‘Inception’ takes a new look at the concept of dreams
October 6, 2010 • Krystyna Keena, Features Writer
Filed under Features
Inception woke viewers up and got them thinking about dreams this summer. While many viewers enjoyed the movie, the question remains whether or not the dreams of Inception were a possible reality.
Psychology teachers George McNalis and Bob Knuth both saw Inception. While they enjoyed the movie, Inception did not quite get all the facts about dreams right, they said.
“One glaring deficiency is that dreams happen in fast-forward,” McNalis said. “There really isn’t research that says dreams happen in fast-forward or in a split second or anything like that.”
These dreams seen in Inception lasted much longer than the dreamer was actually asleep for, so five minutes asleep gave the characters an hour in the dream. However, Brian Richardson, local psychologist, agreed with McNalis’s assessment and said the opposite may actually be true.
“Dreams are a lot like trance, like hypnosis. When you put someone in trance, and maybe they’re in trance for half an hour, and you take them out of trance and ask them, ‘How much time do you think went by?’ usually they’ll say, ‘Oh I don’t know, about five minutes,’” Richardson said. “Usually they have no idea the length of time they were in trance, so there is what they call a time dilation effect of trance, and it may be true in dreams as well.”
According to Knuth, dreaming in fast-forward was not the only thing Inception got wrong. Knuth was also able to point out several parts of the dreams in Inception that are not necessarily true.
“In the movie, the dreams that I remember seeing were all plots, and that’s not how a lot of dreams are for a lot of people. Also, not everybody dreams in color, some people dream in black and white, it’s about 50-50,” Knuth said. “I try not to think about that stuff [so I can] enjoy the movie.”
While the lack of real facts in Inception may at first seem like laziness on the writers’ part, the interpretation of dreams in the movie is actually similar to one of many dream theories, McNalis said.
“One of the theories of dreams is that really it’s your mind kind of teasing through the information that you’ve gone through that day, and I would say if anything, [the movie is] closest to that, where it’s actually taking a look at real information,” McNalis said.
Expanding on the theories about dreams, perhaps the most well-known one is the Freudian theory, which is the idea that dreams represent something from the waking state. Richardson was able to elaborate on Freud’s theory.
“Freud’s theory of dream interpretation was that there’s a part of the mind that hides the true meaning of the dream from the dreamer in order for the dreamer to stay asleep, and that if the dream, which might be upsetting, was immediately apparent to the dreamer, they’d wake up,” Richardson said. “The purpose of the dream symbolism is that it’s all designed to keep the dreamer asleep so they can have a good night’s sleep.”
Knuth also described one other theory which states dreams are just the result of random neuron firings inside the brain, similar to having a “big massive nighttime brain-fart that goes off at once,” he said. While some of these ideas may seem scientifically true, the trouble with these theories, according to McNalis, is they are just that: theories.
“Dream theories are all theories, you really can’t make a law out of any dream theory,” McNalis said. “As far as research goes, there’s all sorts of research because everyone has all these different theories, and some are more justified, some make more sense than others.”
Of course, these theories would not have gotten anywhere if there hadn’t been an interest in dreams. This interest is not only shared by scientists and psychologists, but by students as well.
Junior Lissa Mandel, who took the psychology course last year and completed a project on dreams, has had a growing interest in dreams over the past two years, and greatly enjoyed Inception because of her interest in the subject of dreams.
“In dreams you can do lots of things you can’t do in real life; you can fly, you can talk to your subconscious, you can build really cool things, you can go swimming without any snorkel or anything, because you’re not going to have to breathe in a dream,” Mandel said. “Pretty much, it’s about achieving the impossible.”
Mandel was not the only one who saw the movie out of an interest in dreams. Junior Brent Skupien, who is taking the psychology course this year, also found both the topic and the director’s take on dreams appealing.
“The people who made it explored a new topic, they did their own twist on [dreams],” Skupien said. “[Inception] kept you thinking the whole time until the very end.”
Skupien is not alone in his interest in dreams. He shares this curiosity with Mandel, the psychology teachers, and the students in psychology classes, according to McNalis, who said that his students “really love [the dream] unit.” But why are so many people interested in what happens after they close their eyes?
“Dreaming is just one of those really interesting, almost intangible parts of life. They’re just inherently neat, they’re inherently kind of cool,” McNalis said. “Everyone does dream, not everyone remembers their dreams as much, but everyone does dream. It’s something I think that everyone can relate to.”