Christopher Nolan Debunks ‘Inception’ Theories, Sorta Explains The Movie

It’s been five months, but that top still has our heads spinning. Was the ending of “Inception” a dream, or wasn’t it? Was it all a dream? Just a big metaphor for filmmaking? Maybe a probing look at architecture? We sure don’t know, but one man does: Christopher Nolan.

Almost half a year may have passed since “Inception” captivated our minds, but Wired wasn’t letting go of the mystery without a fight. In a Q&A in the magazine’s latest issue, Nolan was asked to go through different moments in the movie and weigh in on whether the various interpretations of the film might apply. While Nolan was his usual tight-lipped self, a few of his answers could — and we stress could — hint at some answers.

The guys over at Collider lovingly transcribed the whole article for our reading pleasure, and we’ll let you try to puzzle out the hidden meanings of Nolan’s cryptic — and sometimes not-so-cryptic — answers after the jump.

We’ll start off simple with the “The Ending Is Not A Dream” argument, which assumes that Cobb is telling the truth when he says that the spinning top can be used to separate waking life from dream. “This gives Cobb a base-line reality,” Nolan says, then adds: “But he’s an untrustworthy narrator.” Argument one debunked.

Then there’s the “Just The Ending Is a Dream” argument, where Saito honors his agreement and he and Cobb build limbo to be their reality together. “Uh…that’s not how I would have read the movie,” said Nolan. There’s goes number two.

Next there’s the “Maybe It’s A Meditation on Architecture” argument. There’s a lot of focus on the architecture of cities and the houses the characters are in, but Nolan said, “I wanted to show the potential for the real world to have analogies to the dream world. The mazelike city of Mombasa does that.” He added: “The film is about architects. It’s about builders.” Sounds like there might be some nugget of information there.

And then there’s the whole “It’s About Movie-Making” argument (which is my personal favorite). Nolan doesn’t take long to smash that idea to pieces. “I didn’t intend to make a film about filmmaking, but I gravitated toward the creative process that I know,” he said. “I wouldn’t say that I tried to use the grammar of the film to tell the audience what is dream and what is reality.” So much for number four.

And then he gives us the biggest tease of all: Wired states that “Nolan uses ambiguity as a storytelling tool. There isn’t just one answer.” His response: “Oh no, I’ve got an answer…”

If you ask me, I think the answer lies in his responses to the “The Entire Movie Is A Dream” argument. The Wired article references the fact that the phrase “leap of faith” is used over and over and suggests that it’s an artifact of Cobb’s subconscious. Nolan’s response is: “I don’t think I’m going to tell you about this.” The article then mentions the way Mal questions Cobb’s reality and thus forces us to question whether or not this really is a figment of Cobb’s imagination. “For the ambiguity at the end to work, you need to see that Cobb’s world and the dream world are very similar. And you need to doubt Cobb,” Nolan said. Then there’s the top at the end, and the fact Cobb doesn’t need to see whether it drops or not because he’s with his children. “The important thing is that Cobb’s not looking at the top. He doesn’t care,” Nolan agreed. But as for the kids “not aging” and still wearing the same clothes, Nolan drew the line. “The kids are not wearing the same clothes at the end! And they do age! We were working with two sets of kids,” he said. Ding ding ding! We have a winner… or do we?

Are you still trying to figure out what was reality and what was a dream in “Inception”? Which theory do you support?