Q & A: "Snow level"
Q10.1) Whose dream was this?
Answer: This was Eames’ dream. However, Fischer was tricked into thinking that they were going into Browning’s dream.
Q10.2) If Fischer was tricked into thinking he was in Browning’s dream, why didn’t he then question the absence of Browning at this level?
Answer: Fischer had been told by Cobb that the “snow level” was Browning’s dream, and the reason for entering his dream was to find out his secrets. Facing a heavily guarded fortress, he would logically infer that Browning’s secrets were kept somewhere in there, and that Browning was also somewhere inside. Thus, it made no sense for Browning to be together with them out in the snow.
Later, when they got to the giant safe, Fischer also did not expect Browning to appear because they had got there via a special, secret pathway. The fact that Browning was a bad guy in Fischer’s mind meant that his no-show was more of a positive sign than not. Thus, there was no motivation for Fischer to question the absence of Browning.
Q10.3) Why were there armed militants?
Answer: The armed militants were projections of Fischer’s subconscious. But then you might ask: Couldn’t he stop projecting them to make the mission less threatening? The answer is no.
Let’s return to the “hotel level” to explain this (link back to Q9.5). Remember that Cobb “impersonated” Mr. Charles to convince Fischer that there were extractors onto him? That was the reason Fischer projected armed agents going after them. With this understanding, when the team entered the “snow level”, Fischer projected armed militants surrounding the snow fortress because they were guarding something very important that he wanted to know. Moreover, since Browning had been made out to be a traitor by Cobb’s team, and Fischer was tricked that he was entering Browning’s dream, naturally his subconscious would project a hostile environment.
Q10.4) Why was there an avalanche?
Answer: At the “van level”, the van smashed into the barrier for the “kick”. However, the “kick” wasn’t successfully effected. Instead, the impact of the crash caused Arthur at the “hotel level” to lose his balance, and created an avalanche at the “snow level”.
Q10.5) What was the plan for this level?
Answer: The plan for this level was for Cobb’s team to complete the inception on Fischer. Ariadne had constructed a giant safe that could only be unlocked by Fischer who would have already internalized its code in the “hotel level”. Fischer would find the secrets he wanted to know that had been kept away from him by Browning. Of course, oblivious to Fischer, this was all part of Cobb’s plan to firmly plant the idea into Fischer’s subconscious.
Eames would then plant explosives around the snow fortress so that when they exploded, the team would be killed and would wake up at the “hotel level” in time to ride the “kick” back to the “van level”.
Q10.6) What went wrong at this level?
Answer: Two major setbacks. One, Mal appeared and shot Fischer. Two, Saito “died”.
Q10.7) Why did Mal appear?
Answer: Ariadne revealed a secret entry path into the snow fortress to Cobb when the latter asked her if she added any structural modification that would help the team to get to the giant safe quickly. With this knowledge of the structure of the snow fortress, Cobb’s subconscious projection of Mal would know how to disrupt Cobb’s plan by locating Fischer and incapacitating him.
Q10.8) Did Fischer die from Mal’s gunshot?
Answer: The popular consensus is that Fischer was shot dead by Mal. However, I beg to differ. The argument that Fischer was shot dead is wrong because if Fischer died, he would wake up at the “hotel level”. Did we see him wake up at the “hotel level”? No. Was it implied that he woke up at the “hotel level”? No. In addition, if Fischer was dead, there would have been no need to plug him into the dream machine to save him or to use the defibrillator to restart his heart.
By elimination, if Fischer was not dead, it meant that he was still alive but unconscious. I would say that he was probably induced into a comatose-like state.
Q10.9) How did the remaining team members plan to save Fischer?
Answer: Ariadne suggested that if they plug Fischer into the dream machine, they might be able to find his consciousness in a deeper dream level and bring him back. Cobb bought her idea, plugging themselves and Fischer into the dream machine. They would enter the “building level”, Cobb’s dream, and the same one that he and Mal spent a long time together in.
As host, Eames would stay behind in the “snow level” to defend against the militants, rig the explosives, and try to defibrillate Fischer.
Q10.10) Why the need to go into a deeper dream level to save Fischer when the defibrillator could have been used immediately to save him?
Answer: Fischer had been shot and was in a comatose-like state. If the defibrillator was immediately used to shock his heart into a normal beating rhythm so that his body could be sustained, would he have woken up? Unlikely because his mind was already gone.
