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July 20, 2010
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Inception Dream Layer Map by dijinn Inception Dream Layer Map by dijinn

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.


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!


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.

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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!
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...
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
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.
RyemSalim 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
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."
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.
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.
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.
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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