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Inception Dream Layer Map by dijinn Inception Dream Layer Map by dijinn
**SPOILER ALERT**

This image is so riddled with spoilers I don't even know where to begin. Don't even think about looking at it unless you've already seen the movie. You've been warned.

**SPOILER ALERT**


Many of you think there was only 3 dream layers that we encountered in the movie Inception, Nolan's ground breaking work. Well, I am here to posit, there were SEVEN. (If you want to read my full explanation - see it here: [link] )

1. The TRUE awake reality where Mol does everything she can to get Cobb back.
2. The movie's "awake" state reality where Cobb is unrealistically an international dream thief.
3. The first Inception dream layer - where the van is attacked and eventually goes off the bridge.
4. The second Inception dream layer - where they go to the hotel and convince the mark he needs protection.
5. The third inception dream layer - the Alps, where they attack the fortress in order to get what is in the vault.
6. Mol & Cobb's semi limbo world - where they lived for many years and grew old together.
7. Saito's Limbo World - where Cobb goes after him and ultimately convinces Saito to follow him back up to dream world 2.

Think about it. The only level here any of my fellow viewers could possible argue with is level number one. All the rest are a matter of record. Right? The question on the table here is - was Cobb dreaming at the end? And if so, who's dream is it that he is inhabiting?

There is TONS of evidence to support the fact that Cobb was dreaming the whole time. The most incontrovertible of which was the fact that at the end his kids were wearing the same clothes they'd been wearing in his memories of them... and that they hadn't aged a lick sense he saw them last. Not enough for you? What about what Cobb's father says to him - "Wake up Cobb... come back to reality!" Or Mol for that matter. "A dream thief running from faceless international corporate thugs? Come on Cobb wake up!"

Or what about all the sections of the movie that just didn't feel right realistically? The bit in the chase scene where the alley gets tighter and tighter until he's barely able to squeeze through? Dream!

Think about this. What if Cobb successfully implanted the idea in Mol's head that this wasn't reality and it festered until they both agreed to take the train to anywhere - as long as they were together. They arrive at the "real" world - but Mol is still plagued with the idea that it isn't the real world BECAUSE IT ISN'T. She seemingly jumps to her death - but in fact this is just her kick - her escape to the real world above.

And the sadest thing of all - Mol is now by Cobb's bedside pleading with him to wake up from the dream that is going on within her own mind. This explains how she was able to intercede occasionally and plead with him to come back to her. This isn't Cobb projecting his memories - this is really Mol pursuing him. If it was his own projection would it be telling him to kill himself - really? No, this is Mol desperate to get her husband of 100's of years (elapsed dream time anyway) back and convince him of his errors.

Inception is either a very happy happy ending Summer blockbuster. Or it is one of the saddest Shakespearean tragedies ever written. And either answer is just fine. As with The Prestige where either the machine worked and we have the silliest sci-fi imaginable on our hands - or it didn't and we have one of the most brilliant character dramas of all time. (To see my review of said flick and all the nuances that show the Tesla machine was a fake take a gander here: [link] ) Either way - you are entitled to your opinion. I've just tried to add some clarity to the levels by depicting the various strata involved here in one place.

*As an editorial note - I know that the photo for level 7 is incorrect. The photo here is actually the same location as Saito's limbo world - but a different time. I don't have a photo yet of Saito as an old man or I would have used that instead. If anyone knows of one, I'd be eternally grateful!

**SPOILER ALERT**

This image is so riddled with spoilers I don't even know where to begin. Don't even think about looking at it unless you've already seen the movie. You've been warned.

**SPOILER ALERT**
Add a Comment:
 
:iconali-c-05:
Ali-C-05 Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2014  Student General Artist
this is really interesting! :) I'm going to have to watch the film again now!
Reply
:iconlemonaze:
Lemonaze Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2013
And in the end Cobb wakes up and realizes he's Leonardo DiCaprio and the entire dream was just a movie...
Reply
:iconzackard88:
zackard88 Featured By Owner Oct 2, 2012
he's not dreaming!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
his totem is his ring......
in the dreams he has his wedding ring on and when he's not dreaming it's not there.....GOD!!!!!
but also your idea makes sense....but the ring theory makes more sense
Reply
:iconmarshmallowsxoxo:
marshmallowsxoxo Featured By Owner May 6, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
i think it was actually real from the begining, maybe in the end cob is dreaming, but i think the "real" world is the real world.
Reply
:iconpenfolio:
Penfolio Featured By Owner Sep 20, 2011
i knew it that Cobb was dreaming from the beginning and Mal escaped into the real world

it all seems a bit wierd
Reply
:icon1---rob---1:
1---ROB---1 Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
This movie is masterpiece

