Inception – Explained Ending & Robots Of The Spinning Top

Undoubtedly, “Inception” is one of the most interesting and complex films of our time. There is a lot of scrappy information on the Internet on its various elements. Well, most of all the fans are interested in the ending, which the director of the film Christopher Nolan decided to leave open, without giving an answer to the main question: “Did the top stop in the scene of the hero’s reunion with the children or did it continue to rotate?” This riddle has been haunted for 10 years already by all those who have remained partial to this film and have an urgent need to know and understand everything.

Let’s figure it out.

Totem is the key to understanding the meaning of the film Inception

frame from the movie “Inception”

It’s worth starting with the method by which the heroes distinguish dream from reality. Dominic Cobb, Arthur and Eames have certain “totems” – ordinary small objects, a token or a dice, for example, which, as indicators, show whether their owner is in someone else’s dream or not. This method was invented by Mel (Cobb’s wife) and the main essence of the totem is that it must have some kind of flaw that only its owner knows about: a shifted center of gravity at the dice, an error in the word on the chip, and so on.

Having such an object in his hands and finding himself in someone else’s dream, any person will immediately understand this, because then the dice will feed to different sides, and there will be no mistake on the chip. Simply put, a totem is an extraordinary thing that turns into an ordinary thing in someone else’s dream.

Explanation of the principle of spinning top robots

frame from the movie “Inception”

However, this principle of totem robots in someone else’s dream contradicts the principle of the robot top, Mel’s totem. He (the top) acts exactly the opposite. This is an ordinary thing that begins to behave unusual in a dream. Therefore, if Cobb finds himself in someone else’s dream, then with his help he will not be able to determine whether this is reality or a dream. In someone else’s dream, the top will stop and fall as well as in reality. Everyone knows that tops fall, so the tops recreated in someone else’s dream will also fall.

The ring is Cobb’s true totem

stills from the film “Inception”

Why does Cobb, the most experienced extractor, have such a poorly functioning totem? In fact, this is not his real totem. The real one is a wedding ring. In all scenes where the main character is in a dream, it is always worn on the finger. When the hero is in the real world, the ring is always in his pocket. Nothing is known about its flaw, but it is not difficult to assume that somewhere on it there is a notch, or an error in the engraving, if any. It is thanks to the ring that Cobb understands whether he is in someone else’s dream or not. But why does he need a top?

Cobb’s biggest fear is to stop understanding where the dream is and where the reality is. That is why he is so frightened in the scene when Ariadne begins to build an exact copy of the existing bridge.

So, the standard totem allows you to determine whether a person is in his own dream, but the standard totem is not able to show whether a person is in his own dream. The top has a different principle of robots. He, unlike the standard totem, cannot determine whether a person is in someone else’s dream, but he will show whether a person is in his own. It is in his dream that Cobb can make the top spin endlessly. But he cannot do it in reality or in someone else’s dream. And it is for this that he always has two whole totems with him. Cobb is not afraid to get stuck in someone else’s dream, he is afraid to get stuck in his own, so we can always watch the scene as he checks the top, but does not check the ring.

And more interestingly, every time he checks the top, Cobb hopes that it will spin endlessly. He wants the world around him to be a dream, he does not believe that Mel died and hopes that she just returned to reality

Inception 2010 – English Trailer

Explanation of the ending of the film Inception

frame from the movie “Inception”

But what happened in the end? Christopher Nolan said quite bluntly that this film is not about dreams. Michael Caine said that he asked Nolan which scenes take place in all, and which ones are in reality, and the director replied that all the scenes with him are reality, including the ending. And knowing the principle of the robot’s top and listening to the comment of Nolan himself, we can confidently say that the top has stopped, because only in his dream Cobb can make him spin forever, and the ring will help him understand whether he is in someone else’s dream.

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