Inception – A Surrealist Tale

What comes to mind when you think of Inception? City blocks folding back on themselves. The eternally spinning top. Slow-motion scenes of destruction. Christoper Nolan’s flashy visuals are easier to remember than the convoluted storyline of the movie. Those images are haunting like a dream can be, and the conclusion after watching this great video essay is that that is no coincidence.


Inception – A Surrealist Tale about Lost Love (published first by [in]Transition), situates this sci-fi movie within the tradition of surrealism and its fondness of dreamlike narration. Agnieszka Piotrowska and editor Anna Dobrowodzka masterfully mash up Nolan’s blockbuster with scenes from Luis Buñuel’s surrealist masterpiece Un Chien Andalou (1929). In addition, they find visual similarities between Nolan’s movie and the photographs of Man Ray, and the paintings of Delvaux and Dali. A similar sense of surreal logic (or lack thereof) pervades all these works, and this video essay does an expert job of laying that bare. Some of the setpieces in this video rival Nolan’s in creativity.


This video’s sound track is equally evocative. It creates a dreamlike (and yes, surreal) tapestry of sounds and voices that underscores the many cross-references Piotrowska makes. Cleverly chosen lines of dialogue are combined into a surrealist manifesto of sorts. “You don’t believe in one reality anymore,” Marion Cotillard’s character proclaims. Breton would have approved.