In greek mythology :

"Ariadne's thread, named for the legend of Ariadne, is the term used to describe the solving of a problem with multiple apparent means of proceeding - such as a physical maze, a logic puzzle, or an ethical dilemma - through an exhaustive application of logic to all available routes. It is the particular method used that is able to follow completely through to trace steps or take point by point a series of found truths in a contingent, ordered search that reaches a desired end position. This process can take the form of a mental record, a physical marking, or even a philosophical debate; it is the process itself that assumes the name."
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:iconjacz13:
jacz13 Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
I think that actually Cobb was caught in way deeper dream construction, i would call it a labyrinth, cause it seemed to loop. Look at the scene with old Saito at the beginning of movie and the "same" scene near the end. They seem to be exactly similar. But... In the first scene Saito says something like "You remind me of someone from a dream forgotten long time ago" (I don't know exact quotation, cause I didn't watch this movie in english) and in the second scene this line is finished by Cobb.
It seems he remembered something from the past meeting with old Saito, so... Well, as I said in the beginning.
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:iconphyos:
PhyOS Featured By Owner Dec 14, 2010
1. "The truly real world" - You don't know if the whole movie was a dream, you're assuming this as true although there really is nothing pointing to it in the movie (not saying it can't be, but you can't just get this out of nowhere and sell it as true in the description. It's a guess, and just your theory.)
2. "The movie 'awake' world" - You've used a shot from a dream of the movie to depict what you call the "awake" world?
6. "Pre-limbo"/"Semi-limbo"? Just limbo.
7. "Saito's lost in limbo". Yes Saito's lost in limbo, but that's not a layer. What you call "Prelimbo" is the same as this, only a different "place" in it.
Reply
:iconfreakypencils:
freakypencils Featured By Owner Nov 28, 2010  Student General Artist
So the Saito-Fischer thing was all Cobb's dream? I actually came to the conclusion that the last scene was Cobb's limbo.
Reply
:iconsword-dance:
Sword-Dance Featured By Owner Oct 7, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
I absolutely, absolutely adore this interpretation of yours. It makes everything come together suddenly, and it doesn't really matter which is right, because it's a work of art; who is to know whether or not this ending was left apparently open for our interpretation just for the titillating effect of sparking such discussions?

Still, I'm loving your explanation, about Mal calling him and the unreality of it all, it's almost heartbreaking recalling how he refused Mal's call so many times. Love it, once again.
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:iconallantsuki:
Allantsuki Featured By Owner Aug 21, 2010  Hobbyist Digital Artist
FREAKIN
UBELIEVABLE

I read your full explanation

AND DAMN
YOU'RE RIGHT

But at the end the it looked like the totem was going to stop spinning.
CUZ IT STARTED TO SHAKE
Reply
:icondeadlycrescendo:
DeadlyCrescendo Featured By Owner Aug 17, 2010  Student Writer
Oh.. my god. I hadn't even thought of something like that.
I just got chills. ; ;
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:icondijinn:
dijinn Featured By Owner Aug 17, 2010
Nice. Too funny. If this gives you chills then you should read my Prestige write up here: [link] it may singlehandedly send you over a cliff. That is if you've seen the movie. If you haven't - run from that there link! hehe.

Thanks for the unwitting compliment. Greatly appreciated.
Taylor
Reply
:iconfestivaali:
Festivaali Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2010  Student Photographer
You can watch this movie thousands of times. And it still will walk to your mind to haunt you. I mean: This movie made me just think -okay I will pretend everything is fine. 'Cause if I don't pretend that. I will not sleep tonight. Too much brain work. Have to recharce and go to movies look this movie second time. It has good messages. And it is funny that almost every watcher of this movie got it differently.
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:iconihni:
ihni Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2010
I like your theory. :)

I love reading people's theories about this movie, and to see how many different ways there are to interpret it.

