On this episode of Finding Christ In Cinema, we dream a dream within a dream within a dream as we look for Christian themes in Christopher Nolan’s INCEPTION. Does Cobb believe he has to earn his salvation? Does an idea have to be planted in good soil for it to grow? All that and more in 3…2…1!
A Leap of Faith in Inception
Why does Cobb think he has do anything to be saved? He feels like he has to “change” his past in order to get his world back in order. When in fact, all he has to do is take a leap of faith and trust Mr. Saito to come through on his promise upon completing the mission.
Cobb is ultimately suffering from guilt, and he believes that he is too guilty to be redeemed.
We see this as Ariadne follows Cobb into his dreams, and she ends up finding more than she bargained for: a building constructed with an elevator connecting many floors – designed to freeze moments in time.
On the first floor, she finds Cobb and Mal in their favorite get-away hotel suite – the one where Mal killed herself. Up to the beach floor, we see Mal and the children playing in the sand. It is then revealed that these aren’t just dreams, but they’re memories. Cobb calls them “moments [he] regret[s]; memories that [he has] to change.” We see this even more as Ariadne goes down to the basement level where she sees a memory of Cobb promising Mal that they will be together in the end.
Cobb is in a loop, a viscous cycle, a paradox. He has memories that he must change but cannot. And this prison he has constructed not only keeps these memories trapped – it keeps him prisoner as well. And this prison is guilt.
Out of this guilt Cobb forms his jail cell, and he feels like the only way to free himself is to change the memories themselves and thus eradicate the guilt attached to them.
But Mr. Saito offers to take care of all that for Cobb. He just wants Cobb to come as he is, fulfill the mission, and let him do the rest. Mr. Saito asks Cobb, “Do you want to take a leap of faith, or become an old man, filled with regret, waiting to die alone?”
God, in the same manner, is calling us to take a leap of faith to Him. John the Revelator puts it plainly:
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (Revelation 22:17)
Inception and The Good Soil for Ideas
In Inception, we get a glimpse into the nature of how ideas work. The language used to describe this process reminds me so much of the language Jesus uses to describe how people can receive the Word of God as He illustrates in the Parable of the Sower – most importantly, that the seed has to be planted in the right soil, the “good soil.”
Jesus says it best in Luke 8:15:
“As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”
“Ideas” in this film are compared to two things. The first of which are “parasites” because they are “resilient” and “highly contagious” – that’s NOT what we’re focusing on. Instead, we’re focusing on how they are also compared indirectly to fruit. They come from “seeds” that have to be “planted” so that they can then “grow” into fully-formed ideas, hence the “fruit” metaphor.
This then leads us to ask, “What is the seed?”
In the Parable, the seed is the Word of God as Jesus states in verse 11. This is the capital W “Word” which is, of course, Jesus, as John explains in the very first sentence of his Gospel.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)
As for the film, the seed that Cobb wants to plant inside his subject Robert Fischer is that Fischer’s father doesn’t want Fischer to be like him; he’s “disappointed” that he even tried. This seed is planted with the hope that it will make Fischer dissolve his father’s company and no longer be a superpower.
Cobb explains this to his forger Eames in a non-descript bar in Mombasa. Eames rebuts by pointing out that this seed will need a good soil in order for it to take root. Any artifical / superficial soil – such as political motives or corporate agendas – will not be good enough. The only soil good enough is the relationship with the father.
Cobb then expounds on this in one of the team’s secret clubhouse meetings. This “positive emotion” soil is then manifested deep within the dream stages at the end of the film when Fischer unlocks the safe in what he believes is his godfather Browning’s mind, and he sees the pinwheel he made for his father. The pinwheel isn’t itself the soil, but the fact that his father kept it over the years out of love is the soil.
Because of all this, Fischer then can more easily accept his father’s redeeming love and now walk in the light.
Likewise, when we remember or even realize that God really does love us, we can more easily accept his redeeming love and walk in his light.
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Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes, including links to articles discussed, by clicking here.
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