Another Red Herring Regarding the Top

This 2010 contemporary sci-fi actioner follows a subconscious security team around the globe and into the intimate and infinite world of dreams.
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Posts: 1
Joined: April 2015
In the process of analyzing the film, I've had an insight which seems to be new. I haven't seen any reference to it anywhere on the Internet.

I don't believe that Cobbs top was ever meant to represent a real world object-- a totem. Rather, I think it's a symbolic dream world representation of an IDEA. When Cobb and Mal are trapped in Limbo, Cobb breaks into the inner recesses of Mal's mind and plants an idea-- symbolically represented by the spinning top. Dreams are filled with symbolic visual representations. Abstract concepts often take on symbolic physical forms.

If we tentatively assume that Mal was right all along, and that Cobb is still trapped in the dream world at the end of the film, then how should we interpret his preoccupation with the top? As a totem, it's worthless. It's someone else's, its functionality is backwards and ineffective, everyone knows how it works, and-- even if it were not for all of this-- it could only tell him if he was in someone else's dream, not if he is in his own. No, as a totem, it has no meaning.

In Limbo, in the doll house of Mal's childhood home, the top was a symbolic representation of the idea: "This is a dream; you're dreaming." Why shouldn't that be the case throughout the film?

Cobb carries the totem around with him throughout the film, pulls it out and toys with it, but he never uses it in a methodical, meaningful way. He just plays with it-- toys with it-- half-heartedly. Even at the end of the film, he spins it but doesn't wait to see if it topples over. It's an idea, I think, depicted symbolically as a toy, and throughout the film he toys with the idea. He carries it and plays around with it, but never uses it properly. If Cobb had fully embraced the idea, he wouldn't be clumsily, half-heartedly toying with the "totem." He'd be using it methodically and efficiently-- waiting patiently to see if it stopped spinning or not.

I believe that the top, as a dream symbol, represents Cobb's ongoing process of realization that he isn't actually awake; that he's still waiting for his train. It represents the INCEPTION IDEA-- the mind virus.

Posts: 21
Joined: April 2015
Location: MISSOURI
Inception is one of those movies that has the ability to engage people in topics that are thought provoking. I love that about this film. Interesting idea you have. This is why Inception is in my top three favorite Nolan films!

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