I don't think this movie will ever grow old.
Reply
:iconrex-ta-box:
Rex-ta-Box Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2010
The thing about the kids not aging--they do age at the end, using different actors. It also never specifically says how long it was he had been on the run so while some people assume it's been for years, it feels they left that open deliberately. When he's on the phone with them their age sounded about the same as when he got back. As for the wake up part with Cob's dad it felt more like he was asking Cob to stop doing all these illegal jobs with the skills he taught him to me personally and it always seemed like Cob's guilt was far too real and tangible, the only thing really keeping him sane and in the real world no matter how much he would've wanted to stay behind in the dream fantasy world, it was mentioned that guilt rooted him in reality. As for the running from international people, projections are the result of someone else's subconscious and there's no reason Cob's own subconscious would converge on himself...The fact that he tends to work for pretty powerful people, failing with extracting from Saito they were bound to be after him when he shows up in their back yard. As well as with the number of times in movie the totem fell over, meaning he wasn't in a dream--or if he was in a dream at the end, he wasn't earlier when the totem fell which wouldn't make sense as they clarify at the beginning Mol's dead by that point over all.

If Cob was in a dream all along his totem wouldn't ever fall when he spun it, but then again like I said I think the movie deliberately leaves a lot of things open at the end for interpretation which is way cool. It's actually really pretty awesome to see how much debate and thoughts crop up around it too; I've never seen a movie that inspires this much intelligent discussion.
Reply
:icondijinn:
dijinn Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2010
Rex,
Really great - well thought out insights. You are spot on on every front. There is a knife's edge here and there are two possibilities - dreaming/awake. And both are equally supported in the movie. Anyone that thinks this movie through logically and comes to a differing (if incorrect! hahah) opinion than mine is all good in my book. The problem I have is people come through and nuke the dream theory sideways without really understanding the ins and outs of their own construct.

I retract (redact even?) the age comment. How's that? But the clothes? The Lighting? The nostalgia? I'm betting those two shots will filmed within like 2 hours of each other. Guaranteed. Nolan worked hard to keep them EXACTLY the same. WHY?

It is my theory that Cobb's dream is the lowest layer of all these other dreams and therefore his subconscious is jacking with all of them. But I won't dive on that particular vein right now.

If you want to know how I think the actual totems work you can read that here - (I swear I'm not self promoting, its just more efficient to do than to recount) - [link] . And basically the conclusion I've come to is that they don't work. How does one end up in Limbo at all with a totem that worked. There was no mention of their dying to get there - they just wandered and got lost down at the bottom of the pile. Perspective was lost. TOTEM!? A totem could be made to work or not work by the dreamer. And also, if you were in your own dream it would fall down. So, that leaves quite a bit of wiggle for mind-bending confusion.

But I digress. Great response. Love to hear well thought out arguments.

Taylor
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:iconkaulquappe:
Kaulquappe Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2010
Hey, but it's *her* totem, not his. It just works in her dreams, and when she is awake, it mustn't work :)... Right?.
But that wouldn't explain the times it dicn't fall over... oO...
Reply
:iconkeeran-aira:
Keeran-Aira Featured By Owner Nov 24, 2010  Student General Artist
But if it is as dijinn says and "And the saddest thing of all - Mol is now by Cobb's bedside pleading with him to wake up from the dream that is going on within her own mind." then the totem of hers he does have would fall in the "awake" world as he would potentially be stuck in HER dream, not his. So that theory in which the Totems do not work is possible.
Reply
:iconanimanga--fanaticism:
animanga--fanaticism Featured By Owner Aug 7, 2010  Student Filmographer
Awesome theory/picture!

I've seen this movie 4 times within the last week, so I've had plenty of time to contemplate it, and I've had plenty of people to talk to about it; but your theory actually makes sense! :nod: Of course, I just wish Nolan could put my mind at ease and let the stupid totem fall. But seriously, way to think this out!

The whole point of the movie is to plant an idea into the audience's mind (whether Cobb is dreaming or not, and if so, whose dream he's in), and grow like "the most resilient parasite" that it is. So technically, everyone who has seen this movie has had inception performed on them, whether it was successful or not. I think in both of our cases, it was successful. :idea:

I absolutely LOVED this movie and am pleased to see I'm not the only one thinking it over this much. :D

Christopher Nolan and Hans Zimmer are my heroes. :worship:
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:icondijinn:
dijinn Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2010
I responded to this already. DAG-ON! If this is a repeat I'm sorry - I've been out on Deviant for years, but never interacted - so I'm really a noob.

