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Explaining Inception: an FAQ Guide

Guide to the dreams within dreams in the movie Inception.
Spoiler Alert! This guide contains key plot information and you should watch the movie first before reading it.

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» Ask / Add an FAQ / 329921 views / 166 FAQs
If anyone in a dream can alter the dream world (regardless of who the dreamer is), why did Cobb need to know if Ardiane has built a shortcut to the snow fortress in level 3? He or anyone else in the dream could easily have created a shortcut right on the spot. (I know that altering the dream causes the subconcious agents to attack, but the team is already fighting with Fischer's subconcious agents. So, it wouldn't change anything) » Improve Q
As previously explained and displayed by Cobb, making changes in a dream world will make its inhabitants increasingly hostile to the alien entities - in this case, the team. If they were to create a new passageway on the spot, the inhabitants would likely become even more aggressive and more difficult to defeat, and so the action would simply compromise the mission further. Also if Cobb altered the 'Maze' as it were, then it is possible that Mal could then appear and try to attack them, as he would then know the structure. » Improve A
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why is cobb and saito no longer connected to the dream machine when they wake up on the plane at the end of the movie? » Improve Q

As you can see at the beginning of the movie in the train, Saito was still sleeping even after the tubes were disconnected. They used the same dream machine in the aeroplane and the sedative is very strong. The sedative was already in them when they were connected to the dream machine. So, like other drugs, Cobb and Saito have to wait for the sedative to finish or weaken even after the tubes were disconnected in order to wake up.

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Why was music played through headphones to the dreamer? » Improve Q
The headphone is always placed on the dreamer of the following level and is a cue that a kick is about to take place, urging them to start the kick process for the dream of the next level.

The music will be incorporated by the dreamer into their dream, and all those in that dream will hear it. This acts as a signal to prepare for a kick. It is an instance of the more general phenomenon of something experienced by a dreamer entering the dream in some form - for example, the water of the bath enters Cobb's dream, the champagne drunk by Yusuf on the airplane enters his dream as rain, drowning in the van enters Cobb's limbo dream as the experience of being washed ashore choking, etc
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In a part of the movie, we see Ariadne explaining to Cobb that one of the levels would happen in a hospital, where Fischer Sr was interned. But there wasn't any scene that happened in a hospital. What did she mean, then? » Improve Q
the hospital was in the snow level. Last room (the vault) in snow fortress was the hospital where Fischer opened the locked door and found his father.  » Improve A
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Is it possible that, all the movie being Cobb´s dream, his wife might be still alive, in the "real world"? The person "dies" in the dream and awakens in real life, but for the dreamer that person is dead. » Improve Q
If "all the movie" (that is, every single bit form start to end) is Cobb's dream, then, yes - anything is possible. Maybe he never had a wife? Maybe he's a trapeze artist from Thailand? The point is that something in the movie needs to be real for us to be sure of anything.

It all depends on how you choose to perceive the movie. One of the theory says that when Mal jumped, she jumped in a dream. She intended to make make Cobb realise that he is dreaming but failed.
Then there are other theories.. chosing to follow one of them each time your watch the move makes for slightly diffrent experiences
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What would happen if the machine was turned off and the sedative wore off when people were still on different (non-limbo) levels? Would they all wake up, or would those not on the first dream level end up in limbo? » Improve Q

Time simply goes on in the real world, and that people in different layers experience that same amount of time, only dilated by a factor of X (depending on the strength of the sedative used). So if the sedative wore off when people are in different levels, they would wake up normally after spending a certain amount of hours in their respective levels.

For example, in the real world a 20:1 sedative works for 1 second. After 1 second, everyone wakes up:

whoever is in the first layer stays in it for 1x20 seconds, then wake up.

whoever is in the second layer stays in it for 20x20=400 seconds, then wake up.

whoever is in the third layer stays in it for 400x20=8000 seconds, then wake up.

So on and so forth.

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Wasn't it dangerous for the chemist to be drinking alcohol before dreaming level
one?
» Improve Q
No.  I guess he would know, right?  The warning against simultaneous consumption of alcohol and drugs does not apply to dream sedatives and drugs apparently, unless you want to get your dreams rained on. » Improve A
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How did Cobb and Saito end up in the same limbo? Why not each their own? » Improve Q
Because they are all connected to the same dream, they experience the same Limbo with elements from both of their subconscious minds.

Limbo is a shared dreamspace. The beach was a feature of Cobb's previous Limbo experiences, from the "memory elevator" Ariadne sees Mal play with the kids on it, and she sees the train rush past on it. For Cobb it seems a site of trauma. Saito adds his Japanese house to the shoreline.» Improve this Answer
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If the whole thing was a dream and Mal was up in "reality" why didn't she give her husband a kick to wake him up? » Improve Q
It could be that Mal was angry at Cobb because he didn't believe in her, so if she woke up she probably was disappointed at him and left him. » Improve A
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Question. In Limbo at the table there were apricot leafs and the knife placed on the table. what does those leafs represent? » Improve Q
They might not represent anything, they could quite easily be just for decoration. » Improve A
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