I suppose that this is somehow, unofficially, “Inception week” here at Unreality, what with seemingly half our posts somehow related to Christopher Nolan’s latest film. The concepts of idea inception and dreams within dreams aren’t your everyday, run-0f-the-mill plot devices, and for a summer blockbuster, they’re about as complex and layered as you’ll see. Still, Inception is really not that complicated, especially considering that Nolan holds your hand and gives you a tutorial via dialogue for the first third of the movie. Here are five movies that are, in my opinion, far more complicated than Inception.
Time loops and time paradoxes can be confusing, but Primer twists timelines so many times that it’s nearly impossible to fully grasp what’s going on the first time you see this movie. Or the second, for that matter. There are multiple Abes and Aarons running around, some trying to get rich, others trying not to screw up time, and others trying to prevent past versions of themselves from screwing up time. It’s dizzying to say the least, and easily one of the most complicated movies I’ve ever seen. Some people have actually created timelines to chart exactly what’s going on, but even with that help, it’s damn confusing. See for yourself by clicking HERE.
I suppose I could have filled this list with David Lynch movies, but Mulholland Drive stood out the most. The story is anything but linear, filled with symbolism, and, like Inception, deals with dreams and projections. Overall, Lynch’s tale of Betty Elms and her amnesiac friend can be described as totally surreal. Not helping matters is the fact that, as is his usual custom, Lynch has not revealed exactly what his film was supposed to mean, leaving it open to interpretation. If anyone’s got a good theory on this one, I’d love to hear it.
Richard Kelly’s best (and only good) movie is Donnie Darko, a tale of tangent universes, sleepwalking, time travel, and giant talking rabbits (sort of). After a few viewings, Donnie’s destiny starts to become clear, but exactly what his role is in the universe and how time travel works can’t be fully appreciated without doing some research outside of the movie. How convoluted and complex is Donnie Darko? Even Richard Kelly himself has stated that he doesn’t fully understand it and that it is open to many interpretations.
2001: A Space Odyssey
2001 isn’t so much complicated as it is layered and complex, but that’s what you’d expect from a Kubrick film – especially one in which the story spans thousands of years. From Moonwatcher’s learning to use tools, to the signal from the moon, from HAL’s breakdown, to the presence of the Star Child at the film’s finale – all overshadowed by the mysterious monolith – there are seemingly endless images and symbols to interpret. The best way to understand 2001 is to read the book (which does vary from the film, but the same themes are present) or, even better, to read interviews with Kubrick and hear it straight from the man himself.
One of Nolan’s greatest strengths as a storyteller is his ability to structure his films unconventionally, and I’d argue that the best example of this is not Inception, but rather, Memento, a story that is, for the most part, told from end to beginning. I don’t think that Memento is unbearably complicated, but it’s certainly the type of movie that one can watch passively and still expect to understand everything that’s going on. I’m confident I fully understand Memento - and always have – but judging by the comments on one of my past articles, it seems that not everyone agrees.
Do you find the above movies complicated? Which movies had you pondering their meanings long after you watched them? Let me know in the comments section.