Your theory about Nolan Inceiving an idea is fantastic - read this review over on CHUD, you will absolutely wish you'd written it down first: [link]

Love to hear what you think of it!
Taylor
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:iconrubydust:
RubyDust Featured By Owner Aug 7, 2010
Hey this is actually a pretty brilliant theory! I really like it!
Reply
:icondijinn:
dijinn Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2010
Definitely don't think its brilliant - just makes sense. At least to me. But the nice thing is that the movie supports two solutions. Nolan thought them both through from the beginning and balanced them against one another. He's the brilliant one.

tay
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:icongoggie:
goggie Featured By Owner Aug 5, 2010
yay someone gets it right! :) Everyone gets Limbo and Cobb's world confused... lol
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:icondijinn:
dijinn Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2010
unless he vegged his brain long long ago that is. didn't you find it odd that Cobb talks all about the dangers of going too deeply and that if you die, or get lost you'll completely veg and yet it was sooo easy for him to just bounce out? My money is on the fact that he's burnt. The romantic in me would prefer it that he was finally restored to his children. But I think Mal was right the whole movie long. I think Mal is the one you should watch closer - she is the only one with the real version of what is going on. She spells it out as clears as day....
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:iconchaoskitty1257:
chaoskitty1257 Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2010  Hobbyist Digital Artist
wow :o
very interesting idea, you have me convinced :3
no matter what we think about this movie i can definitely agree on one thing. it. is. amazing. period. lol :3
Reply
:iconprincess-peachy:
Princess-Peachy Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2010
The movie is extremely open to debate and thought, which is awesome. I, personally, try not to think that he's dreaming at the end. He's been through so much during the movie, I think he deserves a happy ending.
Reply
:icondijinn:
dijinn Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2010
Which, of course, is fair. But despite all he's been through, and our propensity to desire happy endings, I still think the guy is snoozing on a bed with his wife near by. Sad as it is. But we've been over this already. But I totally get why you'd want that ending to work.
Reply
:iconradioactivemongoose:
RadioactiveMongoose Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2010
2 is the wrong picture to use, since it's actually a dream. :/
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:icondijinn:
dijinn Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2010
I don't understand. 2 is correct. Please explain.

Its seven and one that are wrong. Seven is wrong because I couldn't find a scrape of the limbo world with old Saito. If you know of one I'd love a copy. Figure I have to wait until I get my hands on a DVD. The one I used for seven was from the initial dream w/in a dream proof to Saito they were all that and a bag o' chips. Also, one is wrong because we never get a chance to see the reality Mal kicks to when she commits "suicide". Maybe that is what you meant. Not two but one? Tryin' my best over here.

hehe.
t
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:iconradioactivemongoose:
RadioactiveMongoose Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2010
No, 2 is the scene where Cobb is introducing the dream world to Ariadne. They're really in the warehouse with Arthur.
Reply
:icondijinn:
dijinn Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2010
Oh. I've been reading these comments of yours over and over again trying to understand. So basically you are saying you believe the main movie level where they devise of inception is not a dream. Yes? I see... I think.

I disagree... and think it was a dream. Thus all the shrapnel scattered amongst the floor here. hehehe.
Would love to see your dream layer map though.

Taylor
Reply
:iconradioactivemongoose:
RadioactiveMongoose Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2010
Not what I meant at all.

I'm saying that the second frame is legitimately a dream, and is revealed as a dream.
Reply
:iconmoyashi:
moyashi Featured By Owner Aug 14, 2010
yes, please. second frame is ariadne's first 'dream' where she experiments with architecture
Reply
:iconlengai:
Lengai Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2010  Student General Artist
It may have looked like the children hadn't aged, but they did have different actor/tresses for the two ages. If they were not supposed to have aged, that would not have been so. And then the theory I subscribe to is that Cobb's totem was NOT Mals' top, but his wedding ring. In all dream states, Cobb was wearing it. In the scenes of reality, he was not. Every time. And if it was a dream the entire time, wouldn't that just make the movie moot? That would throw out Mal's death, the most emotional point in the movie. Having Cobb just deluded the whole movie strips it of emotional impact. His guilt is pointless, his quest to go home is pointless, it all turns out pointless if that were the case. And I feel that there must be a point. I think that his father telling him to "come back to reality" wasn't a statement that he in a dream a the time, but that because he spends so much time in dreams that he's forgotten to live in the real world. Like Cobb said of Ariadne, it was addictive.

I just thing that supposing that the WHOLE movie was a dream is a bit extreme. But hey, to each his own.
Reply
:iconbeekay84:
beekay84 Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
Very well said. I do believe the end of the movie leaves both possibilities open, but I personally think both sides have good arguments, and those presented by you are at least as plausible as the ones presented by the "It was all a dream" fraction.
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:icondijinn:
dijinn Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2010
First. Love the footer.

