Freud's Theories Applied in Inception

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In every great piece of art there is usually an inspiration of some sort that gave the artist influence on their production. In contemporary society, we often see modern artists use influences from past theories, ideas, designs, etc. Inception, the 2010 sci-fi action film, is a movie about illegal spying by entering the minds of certain individuals by sharing dreams. Dom Cobb and his partner, Arthur, use this tactic to extract or plant desired information from or into their unconscious. Mr. Saito, an exceedingly wealthy business owner, asks Cobb and Arthur to perform “Inception” (imbedding an idea inside a person’s mind without them recognizing) on his only remaining business competitor, Maurice Fischer. Saito wants Cobb to implant the idea of breaking up his father’s empire into Fischer’s mind, so that Saito will have complete domination in his business domain. Christopher Nolan, director of Inception, uses Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis to help originate this movie. Although at times the concepts are a little farfetched, Freud’s theories of defense mechanisms as well as his concept of dreams are both applied in this film.

The term psychoanalysis is used to discuss to the numerous parts of Freud’s work and studies. Freud believed the mind is divided into two main parts, the conscious and unconscious mind. “The Unconscious mind is a reservoir of feelings, thoughts, urges, and memories that outside of our conscious awareness. Most of the contents of the unconscious are unacceptable or unpleasant, such as feelings of pain, anxiety, or conflict. According to Freud, the unconscious continues to influence our behavior and experience, even though we are unaware of these underlying influences” (Cherry, 1). This part of the mind is primarily what the movie Inception deals with throughout the entire film. It is Cobb and Arthur’s job to instill this idea of breaking up his father’s empire into Fischer’s unconscious, so that he takes that thought and brings it to his conscious. By going into his dreams, Cobb as well as the rest of his team, can access Fischer’s true thoughts, feelings, fears, desires, etc. “The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind”(Freud). Freud believed that there were two functions of the dream; wish fulfillment and to protect the dreamer’s sleep from disruptions in the sleep environment. Regarding wish fulfillment, “the dream images represent the unconscious wishes or thoughts disguised through symbolization and other distorting mechanisms” (Doyle, 1). When observing Inception, it is obvious that it deals greatly with this theory. Dreams not only represent wishes, but they demonstrate one’s inner anxieties and fears as well. When Cobb dreams, he usually sees his wife, mal, who causes him severe fretfulness and other reoccurring problems. She has a tendency to come into the dreams at the very worst times, causing him to lose sight on his overall goal of entering the dream. However, Mal is just a projection of his own unconscious, as she committed suicide years before. Cobb feels extremely guilty for her suicide because he feels as though it is his fault she lost track of what was reality. In addition to Mal, Cobb also perceives projections of his children. It is obvious that Cobb feels remorseful for his actions of leaving his children behind. Not only is he filled with guilt, but he wishes greatly that he could be with his family once again. Through these symbolizations, we can see Cobb’s inner thoughts of his true conscious. In consequence, this represents Freud’s theory of wish fulfillment. Because of this guilt, Cobb’s unconscious is bringing difficulties, complexities, and unease into his conscious sanity. The second function of the dream, according to Freud, is to protect the dreamer’s sleep from disruptions in the sleep environment. It is obvious to see this attribute operating in the movie Inception. While Cobb and his team go...
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