Nolan, Christopher - And lucid dreaming
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Article on the Internet - from Film.com an interview with Christopher Nolan
CHRIS NOLAN (b. 1970)
As the director of original and gripping movies like Memento (2000) and The Dark Knight (2008), British-American director, screenwriter and producer, Chris Nolan, mined his own lucid dreams to conceive Inception (2010).
"I wanted to do this for a very long time, it's something I've thought about off and on since I was about 16," he told The Los Angeles Times. "I wrote the first draft of this script seven or eight years ago, but it goes back much further, this idea of approaching dream and the dream life as another state of reality."
Intriguingly, Inception's main character, Dom Cobb, is played by Leonardo DiCaprio who also had lucid dreams before starring in the movie.
The role of Cobb in the tangled dream-within-a-dream plot is to implant an idea in the subconscious mind of his victim. While the idea of shared dreaming currently resides in the land of science fiction, we can't escape the inherent truths of this movie: that the dream architects consciously manipulate the dreamscape with all the realism of waking life.
Also like lucid dreams, however, the subconscious mind has its own agenda.
CH: Now, to get into the actual subject matter of Inception — the dreaming world. Have you been fascinated by dreams your whole life, and do you think about them differently since you started working on this movie?
CN: I’ve been fascinated by dreams…since I was a kid, and I think the relationship between movies and dreams is something that’s always interested me. I liked the idea of trying to portray dreams on film, and I’d been working on the script for some time, really about 10 years in the form that you’ve seen it in, where [there's] this idea of this kind of heist structure. I think really, for me, the primary interest in dreams and in making this film is this notion that in your mind, while you’re asleep, you can create an entire world that you’re also experiencing without realizing that you’re doing that. I think that says a lot about the potential of the human mind, especially the creative potential. It’s something I find fascinating.
CH: You mentioned you liked the idea of trying to portray dreams on film. Did you want to explore the concept of cinema as a layer or type of dreaming?
CN: Well, I think for me when you look at the idea of being able to create a limitless world and use it almost as a playground for action and adventure and so forth, I naturally gravitate towards cinematic worlds, whether it’s the Bond films and things like that. So without being too self-conscious about it, or without too much intention as I was writing it, I certainly allowed my mind to wander where it would naturally [go] and I think a lot of the tropes from different genres of movies — heist films, spy films, that kind of thing — they therefore sort of naturally sit in that world.
CH: How did you go about researching dreams and the science behind them? It’s a fascinating world you’ve constructed.
CN: I don’t actually tend to do a lot of research when I’m writing. I took the approach in writing Inception that I did when I was writing Memento about memory and memory loss, which is I tend to just examine my own process of, in this case, dreaming — in Memento‘s case, memory — and try and analyze how that works and how that might be changed and manipulated. How a rule set might emerge from my own process. I do know because I think a lot of what I find you want to do with research is just confirm things you want to do. If the research contradicts what you want to do, you tend to go ahead and do it anyway. So at a certain point, I realized that if you’re trying to reach an audience, being as subjective as possible and really trying to write from something genuine, is the way to go. Really, it’s mostly from my own process, my own experience.
CH: You’ve cited Pink Floyd The Wall as one of your primary influences, but the dreams in that movie are very sexualized — which is something that doesn’t manifest in Inception. Was that something you shied away from?
CN: Well, there are certain areas, when you’re talking about dreams, the analysis of dreams and how you might examine them in the film that you do want to avoid, because they would probably be either too disturbing for the sort of action film genre that we’re working in or funny. And so one of the things we talked about, tonally, in the period when we were looking at the script very closely, is never tipping over into comedy, this funny version. I mean, one of the things all [the actors] have done in their performances, which I think is extraordinary, is that they’ve created very subtle differences in the way the characters appear in the dream levels and in reality — they’ve never made it funny. They’ve never taken it to that comedic place. And certainly I think there’s probably a great comedy version of this movie somewhere, but I [didn't] want to make it.
CH: I’d like to talk a little about Fred Astaire fight sequence Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets to engage in, as well as all the zero-G stuff you put him through. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an actual fight take place in the absence of gravity before. It’s really quite spectacular.
CN: I’ll leave Joe to tell you the bad stuff, but, really, the thing I just want to point out that people might not be aware of is that we had a stunt guy who looks exactly like Joe made up perfectly — and he stood there three weeks on-set and didn’t do a thing, because Joe insisted on doing absolutely everything himself, apart from, as I’ve been reminded, one shot. One shot where the [actual] stunt guy performed. Everything else he did himself, and he just did the most incredible job with these bizarre rigs and these bizarre sort of torture devices.
CH: Did you ever consider converting the movie to 3D?
CN: Sure, I mean, we looked at shooting on various different formats before we went to shoot, including 3-D technology — but also Showscan, 65 mil, which we eventually fixed on. Then when we edited the film, we looked at the post-conversion process and did some very good tests. But, when I really looked at the time period we had and where my attention needed to be in finishing the film, I decided that I didn’t have enough time to do it to the standard I would have liked. I think the question of 3D really is one for audiences in a sense. The tests we looked at, it’s perfectly possible to post-convert a film very well, [but] I like not having glasses when I watch a movie and I like being able to see a very bright, immersive image. So I think at the end of the day, I’m extremely happy to be putting the film out with 35 mm film prints very brightly projected with the highest possible image quality. That’s really what excites me.
CH: Let’s wrap this up, two more questions. Do any of your own dreams stand out that you don’t mind sharing with us? And how has filmmaking changed for you since you started in Hollywood 12 years ago?
CN: As far as the dreams go, really I would only point to times in my life where I experienced lucid dreaming, which is a big feature of Inception — the idea of realizing you’re in a dream and therefore trying to change or manipulate it in some way. That’s a very striking experience for people who have it. It’s clearly in the film, and a big part of it. As far as my filmmaking approach, the thing I always say, which might be hard for people to understand -– I don’t know — but to me the filmmaking process has always been the same. So when I was doing Following, which was shot with friends one day a week for a year, I put the film together that way. It was exactly the same process. I think for me, what I’m doing on set is I’m watching things happen as an audience member and trying to just look at ”
what’s the image we’re photographing, how will that advance the story, and what will the next image be?”
That process really hasn’t changed for me, and it’s strangely similar no matter how big the film gets.