Second. Its a fine theory and I can't convince you otherwise by counter arguing, I don't think. So I'll post a review of Inception that counters all of your points - especially the "strips it of emotional impact" bit. I actually think it heightens it. But read this and let me know what you think:

[link]

Audi.
Reply
:iconno-named:
No-Named Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
I can't believe people need this to be fucking explained. :| It's not that hard to listen to the movie daslkjfsalkj
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:icondijinn:
dijinn Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2010
so you agree then? because most people don't.
Reply
:iconno-named:
No-Named Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
Wait a fucking second.

Now we're debating upon the dream levels? I thought it was just the ending :crying: but I'm going to have to say no. Well mostly. I just find it retarded how some people need this to be explained. =A=
Reply
:icondijinn:
dijinn Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2010
The basics of the movie are simple. Very simple. I agree. What actually happened though is not.
Reply
:iconno-named:
No-Named Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
:iconsadtruthplz: my personal opinion is that there were 5 layers of one dream and the ending...not so good.
Reply
:iconheathcliffal14:
heathcliffal14 Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2010  Hobbyist Photographer
seven layers makes most sense yes xD
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:icondijinn:
dijinn Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2010
well ok then.
Reply
:iconalittlemind:
ALittleMind Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2010
It wasn't a dream at the end, around the end of the credits, you could hear the top clattering to a stop. Also, you could See that it wasn't just "spinning and spinning," it started to waver before it got cut off at the end.

And if they were really dreaming the second layer, then Mal would be able to wake Cobb up from the outside world. Also, when you come out of limbo, you wake up completely, so therefore, when they got out of limbo the first time, they would really be out.

Also, I'm very sure Mal is a projection because Cobb said "This is only a part of you, i can't imagine you in all your perfection, imperfection, complexity." What he saw of Mal was only a part of who she really was, and that part, the part where she is obsessed with reality and escape, thats the part that consumed Cobb, the only parts he could remember of her. Thats the main reason why i think so.

Nolan is a genius, he made a movie where you don't just come out of it and say, "yeah it was a great movie," before you even get up from your chair, you're talking and thinking about the characters, the complexity, the possibilities. You sit down with your friends and family and discuss what really happened during those 148 minutes. And he made it seem like there were a lot of open ended questions, but there really wern't, I think that if we look hard enough, we'll find the answers somewhere.
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:icondijinn:
dijinn Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2010
Good thoughts all. We can just disagree. But I'm glad to see you've thought through your perspective thoroughly and completely. The detail surrounding my logic for believing it is a dream can all be seen here: [link]

And I also just did an in depth discussion of the 5 totem owners and their totems here: [link]

Would love to hear where I missed it on either of these posts. Regardless, good analysis and perspective of the movie. Also, would love to know whether you think the Tesla machine in the Prestige actually worked or not. I'm betting you believed that it actually did clone Angier. But maybe I'm wrong there.

Taylor
ps - I'm new to replying to people here at deviant. If I don't respond its probably because I don't know you commented back. You can hit me directly at taylor@taylorholmes.com
Reply
:iconalittlemind:
ALittleMind Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2010
I just finished reading both of your articles, I also agree that if it were all a dream, then Cobb's totem wouldn't be all that reliable, to say the least. Because his mind can control it, and make it stop spinning, etc. But I think totems that have to do with weight would most likely work. Because when you dream, you don't really have a sense of weight, and if you have the ability to question your dream while sleeping (a feat within itself), then you would probably be able to figure the object you were holding in your hand weighed nothing at all.

One thing that turns me off to the idea that it is all a dream is Mal. For one, she never visited him in the "real movie world" and I think that, if she really wanted to convince him, that would be the first place she would go after waking up, and then there's always the idea of her giving him a kick from the outside. (Someone also told me, that by the end of the credits, you could hear the top stop spinning, but I want to check that out for my self...... *good excuse to see it again*....)

I think something else that it all boils down to is, what kind of world is it? I mean, in the true world of Inception, the thought of going into and sharing dreams is an act generally accepted, sort of like the show Dollhouse, in the general public, its only a rumor, or something that just doesn't concern them, but among certain circles, it's used and exploited. Is Inception that kind of world, or is it something else?

Anyway, I enjoyed reading your take on the movie, and I hope you get this message!

shannon
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:iconrunningonchocolate:
RunningOnChocolate Featured By Owner Aug 1, 2010   General Artist
I can't help but think she could just push him off the bed if it was all a dream.

Just a thought.
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:icondijinn:
dijinn Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2010
Clever.
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