There are a few movies which catch me in such a state that the rest of the day is hardly livable while I pull my thoughts back into reality. In the last five years, I'd say (chronologically, as to when I saw them) The Virgin Suicides, Half Nelson, The Reader, Chinatown, and In A Lonely Place have each caused this breach between external reality and my perceptions of senses. (All for, of course, emotional reasons, except Chinatown, which may have been for moral reasons.) Inception gave me that feeling much earlier in the film, which was rare, perhaps immediately after the scene of "Paris overturned", and I was able to untangle myself from it before JGL's massive performance in the hotel hallway, which was probably the cinematographic zenith.
(courtesy Warner Bros.)
I can say with some assurance that what is architecturally outstanding in Inception is what will catapult it for the AMPAS as this year's benchmark in cinematography. But these are not identical praise. Architects are not cinematographers. (vice versa.) What one understands to be beautiful in all films goes deeper than an image on a screen but the use of space, and with this film, Nolan's unique take on subconscious space. I was dazzled by "Paris overturned" and "JGL in rotating hotel", but it was an undefined appreciation. As I've said many times on this blog, despite a rampant overhaul in the medium my thoughts take (having shifted dramatically since March into being spatially and architecturally structured, as opposed to structured by language), I have no formal training in architectural studies, except for a single course on the philosophy of architecture. I was shocked by how the mind is immediately bent to change architectural structure in order to alter one's perceptions of reality. Granted, "Paris overturned" was the product of the mind of an architecture student, and were she a physical sciences student, an emphasis might have been placed on changing certain inalienable laws of physics or chemistry in relation to the human being and not the buildings. Yet it proves the affects of built space on an individual's familiarity with reality. And our familiarity, our feeble grip on "reality" is something that is far more persistent than the desire to create an ideal.
The last paragraph was seriously difficult to write as I found myself wanting to slip into more on the profession of architecture than its philosophies and treatises. As such, I will direct you to one of the more adequate reviews of Inception from this angle, as printed in Australian Design Review:
"[I]t turns out that the world of the real architect and the dream world of the movie architect are essentially the same: both resemble realms of fantasy and desire, but are really just elaborate traps, ingeniously designed to rob us of what we treasure most. This nexus between inspiration and reality brings to mind Calvino’s Zobeide. Designed by dreamers to capture the woman of their desires, to outsiders the city of Zobeide just resembles an ugly maze."
If you're as gross about this as I am:
(And if aforementioned lady friend is reading this, even after the scores and scores of quips teetering very close to: 'It's not about Joseph Gordon-Levitt, it's about the way he makes you feel,' then I hope this has given some credence to my seemingly-irrational obsession with the biggest-budgetest blockbuster of the summer.)