Spectatvm venivnt, venivnt spectentvr vt ipsae.
They come to see,
they come that they themselves be seen
'to see and be seen.
What are the two most stunning and original episodes of an action packed mega-flick "Inception"? For me, with no doubt, shock number one is an amazing fold of Paris defying all gravity laws. My second visual daze came when a mystic infinity of an archway was so suddenly originated between huge sheets of mirrors. Why amidst loads of incredible visual effects these conceptually simple scenes are so outstanding? Maybe, because the main part in both of them is played by Architecture …
As I watched "Inception" I got few really peculiar observations. Sure I'm not a movie columnist but an amateur who loves cinema, thus my thoughts are not a critique in any manner. However I'm a professional architect and since the most active and sexy character in the film is … Architecture (sorry Leo!) I'll dare to review a bizarre architecture of Inception.
New dimension with no fake tricks
A weird thing for a futuristic sci-fi: there are no sleek computers with translucent wall-size screens (Minority Report), no fancy gadgets full of pulsating lights (actually the only technical tool I've seen was a vintage metal case with archaic pump and rubber tubes), not even cell-phones! The other remarkable detail: world of architectural fantasies has no futuristic urban landscapes with gigantic video-ad's, (Oh, "Blade Runner"), no oddly shaped skyscrapers ("Star wars"), no sterile-white interiors ("The Island" ).
On contrary we're constantly introduced to the beautifully calm old-fashioned hotels or romantic scenery of French capital. What's all that? Gifted young architect Ariadne (a cute reference to the labyrinths of Greek mythology) could be really more productive using one of those shiny Apple machines for design of her complex mazes on multiple levels of subconscious worlds. Wouldn't it make sense? And yet she's doing it old school – card-board models, sketches, hand drawings pinned on the wall … Why? What those conservative traits and classic facades are doing in the dreamy land full of infinite possibilities?
It's clearly more than director's attempt to maintain certain style line of a cool vintage look. Thing is, they are trying to form a new dimension. A dimension built from time-space interlacement. Such interlacement somehow fantastically happens in our dreams. And I find it very honest that in order to present, to explore this wonderfully scary new dimension authors are not using those fake exterior features I've mentioned above. Instead they daringly manipulate with the fundamental characteristics of the space we are so accustomed to.
That's why we are so astonished with a scene of a folding panorama of Paris, when people walk out of the regular 3D world, as so familiar and comfortable to us Cartesian coordinates system stops working the way it should. And yet Codd and Ariadne continue to walk on the paved street as nothing happened. Everything suddenly is twisted and shaken without artificial gimmicks. The very core of the space as we know it – is lacerated, raped, changed forever. I love it. An organic simple "walk on the ceiling" of classical Paris is so cool and natural. (Way cooler than all those freakishly extruded by soulless software building shapes, which starchitects are desperately trying to introduce as a breakthrough into another dimension. Well, now we can see how false it is. Ariadne is a better architect than Zaha.)
Smokes and mirrors.
The main definition of this dreamy reality is Maze. Labyrinth. That's the only architectural program Ariadne (still remember the Greeks, right?) Is given by her client. So how do you design a mystic infinite space linked to the relativity of time in that new dimension? The Architect is using most transcendental tool – mirror. It's a stroke of genius. Two otherworldly (and yet utterly physical) philosophical substances – labyrinth and mirror are perfectly bound into one whole of a spiritual synthesis.
Oh, great blind man, Jorge Luis Borges! – you've seen it so clearly in your phantasmagorical labyrinths of nightmares:
I look on them as infinite, elemental
fulfillers of a very ancient pact
to multiply the world, as in the act
of generation, sleepless and dangerous.
"Mirrors" (translated by Reid)
In those endless reflections of archways running between the two mirrors placed against each other by the Architect an irrational rationality of the dream becomes so obvious. And when the mirror is shuttered – nothing changes: the sheer architectural prospective is blended flawlessly into the dangerously real imagination.
I truly respect this unpretentious approach. It's not cheap symbolism but metaphorical depth of human intelligence. It's an art. It's a philosophy. It's Architecture. It's a dream.
And there's no way in the world that sophisticated software would ever compete with architect's imagination that is able to project a magic into the existence and to turn a reality into the dream.
PS Funny, but I didn't like the movie actually. "ExistenZ" is way cooler.