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What is Limbo?

Limbo is a state of mind a character experiences, or a final dream space a character visits, if they die in a dream while under heavy sedation, for example during the final mission. Characters in limbo find it difficult to distinguish reality from a dream, they become "lost" in the dream and gradually forget the reality they once knew. If a character dies in limbo without acknowledging the unreality of their situation, they wake up in a vegetative state - as Eames puts it, their brain turns into "scrambled egg". Cobbs and Saito are seen struggling to remember in the final limbo scene.
Limbo is "pure subconscious" and "unconstructed dream space", shared by any character that falls into it. The only objects present in Limbo are those residual objects left by characters that have been to Limbo before, and are now sharing the dream with you.

There is some debate about whether the "ruined city" scenes are set in Limbo proper, or just a recreation of Limbo from Cobb's memory of his previous (presumably genuine) Limbo experiences. The only sure representation of Limbo in the film seems to be the rocky beach scene that recurs, where Cobb is washed up on the shores of his subconscious. He was protected in it because he and his architect chose to go together. Had he gone alone, he may have not recovered. Note in the penultimate scene that Cobb and Seito are the only two in Limbo. And that before Cobb went, his architect asked him if he wanted her to go also. By then, Cobb had learned enough about discerning the truth and had resolved the guilt he felt regarding his wife's suicide, so the one truth he had been hiding from everybody (save his architect) no longer infiltrated his dreams. That enabled him to go alone, knowing he would come back.

Devon asked the question 2010-07-29 03:11:27 UTC view / hide
Devon provided an answer 2010-07-29 03:14:02 UTC view / hide
Anon_172 commented 2010-08-03 18:33:08 UTC
I'm not satisfied with the idea that death in limbo brings you back to reality. It doesn't fit with the ideas of death leading to limbo (when the body is heavily sedated), or death bringing you back (when the body is not heavily sedated).
Anon_118 improved the answer 2010-08-05 00:45:51 UTC view / hide
Anon_103 improved the answer 2010-08-05 07:35:20 UTC view / hide
Mark Roder improved the answer 2011-01-11 05:51:25 UTC view / hide
Anon_241 improved the question 2011-01-11 05:51:40 UTC view / hide
Mark Roder improved the answer 2011-01-11 05:56:01 UTC view / hide
pleasestopthisnow improved the answer 2011-03-04 16:42:03 UTC view / hide
Anon_241 improved the question 2011-03-04 16:42:16 UTC view / hide
Devon improved the answer 2011-04-05 08:42:45 UTC view / hide
Devon improved the question 2011-04-05 08:42:46 UTC view / hide
Julia improved the answer 2011-12-27 07:53:30 UTC view / hide
D Thompson improved the answer 2012-10-24 04:11:56 UTC view / hide

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