Inception: A Cinematographic Masterpiece

This movie Inception created by Christaphor Nolan is so mind-blowing and immersive that every time I watch it my heart races. Cinematography itself is the art of making motion pictures. Everything a cinematographer needs to take into account: the science behind human association to certain things, perspective, color theory, techniques of film, and especially composition. As said by Blair Somerville in the video “Lost & Found,” “You got this chance to do stuff… to be creative—and to experiment,” which ties into what cinematographers do— they take full advantage of their creative minds and recreate it on film.

 In the beginning, a man by the name of Cobb is washed up on shore with illusions of his son and daughter. The opening description of this scene will become a major factor in the story but before we dig deeper into this, we’ll look into this dining table scene that comes right after.

  1. The Dining Table Introduction

Inception” Interiors (2010)*  

When I first saw this scene, I didn’t notice the change at all! Mr. Saito, a Japanese businessman, is old in the first scene—however—wait a few seconds and you’ll see he abruptly changes into a young man again.Everything You Missed When You Watched 'Inception'

What the director and cinematographer did was zoom in close onto old Saito while he was talking without showing anything else around him. They then swiftly change over to the characters, Cobb and Arthur, who are eating and discussing with Saito’s security guards in the background. By making the scene busy, it distracts the viewers and makes even very obvious scenes like this easy to look past. It may be simple, but it’s clever and effective.

Inception: Why Saito Is So Much Older Than Dom In Limbo
  1. Hallway Fight Scene

Let’s move on to the next scene, the Hallway Fight Scene. For this shot, the idea was to match the dream movement to the reality of gravity outside the dream, essentially a zero-gravity fight scene. The storyboard below shows how Nolan envisioned it. 

Storyboards from Ten Popular Films » TwistedSifter

This entire scene was not made using CGI. Instead, it was shot with the actors hanging from wires inside a custom-built rotating set. In this video clip, we can see the scene fully executed.

The storyboard depicts a long panning shot of frantic movement and tension as the guard and Arthur fight for a gun in zero gravity. Look at the composition! The scene reminds me of The Creation of Adam since Arthur and the guard are so close to the gun and are facing opposite each other. The color scheme is a slight green-yellow hue which makes the aura uncomfortable and even more frantic.

Inception review | GamesRadar+

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  1. The ending scene

Last but not least, the ending scene. The top picture depicts the beginning of the movie while the bottom depicts the end. Notice how both pictures parallel each other? The similarity of the beginning and ending scenes tie the entire movie together and makes the viewers wonder at the end whether Cobb made it out of the dream world or was finally in reality.

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My opinion on the ending of Inception is that Cobb was actually still stuck in the dream world. Throughout the movie, we sense that Cobb is someone who is deeply troubled about his past.  Cobb is like a “little lucky tree” who is “small and cozy” while staying comfortable in a “pot to grow in.” His past holds him back from being able to do his work or have peace of mind but is also an example of how Cobb can’t break out of his little pot because he has been stuck in his comfortable state of worrying over the past and of things he cannot change. The ending of Inception reminds me of the ending of scavengers. Both endings have the main characters driven into another dreamlike state world. It’s almost as if both endings pull a reverse matrix where the characters put themselves in fake dreams to avoid their reality.

There’s so much thought put into every movie you watch. Behind the scenes there are tons of storyboarders, editors, scriptwriters, and cinematographers. The next time you watch a movie, you might want to think to yourself about how the scene you’re watching was made. Who knows? You might appreciate the movie a whole lot more.

One thought on “Inception: A Cinematographic Masterpiece

  1. I never thought about the movie like this… Your analysis on all of the small details and behind the scenes screenwriting really broadens my understanding of the work put into film making. Even though each scene only goes for about a couple of minutes, the time, effort, and labor are hidden away behind the camera. Reading through this has given me a more memorable and appreciative experience about the movie. Thank you for writing this! It was such a good movie! Oppenheimer from Christopher Nolan coming in theaters near you in 2023!


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