Inception: ‘Islamic’ movie review
This will be the second of only two movie reviews I have done for this blog. The fact that I can be bothered writing about it should be testimony to how good the film actually is. First of all I’ll just give a general review and at the end I want to add some insights I had when watching the film. This will contain brief spoilers:
Christoper Nolan made his mark with Hollywood after Batman Begins, from there he’s slowly risen through the ranks of the industry’s elite and can now safely confirm his spot amongst the very best filmakers they have. Given the popularity he has achieved with the Batman franchise, he’s been able to express his artistic freedom in his own solo films and have an audacity to go where very few American films would dare to go. His films have added new meaning to the term ‘plot twist’, where many films have now lost that surprise element by reusing the same old conundrums at the end (The good guy is actually the bad guy/The protagonist is the culprit of the crime etc.) Nolan does away with the cliches and comes up with fresh and original ideas that few in California would have the brains to come up with.
The film centres around Leonardo DiCaprio’s character who can enter people’s dreams to steal their secrets. One day after a failed attempt at one of these jobs, a Japanese businessman played by Ken Watanabe offers him a deal to plant an idea into someone’s head (inception), and in return he will give him the ability to enter back into the United States from where he has been barred. What results is a complicated plan to pull off what could be described as ‘metaphysical espionage’. The real highlight of the film is the idea Nolan has come up with regards to different levels of consciousness within dreams. The team of ‘dream hijackers’ have an ability to make the victim of their crime believe the dream is a reality, and within that induce the dreamer to sleep again and go into another dream, and therefore enter into deeper levels of the person’s consciousness, they then do the same process to get further down into the person’s mind until necessary, so that when they awake the person has absolutely no idea that an idea has been planted. The real eye candy of the film is when you have multiple realities taking place at the same time and how they effect each other through the different levels of consciousness. What results is an intense mental ride that will have you amazed and looking on in wonder at how such a cinematic feat was achieved. An example: At the first level of the dream, a car is reversing backwards over a bridge, as a result in the second level gravity has been lost, one of the characters is struggling to prepare to wake the rest of the team from their sleep, where they are in a dream at a third level of consciousness. Meanwhile in reality, all of this is taking as the characters are asleep on a plane during a 10 hour flight between Sydney and Los Angeles. It has to be seen to be believed.
Now the ‘Islamic’ part: Islam has a lot to say about dreams, some of them, particularly before the dawn prayer, may have a certain degree of revelation from heaven in them. Allah (SWT) says in the Qur’an:
“Allah takes the souls at their time of death, and (also) those that have not died yet – during their sleep. Then He keeps those for which He has decreed death and releases the others for a specified term. Indeed, in this are signs for those who reflect.” 39:42
Our souls, to a certain extent, leave our bodies during sleep. They enable us to travel from the lower physical realm of the world ‘Alam as-Shahada to the intermediate sensory world ‘Alam al-Latif, and then finally to a realm where ideas are in their purest form ‘Alam al-Jabarut. Now where does this tie in with Inception?
In Inception, Nolan has come with an idea in his plot that the further one travels into consciousness, the further time expands. So for example within a 10 hour flight, traveling down into 3 levels of consciousness, results in one feeling as though they have been there for around 10 years. Now this I found interesting. In the Qu’ran Allah (SWT) tells us a day in heaven is like a 1000 years on earth (32:5), take that into the context of the idea that dreams enable the spirit to travel between the earth and heaven. Traveling between the different spiritual realms also entails getting closer to Allah, moving past the 70,000 veils that He has placed between Himself and His creation. Moving closer and closer to the Infinite, letting time continually expand until it has no end and you reach the realm of the ultimate reality (al-Haqq), where Allah resides, the place where place no longer has any meaning, where time and space become nothing. This was the reality of the Prophet’s (SAWS) ascension to heaven, where all the veils were lifted and he experienced and saw Allah.
Now before we get carried away, I’m not implying this is what Christopher Nolan intended with his film, it is at the end, just a film. But in my crazy little world this was what was going through my head contemplating on the ideas of consciousness presented within it. And something I wanted to share with other people.
To finish with that, those who have seen the movie have wondered whether the entire thing was all part of DiCaprio’s dream. Well one could argue, if it was, then his spindle would have not fallen over during numerous points in the film, as by the end of it we have reached the (apparent) highest level of consciousness throughout the entire story. On the other hand, his totem is not his own, it’s his wife’s, also take into account that at then beginning of the film, Ken Watanabe’s character holds it, which as DiCaprio’s character pointed out in the film, defeats the purpose of the object being your own personal totem. At the end, I think only Christopher Nolan will know the answer, and I have a feeling he himself may not have decided whether or not it was all a dream…