There is a deep misunderstanding of the process of meaning. Most images and photographs today reflect the misery and the violence of human condition. But all this affects us less and less, just because it is over signified. In order for the meaning, for the message to affect us, the image has to exist on its own, to impose its original language. In order for the real to be transferred to our imagination, or our imagination transferred to the real, it must be a counter-transference upon the image, and this countertransference has to be resoluted, worked through (in terms of psychoanalysis). Today we see misery and violence becoming a leitmotiv of publicity just by the way of images. Toscani for example is reintegrating sex and Aids, war and death into fashion. And why not ? Jubilating ad-images are no less obscene than the pessimistic ones) But at one condition to show the violence of publicity itself, the violence of fashion, the violence of the medium. What actually publishers are not able even to try to do. However, fashion and high society are themselves a kind of spectacle of death. The world’s misery is quite so visible, quite so transparent in the line and the face of any top-model as on the skeletal body of an african boy. The same cruelty is to be perceived everywhere, if one only knows how to look at it.
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At one point, Cobb asks Mal, “If this is a dream, then why can’t I stop this?” Presumably, he is referring to the fight they are having over whether they are dreaming or awake. Mal answers with, “Because you don’t know you are asleep.” Later, after Mal jumps to her death in an effort to wake up, Cobb desperately tries to dream other dreams—better dreams—in which his wife is still alive. When Ariadne hooks herself up to the PASIV device Cobb uses to dream on his own at night, she sees a series of dreamed locations connected by a cage elevator. Cobb explains the significance of the locations when he says, “These are moments I regret. Moments I turned into dreams so I could change them.” He seems to think that if he can get the Mal-projection to realize that she is not really Mal, she will go away or at least stop throwing monkey-wrenches into his dream-extractions. The problem for Cobb is that it just doesn’t seem to be working.
Why, then, does he keep dreaming of her? Dreamers have the ability to think their projections out of a dream, as Yusuf (Dileep Rao) does in a scene cut from the shooting script. In a worst case scenario, Cobb could shoot her and she would die, at least for that dream. It seems that Cobb’s conception of a better dream is one in which Mal exists, regardless of how awful she acts.
Chris Fletcher on Inception and Jean Baudrillard. [via The Quarterly Conversation]