Q & A: "Hotel level"
Q9.1) Whose dream was this?
Answer: Arthur was the host, and this was his dream. He was in charge of plugging the team to the dream machine to allow them to enter the “snow level” to continue the mission. He was also in charge of preparing the “kick” that would wake them up when the Edith Piaf song was played on his headphone at the “van level” by Yusuf.
Q9.2) Who was Mr. Charles and why did Cobb use him as a gambit?
Answer: The original Mr. Charles was a subconscious projection of Fischer’s. Mr. Charles was trained to perform the role of helping Fischer to get rid of intruders. Cobb “impersonated” Mr. Charles to get Fischer to side with him by getting him to notice that he was in a dream and realize the strangeness of it all. Earning Fischer’s trust at the “hotel level” was very important as inception could only be completed at the “snow level”.
Q9.3) Why did a young woman tried to seduce Fischer at the hotel bar?
Answer: She was Eames impersonating as a prostitute. She wrote down her phone number (528491) on a piece of cloth/paper so that Fischer could call her if he needed her. Cobb later came and introduced himself as Mr. Charles. Cobb got Fischer to notice he was in a dream by pointing out several examples such as the unnatural tilting of the hotel bar (caused by the movement of the van at the “van level”) and that phone numbers do not have only 6-digits.
Q9.4) What was the significance of the number 528491?
Answer: At the “van level”, it was just a random number blurted out by Fischer. The team would remind Fischer of this number in discrete ways, allowing him to internalize it because the number would be used to unlock the giant safe at the “snow level” by Fischer himself.
Q9.5) Why were there still armed agents chasing the team even after Fischer trusted Cobb?
Answer: This may be slightly difficult to understand. It was after Fischer trusted Cobb that the armed agents started to attack the team. There was no reason for Fischer to panic before Cobb met Fischer, thus armed agents would not have been present initially. When Cobb persuaded Fischer to side with him and revealed that there were people out to steal his secrets, Fischer’s subconscious naturally projected armed agents going after them.
Q9.6) What was the team’s plan for this level?
Answer: Eames would impersonate a prostitute so that he could write the important number down for an unsuspecting Fischer to remember. Cobb would later approach Fischer as Mr. Charles to persuade him to side with him and to warn him that there were extractors who wanted his secrets.
They also captured Fischer’s projection of Browning (because he was observed by Eames as acting strangely), depicting him as the bad guy who planned the kidnap at the “van level” because he too wanted to know the code to the safe containing the second will, which was about dissolving the empire (definitely not having Browning’s interests at heart). Thus knowing the code would allow Browning to destroy the second will.
With Fischer convinced that Browning had kept secrets from him, Cobb would suggest to him to find the secrets by entering a new level of dream. Cobb tricked Fischer into thinking that they were going into Browning’s dream to see what they could find there when in fact it was Eames’.
Arthur would stay back to rig the explosives in the room that would “kick” the team back to the “van level” after they have been “kicked” at the “snow level”.
Q9.7) What went wrong for this level?
Answer: The sudden lack of gravity was not planned. Arthur had to keep the team plugged to the dream machine while finding a way to “kick” them back to the “van level” without gravity.
Q9.8) What caused the lack of gravity?
Answer: As it is in real life, a dreamer's dream could be affected by things happening outside the dream. If it gets cold while sleeping, sometimes people dream of ice or snow. If a person falls out of bed, sometimes they'll dream of skydiving or falling in their dream. So when the van in the “van level” fell off the bridge, the equilibrium of those inside the van was thrown off, and that feeling of falling carried over into the “hotel level”, making it as though there was no gravity. This effect did not, however, seem to extend any further than one level in a dream within a dream within a dream. (taken from IMDB’s FAQ)
**Possible loophole: Shouldn’t the lack of gravity at the “hotel level” also cause the “snow level” to be devoid of gravity? Apparently, earlier in the film when the van crashed into the barrier at the “van level”, the impact not only caused Arthur to hurtle from one end of the corridor to the other at the “hotel level”, but also created an avalanche in the “snow level”. So the theory that any effect from a shallower dream level would not translate across more than one level into a deeper dream level is wrong.
Q9.9) How could Arthur alter the structure of the stairs without Ariadne?
Answer: Everyone can build and alter their own dream. But not everyone can build a perfect maze. The role of Ariadne was to design a dream environment as a perfect maze for their inception mission. She would then explain the design to the team member who was going to be the dreamer (hence the sequence with the miniatures). Arthur could alter the structure of the stairs because he was the dreamer. Arthur was also the one who explained the concept of the never-ending staircase (known as Penrose's Paradox) to Ariadne so she could incorporate it into the levels. (taken from IMDB’s FAQ)
Q9.10) How did blowing up the elevator create gravity?
Answer: The original plan was to have the floor of the hotel room drop out from underneath the dreamers and thus providing the 'kick' that would wake them up. This was supposed to happen before the van ploughed through the barrier and flew off the bridge. However, the timing was thrown in disarray, and now that Arthur's body was in free-fall in the van, it translated into his dream of the “hotel level” - thus preventing the floor from dropping once the explosives had discharged.
He improvised a kick by moving everyone into the lift and then setting off an explosive to cause the lift to start moving up the shaft (this works much like a rocket on a space craft). To those in the lift, the force of the lift pushing them was equivalent to gravity. Gravity alone was not enough to wake the dreamers, so when the lift hit the roof at the top of the shaft, the sudden stopping or slowing-down caused the dreamers to first be propelled upwards, and then fall back to the floor. The result was the same because the inner ear only detected the acceleration due to a force acting on the body, much like Eames' demonstration of tipping Arthur's chair over to wake him up in a much earlier scene. (taken from IMDB’s FAQ)