very interesting job description. Cobb works as an "extractor", meaning someone who enters peoples' dreams and steals private information about them while their guards are down. He works in Europe, due to the fact that he is wanted by the police in America for his wife's murder. So with his wife dead, and his children back in America, Cobb leads a very lonely existance. because of this, when a powerful energy corporation CEO (Ken Watanabe) offers Cobb a chance to get back to his kids in America, Cobb decides that he will do whatever it takes. Saito, the CEO, asks Cobb and his team to perform "inception", which is planting a completely original idea deep in someone's brain, so that it will take root and grow, eventually changing the person's behavior. Cobb assembles his team, including his sidekick Arthur (Joseph Gordon Levitt), and a dream archetect named Ariadne (Ellen Page), and they get to work. But to make the situation even more complicated, Cobb's dead wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) keeps appearing in his dreams and screwing everything up. It seems that Cobb's mind might be too messed up for the mission to succeed.
Evidently, the symbolic archetype of dreams versus reality is constantly present in this film. A lot of the time when a new scene begins, it is not immediately obvious to the audience whether or not it is taking place in a dream, or in reality. For instance, in a scene near the beginning of the film, we see Cobb, Arthur, and Saito waking up. We assume that they are now present in reality, but it turns out that they awoke from a dream within a dream, and are therefore still dreaming. It is interesting to think about how where the scene takes place affects the significance or it, or whether it does at all. Also, the dreams in the movie are filled with the dreamers' projections, which reprisent how the dreamers view themselves and the people around them. The difference between real people and the dreamers' projections of those people also fits uner the dreams versus reality archetype. As Cobb says during the film, projections are only "shades" of the people that they reprisent. Since we create them in our minds, they can only act in the way that we classify them and expect them to behave, instead of with all the complexities and nuances of real human beings.
A situational archetype present in Inception is "the task". in the film, Cobb has to perform a "nearly superhuman deed" of inception. He needs to succeed in order to get back to his children in America. This situation fits under the task archetype because the mission of inception that Cobb has to complete is not his primary goal. It is just something that he needs to succeed at in order to achieve his ultimate goal of getting back to his children. He only wants to complete the mission not because of the mission itself, but because he wants to make his life better.
As a character, Cobb seems to be classified as the outcast archetype. He fits into it almost perfectly, starting with the fact that he is a wanted criminal in the United States. His crime was only imagined, since he didn't actually murder his wife Mal, but it still causes society to shun him and view him as a criminal. Also, he is constantly wandering from place to place, because he is frequently being chased by various groups of people. And his guilt about what happened to Mal contributes to his status as an outcast, because it constantly traps him and prevents him from forming close bonds with other human beings.
Aside from examining the line between dreams and reality, Inception also seemed to focus on the effect that our shadows have on us. In the film, Mal functions as Cobb's shadow, and she is always appearing in his dreams. In his dreams, Cobb keeps his projection of her in a prison, because he is unable to let go of his guilt about her. he tries to keep his shadow locked up inside himself, and we see that this has many consiquences. Only when he starts to let go of his guilt about Mal, with the help of Ariadne, can he start to become a fully functional person again. His guilt about Mal keeps him so removed from the world that it seemed as if all of his experiences were dreams and not quite reality. As previously stated, it was hard to tell where one ended and the other began. How do we know then? I guess that's the whole point of the film. The ending leaves the audience with many more questions then answers. If you like movies that make you think, then I would recommend this one.

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Re: jungian archetypes in INCEPTION

Post  EmmaMcKinney on Fri Jan 28, 2011 12:10 pm

Another character archetype that I would like to add would be the temptress. Although his wife only exists in his dreams, throughout the whole film she is trying to get Leonardo DiCaprio to stay with her in his dreams. She is also extremely beautiful (Marion Cotillard) and he still loves her very much, which makes it very hard for him to make his final decision whether to stay in the real world, or in the dream world. During the climax of the film, there is a scene where she is trying to persuade him to stay with her, and she comes very close to fully persuading him. Even throughout the film, the reason why he would keep on mysteriously returning to his dream world was because of his wife, who would constantly lure him back to her into his dream.

