“Inception,” with its dreams within dreams and worlds atop worlds, is the sort of movie that demands repeat viewings (that’s the nice way of putting it; the less nice way would be to say that it was kind of confusing the first time through). I had a feeling that once people got their hands on the film in the form of DVDs and Blu-rays and the like they’d be dissecting it like the Zapruder film.
Sure enough, Christopher Nolan’s dreamy heist film doesn’t hit store shelves until tomorrow, and we’ve already got an interesting attempt to examine the film’s structure in YouTube video form. It’s entitled “‘Inception’ in Real-Time” by user weikang:
What’s most fascinating is to watch the way time in the other three deeper dream levels fluctuates to accommodate beats that sync up with the driving-the-van-in-the-rain level (in the upper left hand corner of the screen). In the world of “Inception,” time moves slower the deeper you move into these dreams within dreams, so a few seconds driving in the rain could be hours to the people in the second looking-very-dapper-at-a-hotel level. So obviously, when played simultaneously, time in that hotel level needs to move very quickly in order to cram all of its story into the allotted time of the van level.
But time doesn’t seem to move consistently throughout. For example, the hotel level’s story is zooming by in super-speed until Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character gets into that zero-g fight. Suddenly time moves at something close to normal speed, as the hotel level’s gravity is being directly affected by the van rolling down the hill in the van level (God, I’m getting sick of typing the word level, already). As the van continues to roll down the hill time accelerates again in the hotel level, then slows down even further as the van comes to a halt. I suppose if the movie were playing fair with its own rules, the flow of time would be constant and all the beats between the levels would match up perfectly. But watching the video, you can see how time has to occasionally dilate during the film in order to make beats between the various dreams sync up (that’s the nice way of putting it; the less nice way would be to say it cheats).
It’s also kind of fun just to see the top dream level re-edited to play out in continuous fashion and to see how most of the movie lasts just four and a half minutes from the perspective of Dileep Rao’s character (or technically a little bit less than that since Nolan uses slo-mo during all of the shots of the van flying through space, a device that could also account for some of the time fluctuations elsewhere). Because his beats are interspersed throughout the film, we never feel like we’ve lost Rao’s thread, but watching the movie’s chronology this way you have to admit: the dude kind of got shafted in the screen time department.