With Fischer’s mind gone at the “snow level”, it was only probable that his mind would try to search for another active stream of consciousness. His mind could not have gone back to the “hotel level” because he did not die at the “snow level”. His mind also could not have gone into limbo because he did not die in the “van level”. So as Ariadne suggested, the only way to find Fischer’s consciousness was to plug his body into the dream machine and try to find him in the deeper dream level.
That deeper dream level was the “building level”. After Cobb and Ariadne found Fischer, the latter jumped to his death to force his mind to return to the “snow level”. At the same time, Eames was defibrillating him so that when his mind returned, it would return to a revived body. Thus, with body revived and consciousness back, Fischer would be able to wake up and continue with the mission.
Q10.11) Did Saito die at this level?
Answer: No. He died of his wounds at the “van level” and went to limbo. When a person dies in a dream, he is incapable of dreaming of another dream in that dream. So in Saito’s case, dying at the “van level” meant that he could not dream of the “hotel level” anymore, and consequently, the “snow level” as well.
**The reason Saito tagged along with Cobb’s team was so that he could witness inception done on Fischer. However, Saito did not live long enough to see that. So did Saito really believe that inception was completed when he woke up in reality? If he didn’t, would he have kept his side of the deal by arranging for all criminal charges against Cobb to be dropped? If he didn’t, then Cobb would have been arrested, and the final sequence which showed Cobb back with his kids would not have been rooted in reality.
Q10.12) Why couldn’t the defibrillator be used on Saito?
Answer: Two reasons. One, Saito died at the “van level” and went to limbo. Two, it is impossible to bring a dead person back to life again through defibrillation. You could argue that in a dream, it may be possible. But I believed that Nolan had made his film in such a way that whatever happened in dreams, it was still rooted in the idea of realism i.e. the irreversible cause-effect phenomena, or as how I would describe – a “realist dreamscape”.
Q10.13) When Fischer was revived again, what happened to his gunshot wound?
Answer: It miraculously disappeared. Apparently, it could only happen in a dream. It seemed like if a person’s body and mind were “restarted”, any wounds would disappear. I feel that this contradicts the “realist dreamscape” explanation in Q10.12, but I am not going to be too critical about it.
**It would not have worked on a wounded Saito at the “van level” because he was shot but did not go into a coma.
Q10.14) Was Fischer’s father in the giant safe a projection?
Answer: Yes. However, some people believed that Fischer’s father was impersonated by Eames. This is not a sound observation because Eames was clearly standing outside the safe and looking in, thus eliminating the possibility that Eames was impersonating Fischer’s father.
Q10.15) Who projected Fischer’s father in the giant safe?
Answer: There are two possible explanations, It could be Eames or Fischer, since they were the two characters who were at the “snow level” when the safe was unlocked by Fischer.
Eames would have had some knowledge of Fischer’s father since he spent some time at his place to study Browning before the mission. He projected Fischer’s father to deliver the line - “he was disappointed that Fischer tried to be like him” - that would complete inception on Fischer since it was planned from the start that this was how it was to be done.
It could also be Fischer’s own projection of his father telling him what his father would have wanted him to hear. In this case, the inception was unknowingly self-administered by Fischer on himself. This was possible because at the “hotel level”, Browning was made out to be a traitor, and Cobb tricked Fischer that he was entering Browning’s dream so that he could discover Browning’s true secrets. With this on Fischer’s mind, he would project his own father completing his last words that would be in favor of the second will (to destroy the empire), and undermine Browning as a result.
**I am more supportive of the latter argument because in the scene after Fischer was shot, Eames replied that now they wouldn’t be able to find out what was in the safe (as opposed to, say, what happened in the safe). This implied that Eames does not know what was in the safe in the first place. Hence, it was more likely that whatever that was in the safe was a projection of Fischer’s subconscious.
Q10.16) What was the significance of the paper wheel?
The paper wheel which Fischer discovered when he opened the safe containing the second will was a significant toy from Fischer’s childhood that reminded him of his strong bonds with his father. This channeled the positive emotion of parent-child love that would play a part in Fischer completely believing that his father wanted the best for him, which was to be his own man.
Q10.17) Why didn’t Cobb wake up when the snow fortress exploded?Answer: This is a major loophole in the film. Based on logical reasoning, the force of the explosion would have “kicked” Cobb backed to the “snow level” from the “building level”. But it was not successful. The reason could be that this was an unprecedented dream within a dream within a dream within a dream i.e. four levels deep, therefore it was not foreseeable that the explosion would have guaranteed to deliver the “kick” in such a deep, unstable level.