Before I get to that film, I want to write about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Regular readers should be well aware of my addiction to that program by now, so really, of course I’ll find a way to bring it up as often as possible.
Season six is not everyone’s favourite. It’s dark, gritty, all kinds of bad shit is going on with the characters and it just has a weird feeling all around. What it also has, though, is one of the finest and saddest story lines I’ve ever come across and I applaud Joss Whedon and company for setting it up as well as they did.
It has to do with Willow and Tara. By this point in the show, Willow has become quite adept at magic but uses it far more than she ought to be. Giles has missed a whole lot of signs that she’s heading for trouble because he’s had Buffy’s problems on his mind through the whole run of the show. Tara is a witch of comparable strength and she’s more than alarmed by the lackadaisical approach to spell casting that Willow embraces and fights with her about it. A lot. The trouble is, Willow has never dealt with relationship issues very well and in order to keep Tara happy with her, Willow resorts to laying a forgetfulness flower under Tara’s pillow every time she and Tara scrap so that when Tara wakes up the next day, she’s forgotten all about the fight and will be cheery around Willow once more.
Things happen to blow this all to hell eventually, but bottom line is – one of the worst things you can do to a person is manipulate their view of the world to suit your desire. Willow wanted an anger-free girlfriend; Saito wanted a rival businessman to dissolve his father’s empire so he’d be ripe for a takeover.
Inception takes place in a future version of the world where the military has created a method by which people can share dreams and interact on multiple levels of them. This technology has grown beyond military use by the film’s start, of course, and teams all over the world, like DiCaprio’s Cobb character, run jobs where the whole illegal point is to extract secretive information from people’s dreams and get paid for it. He demonstrates this technique for Saito who, in turn, asks if Cobb and his team would be capable of planting an idea instead of taking one out. Cobb reluctantly agrees that it’s possible to do, but it’s very dangerous. Saito offers Cobb the chance to return to his old life and his young children should the inception succeed and Cobb, who wants that more than anything, has no choice but to agree to set up a team to do it.
The trouble for Cobb is that he’s still carrying a whole shitload of guilt over what happened to his wife and she haunts every dream world his architect creates, which distracts him, and makes it harder to get the actual job done. The architect is the only one who truly understands the problem, as she’s the only one he feels he can confide in after she breaks into one of his dreams to see what he does in there all the time. She’s curious and, rather than be mad at her, he confesses what he did. He’d gotten trapped in a dream world limbo with his wife for decades (by dream time count, not real life) and, in order to get her back to the real world, he resorted to planting an idea in her mind – that the world she was in was a lie, and death was the only way out of it. It worked, but it worked so damn well that she thought real life was a lie, too. And the film ends in a way that makes you wonder a little if she was actually right, if Cobb and company really are in a dream still and she’s out there with their real children waiting for him.
Again, the very idea of diving into someone’s head to fuck around with them…what a horrible idea. I hope the audience caught onto the real tragedy of this film – that a technology of this sort could someday exist, and that people would be willing to do anything with it, no matter how devastating.