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Close up: Inception’s mindbending Paris scene

Written by Bruce Isaacs, Associate Professor, Film Studies, University of Sydney


How do filmmakers communicate big ideas on screen? In this video series, film scholar Bruce Isaacs analyses pivotal film scenes in detail.



Watching Christopher Nolan’s 2010 film Inception, especially in the cinema, is an overwhelming experience. The viewer has no idea what is going on but can marvel at the visual spectacle.

In this scene on a Parisian street, young architect Ariadne (Ellen Page) rebuilds the landscape with her imagination and without being bound by physical constraints. It is notable that Nolan forgoes a fully digital effect here, perhaps drawing inspiration from the work of Stanley Kubrick decades prior. This is live-action footage, seamlessly blended digitally. The “radical realness” of the impossible image — with cars travelling vertically through space and the street folding onto itself — is what makes it so strange and so strangely unsettling to us as the audience.

See more video analysis of great movie scenes here.

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