I saw Christopher Nolan’s Inception last week and noticed a couple of strange or notable tendencies:
* The almost complete lack of computers: I think one or two peep out, but otherwise this movie could’ve been made in 1980. Or 1970.
* The equally anachronistic portrayal of what a “chemist” (really an anesthesiologist) works like. His shop could be an alchemist’s lair circa 1500.
* The movie, like DiCaprio’s earlier Shutter Island, recalls Descartes’ first meditation, in which the philosopher questions how we can trust our senses and how we know what we know. The answer: on some level we can’t. But Shutter Island and Inception both posit a world where we have enough evidence to engage the first meditation because there is some evidence we can’t trust our senses.
Obviously, Inception isn’t the first movie or book to ask these kinds of questions; The Matrix came out more than a decade ago, and Adam Gopnik treats it subtly in the linked New Yorker article.
* The almost complete absence of sexuality. The criminal team is composed almost entirely of hypercompetent men devoted solely to their job; the one attractive young woman gets virtually no sexual attention. Neither does anyone else. Their technocratic devotion is nearly perfect—perhaps a fantasy of our own competence and ability to discard what we might otherwise call distraction.