Inception: The Shooting Script
by Christopher Nolan
San Rafael,CA: Insight Editions, 2010
240 pp, $20.50
Christopher Nolan’s Inception brings together the film’s screenplay, a conversation between the director and his brother Jonathan Nolan entitled “Dreaming / Creating / Perceiving / Filmmaking,” storyboards and concept art, and, as appendices, an instruction manual of the Portable Automated Somnacin IntraVenous (PASIV) Device and the film’s credits. The PASIV Device (or at least a copy of the container) is now available, of course, in the limited edition of the film at HMV stores. Christopher Nolan invested ten years of love and labour into Inception, in which cinematography, art direction, and music all play central roles, and it is impossible for us to relive our experiences of viewing the film through reading the screenplay.
However, Inception: The Shooting Script offers us a more in-depth appreciation for the film and for Nolan’s aesthetics. For example, Nolan’s precise directions render the film’s conclusion poetically:
INT. KITCHEN, COBB and MAL’S HOUSE – DAY
Cobb enters with Miles. Drops his bags. Moves to the table, looking out at the over-grown garden. He reaches into his pocket, takes out his pewter spinning top [available with the PASIV edition at HMV stores], lowers it to the table and SPINS IT – a CHILD’S SHOUT makes him look up – Through the window, James and Philippa have run into view, playing THEIR FACES TURNED AWAY… Cobb STARES at the back of his children’s heads… Miles moves to the window and KNOCKS on the glass – James and Philippa TURN – see their Dad. He steps to the window, watching their BRIGHT FACES SHINING as they run towards him . . .
Behind him, on the table, the spinning top is STILL SPINNING. And we –
Moments of clear writing like this make it worthwhile to return to the screenplay. We never know what happens to the “we” and it is this lack of narrative closure that makes Nolan’s films consistently challenging and enjoyable. Regarding the film’s genre, Nolan asserts: “I do view Inception as film noir. That’s what film noir is… You take the things you are actually worried about in real life, or things you care about in real life, and you extrapolate that into a universal… You turn it into melodrama. People always talk about melodrama as a pejorative but I don’t know what other word there is.” The illustrious and award-winning Nolan was a graduate of University College London, and there is no doubt that I have much to up to as a doctoral student in the same institution.
Tom Ue is a doctoral student at the Department of English Language and Literature at University College, London, where he researches on Shakespeare’s influence on the writing of Henry James, George Gissing, and Oscar Wilde.
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