Ventriloquists 2021 / 07-Pictograms analyzing Nolan’s INCEPTION 腹語系之七:圖解《潛行凶間》

Ventriloquists 2021 / 07-Pictograms analyzing Nolan’s INCEPTION 腹語系之七:圖解《潛行凶間》

The Ventriloquists 2021 腹語系2

發表於: 12 Sep 2021

Why are these young artists drawn to Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010)? Must dreamwork be understood as the manifestation of our unconscious in the Freudian sense? The dream narrative in Nolan’s work suggest technology’s possible to insert a mechanism that narrativize the present, pockets of past memories and emotive response to remembering… Here are some pictograms tapping into these thoughts. 電影《潛行凶間》吸引了不少年青創作人的好奇。夢敘事不再是佛洛伊德下意識世界的活動的敘事化表現,而是科技的植插,把個人記憶、現實、情緒變動化成一種監控和介入。這裡是幾個重構這個反前向線性的電影敘事體的創作分析圖。

**feature image: Celine Woen’s pictogram on Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010)

For the final task of the course “Narrative Strategies and Aesthetics of Time-based Media,” students had to choose from a wide range of possible projects to complete. One of those tasks was to create an advanced pictogram that shows a film or an aspect of its narrative that is not obvious from watching the film, or a perspective other than the viewer’s point of view. Although students were allowed to choose from a range of different films, of varying genres and eras of productions, a surprisingly large number of students have decided to study Christopher Nolan’s Inception.

Within the context of the course, Inception is a very interesting work as it best qualifies for a contemporary re-invention of the dream narrative. With its events told in a non-linear way, the film shifts our focus to the multi-levelness of the plot. And this is something that all pictogram makers featured in this post have noticed and express in their interpretation — they all refer to the separate dream levels blended into reality (the present moments in the film where actual events take place when characters are awake) and the so-called limbo, a shared collective subconscious.

Kimberly and Wing-hei’s pictograms, in particular, highlight the multi-dimensional rigor of the plotlines and especially its impact on the ending. Both portray the film’s maze-like character, but their interpretation differs in terms of how they structure order and chaos in the profilmic events, each with its emphasis.

Interestingly, Celine deviates from the Penrose Stair metaphor used in Kimberly and Wing-hei’s pictograms. She would rather show a bird’s eye view perspective, placing the limbo, supposedly the lowest level, on the top. This works as a practical way to restructure the multi-stringed narrative, giving an overview of the key characters at any moment in the film.

— Thore Flynn Hadre


Pictograms Analysing Inception: works in this post:

Dream of Dreams’ & ‘Dazed Maze’ – Kimberly Punurma
Genesis of Dreams — Celine Woen
Subconscious Safe — OU Wing-hei


Dream of Dreams’ & ‘Dazed Maze’ — Kimberly Punurma

See feature on Punurma’s work in Post 4 [link…]

Interactive Pictogram | Acrylic Box | 306 x 306 mm | based on Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010)


Genesis of Dreams — Celine Woen

Advanced Pictogram | Canvas, 80 x 52 cm 

Celine Woen’s visualization of the narrative structure of Inception (2021); see also feature image for the second part of the pictogram.

The title Genesis of Dreams implies that the origin of dreams needs not be what Freud calls the subconscious mind. The film Inception depicts a story in which characters’ sense of reality and dreams is based on ideas planted into the subconscious of the antagonist’s dream. Every character has an individual path, which may have a deeper layer. The purpose of the dream itself is to show the drifting of time and experiences. Dreams often trigger the strongest emotional effects, causing the success of the inception. The pictogram shows the process of how inception occurs, including :

  1. What is happening to each character?
  2. Where is the dream happening?
  3. Who goes there?
  4. Why are the characters there?
  5. When must the kick be happening? 

In the artist’s opinion, a dream itself is similar to a maze, just as the human brain is very complex. Each layer of the inception of dreams represents the character’s mode of actions and how they face their past and move on from it.

In general, all of the characters enter the dream phase, except Mal, who has already become a projection in the dream. Every character has an individual path, some may go deeper than others. The paths show the character’s individual plans, while the plan of the inception itself is shown in different colored layers. As some events have not worked out as planned, the legend shows the unplanned events such as injuries.


Subconscious Safe — OU Wing Hei

Pictogram | Canvas, 45 x 80cm

Ou Wing-hei’s visualizes her perception of Nolan’s Inception

Five levels, three colours, two parallel lines, one safe. It is impressive how holistically formed the world of the film Inception is. Hence, I tried to turn the visual complexity of the film into a single image. The artwork is inspired by Penrose stairs, as they are an example of the impossible objects that can be created in the dream world that appears in the film. Every person has a safe in their mind, which locks up the secrets of their subconscious, and it is continuously growing deeper.

I have merged the subconscious and the safe into the frame of this work. The signature elements of different scenes embedded in the safe represent the core idea of inception, which is about planting an idea into another person’s mind. There are five levels in  the frame, the top level is on the airplane, the first level of the dream is the rainy city, the second level is the hotel, the third level is the snow fortress, and the last level is the Limbo, a shared subconscious state. On the third level, there are two branches — one is waking up by the kick, another one is Cobb and Ariadne getting out Robert, Fisher and Saito. The Limbo level looks like it is outside the inner frame, because going to this level is out of the dream team’s plan.

The movie seems to have an open ending, however, I think there is a fixed ending: Cobb is back to reality. The character’s totems, unique objects used by an individual to tell if they are in a dream, are the big hints for this conclusion. The spinning top is the totem of his deceased wife, Mal. Cobb wears a ring in scenes where he is with Mal inside of the dream; he does not wear it in reality.

I placed the ring inside the never-falling, ever spinning top to represent that all dreams are in the safe. In the last scene, Cobb does not wear the ring while turning the top. Hence, I connected all the paths on the top level (airplane) no matter if they awoke from the exploding fortress or from the Limbo.

Besides, I used three colours to create this pictogram. Each shows one of the meanings behind  the inception process – “change your thoughts if you want to change your actions; change your  beliefs if you want to change your thoughts.” Action is the first level of the dream, thought is the second level and belief is the third level. The three colours range from pastel to dark, similar to the process of entering the subconscious safe, going from shallow to deep. The light parts have the surface area as big as the time the character’s stay on them is long. The pictogram does not show the accurate time for the first to third level, because Yusef plays the music earlier than the team had planned. Thus, Cobb and Saito stay in the Limbo for about 40 years for sure. Therefore, the outer surface is the longest and largest  area. The darkest parts are facing to the left hand side, the flow of the story is going to this side, while it is also going deeper and deeper.

The pictogram is created by many rectangles and each of its surfaces have parallel edges. This depicts the two storylines occurring parallel to each other – handling the mission offered by Saito, and letting go of Cobb’s guilt. The areas between the parallel lines (i.e., inside the  rectangles.) are filled with shades that represent that both of the tasks are completed. 



Related reading: more pictograms on Nolan’s Inception in The Ventriloquists 1 (2020): [link…]

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To read the entire Ventriloquist 2021 series: http://floatingprojectscollective.net/author/ventriloquists/

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