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Re: jungian archetypes in INCEPTION

Post  JulianDW on Fri Jan 28, 2011 11:35 pm

I'd like to add a situational archetype of Death & Rebirth. While many characters within the film go through a climax point of becoming in which they acquire something new, Cobb and Robert Fischer are both 'born again' because of the events involved in inception. (Cillian Murphy) Robert Fischer is reborn when he finally communes with his father in the Alps (winter being associated with death and old age). The moment his father admits to him that he was disappointed that he tried to be exactly like his father was the climax in which Robert becomes born again as the inception settles in. Cobb's moment of rebirth is when he finally lets Mal pass on and stop wracking his life with guilt. From there onwards he acts as a man renewed, finally getting to see his children once again.
Great analysis by the way Smile

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more character archetypes

Post  helene.hbd on Sat Jan 29, 2011 11:37 am

Another character archetype that Mal could fit into would be the Trickster. Like you mentioned in your review, she is constantly interferring with Cobb's task. She follows him wherever he goes, bringing chaos with her. And since she is also his Shadow, she knows what he knows. This means that he can never design a dream or even know how it's designed.
I also think that Adriane could relate to the Earth Mother archetype because she helps Cobb deal with his Shadow and gives him emotional support. Physically, she represents fertility because of her marital status (single), youth, and health.

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The Journey

Post  janealicek on Sat Jan 29, 2011 2:53 pm

A situational archetype which could also be applied to the film is The Journey. In the Journey the hero descends to some real or psychological hell and is forced to discover personal truths. The dream could be classed as either a real or psychological hell because although it feels like reality it is all in their imagination. Dom descends to this hell like state when he continually sees his dead wife in the dream. He is forced to discover the personal truth that he feels responsible for his wife's suicide. At the end of the journey the hero must accept his personal responsibility and return to the real world. This is seen when Dom confronts his guilt but leaves his wife behind to re-enter reality because he knows he must care for his children.

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Re: jungian archetypes in INCEPTION

Post  martynmd on Sat Jan 29, 2011 4:12 pm

I feel that this may be bit obvious, or that it may be too broad, but the archetype of the magic weapon is obvious in Inception. It isn't so much a matter of an individual, but the totems are magic weapons that can save your mind from eternal dreaming. The totems are characterized easily as magic weapons because only the person who knows their totem, the person who creates their totem, can wield it. Since in the dream state your mind defines your body, and the further into slumber you go with stronger sedation, the harder it is to wake up, the knowledge of your own condition becomes exponentially more valuable and as such the importance of your totem increases.

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Inception Response-Elycia SFA

Post  ElyciaSFA on Sat Jan 29, 2011 6:08 pm

The only thing I would add is another Character Archetype for Cobb and Mal. They are Star-Crossed Lovers. They are deeply in love, and they create their own dream space that they stay in for so long that Mal believes that the dream world is real and the real world is a dream. This is how their love is fated to end, for Mal specifically because in an attempt to get back to the world that she thinks is real, she kills herself but not before making it seem like Cobb killed her. This leads to him being forced to leave the U.S. due to the dissaproval of the society, friends and family because everyone thinks that he killed her.
Other than that I think you did a great job on your analysis.


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Response to Inception Analysis

Post  nickyewener on Sun Jan 30, 2011 1:06 pm

Inception is a great choice for an analysis, and I agree with your take on the film. I would like to add (if someone else already hasn’t) that Mal’s presence is an Unhealable Wound for Cobb. This wound is psychological, and it torments Cobb throughout the movie. Obviously Mal isn’t real, she is simply a projection of the guilt Cobb feels over her death. This wound is spreading poison throughout all other aspects of his life because it interferes with his Task, which is completing the inception and getting home.
-Nicky

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Inception's second Scapegoat

Post  andrekg on Wed Feb 02, 2011 8:22 pm

Among the many Jungian archetypes one can find in Inception, I found "The Initiation". This archetype occurs when Ariadne becomes the team's architect. She first must complete the task of drawing a difficult maze within two minutes and then is taken to the dream world for more formal training. This ultimately initiates her into the group and also symbolizes her moving into adulthood. She moves from becoming a student, which is often associated with being in between adulthood and childhood because she is still learning, to an adult, with a carrier which allows her to grow closer to mastering her art.

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Feedback

Post  Mr. C on Sun Feb 06, 2011 11:14 am

Wow - popular film! (Am I the only one who hasn't seen it?)

Catherine - great analysis. I especially liked your assessment of dream vs. reality. Clearly this is an example of a film that is written entirely around this concept.

And for everyone who contributed - your additions all added more depth to the analysis. Thank you.
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