Character names

This 2010 contemporary sci-fi actioner follows a subconscious security team around the globe and into the intimate and infinite world of dreams.
Posts: 138
Joined: July 2010
Location: Los Angeles
Every character in this movie has an odd name.

Do they mean something?

Posts: 14
Joined: July 2010
Well, Ariadne is the "Mistress of the Labyrinth" in Greek mythology. Clever, if not contrived.

Posts: 13622
Joined: June 2009
Location: Florida
Ariadne is an allusion to Greek mythology. I dunno about the other names, I think Nolan just likes odd names.

A year ago on IMDB the names showed up as "Jacob, Lisa" and some other generic name. I know Nolan's style too well and I called bullshit on those names. I was right. 8-)

Posts: 782
Joined: May 2010
Cobb in Inception = mind thief/con man

Cobb in Following = thief/con man

:lol: :lol:

User avatar
Posts: 26331
Joined: February 2010
Location: Texas
I had never heard of Ariadne before Inception.

I thought Mal might have been short for Mallorie or something.
If she plays cranium she gives good brainium.

User avatar
Posts: 9212
Joined: August 2009
Arthur = Nolan's love of the show Arthur.


Like Arthur, Arthur usually tends to play it safe and he is wary of doing something that is risky. Trust me. I know. I used to watch the show and I still do occasionally.

Posts: 8
Joined: July 2010
Mal means "Bad" in French and is the root of bad in Spanish (malo) particularly given the pronunciation.

Posts: 67
Joined: May 2010
Well, this might be a stretch but:

"Mal" = "bad" in French. In English, the prefix "mal" is associated with misfortune or mistake, such as "malajusted," "malnourished," etc.

Arthur = author? Like, writer? I don't know. As in the character helps to assemble the dreams, put them together?

These are just ideas thrown out there. I don't know how well they fit.

Posts: 24
Joined: July 2010
According to Wikipedia Mal is short for Mallorie. The name 'Mal' could also derive from the Hebrew word 'angel' or 'messenger'. Pretty much the opposite of the French meaning, which I think explains her complex and conflicted characteristic. :think:

Posts: 2
Joined: July 2010
I do think the names are more significant, and you are probably correct to pick up on that. Here is a post I made on another site, before registering for this one:

Outside of the top in the final scene, the movie as film is designed to make one question the nature of Cobb's reality. Freud and Jung theorized that the subconscious incorporates myths and basic symbols to help the individual come to terms with reality and one's experiences in it (that was probably a bit of a butchering, but that's not important atm). Now, if one were in a coma for the rest of one's life, and assuming one would dream in that state, the subconscious could theoretically use this same process to help the mind come to terms with unreality. When we apply this to Cobb and the film, many elements seem outside the realm of reasonable coincidence for Cobb's reality to not be a layer. Look at the names of the characters. In Greek mythology, Ariadne aided Theseus in navigating the minotaur's labyrinth. In the film, she serves a similar purpose by helping Cobb navigate his own internal conflicts, albeit in a relatively perverse way on the meta level. In English folklore, Arthur is the invincible, sleeping king who united the people of England. In the film, Arthur is a dream agent with incredible martial prowess. He literally unites the characters in his attempt to provide them with a kick. Eames appears to be a union of Charles and Ray Eames, who were significant in the progression of what is now considered modern, functional art. They were architects, designers, etc. In the film, Eames is a forger with a penchant for reaching beyond convention in a way that is useful to the characters. The possibility that his character is a union of two individuals would help explain his ambiguous sexuality. Mal is latin for evil/bad. In the film, she is presumably evil, as she persistently disrupts Cobb's missions and challenges the reality that he is more inclined to accept. I'm not sure who Saito is a reference to, but I think he is likely to be an aggregate of Japanese figures (I will mention the interesting tidbit that a Saito coined and researched the term hikikomori, which is a term for a type of modern recluse in Japan). In Arthurian legend (uh-oh, we already have an Arthurian figure...layer within a layer within a layer), the Fisher king was charged with keeping the holy grail, which Galahad and Perceval searched for. His kingdom is also suffering because of an injury he received earlier in life. In the film, Fischer is the mission that contains Cobb's catharsis...his holy grail, if you will. Fischer also appeared to have been psychologically wounded by his father and was unable to direct his corporation in that state. These names appear to have been purposefully chosen by Nolan in a way that extends their significance beyond the simple allusions directors are fond of making. It challenges the nature of Cobb's allies and foes by suggesting that just like a film is the dream of a given director, Cobb's supposed reality is a dream state, populated by individuals whose names and functions are drawn from something above the narrative itself, such as myths and symbols that are significant to the meta-conscious.

As an addendum, Saito is probably a reference to the powerful warlord from Japan's Sengoku period. The biblical Yusuf is the Muslim version of Joseph and is a prophet/interpreter of dreams. Thanks, dan and arina, for catching the connection between Cobb in two of Nolan's films and the alternative meaning of Mal.

Post Reply