It’s a topic that has elicited giggles, nodding heads and raised eyebrows in equal measure… because let’s face it: Sex is a pretty integral part of dreams, right?

And, if a movie were to deal with the concept of dreams (and dreams within dreams, and dreams within dreams withi – you get the drift), then it wouldn’t be incredulous to assume that sex would play a prominent role, right?

Which is why I can understand where people are coming from when they complain about Inception‘s stark asexuality. However, that I get the complaint does not mean I agree with it. I think the lack of sexuality in Christopher Nolan’s latest (and some would say, greatest) is understandable and altogether reasonable.

Mary Pols, a longtime film critic and freelance journalist, is not a fan of Inception. Many of her gripes with the movie make a lot of sense (you can read them here), but there’s one that sticks out like a sore thumb:

But let’s get to sex, which I am happy to admit to dreaming about. Why doesn’t anyone have it or dream of it in “Inception”? If you had Marion Cotillard running around your dreams, wouldn’t you occasionally at least try to look down her shirt?

Let me tackle the second sentence of that quote first. Many people have berated the fact that Marion Cotillard’s character doesn’t have any sexual role in the film, an issue I find ridiculous. Note that I used the phrase “Marion Cotillard’s character ” – an important distinction that Ms. Pols seems to have missed. Asking an audience member his thoughts about Marion Cotillard is NOT the same as imagining Dominic Cobb’s thoughts about Mal. We know Marion Cotillard as an internationally-renowned actress who’s exceptionally pretty; Cobb knows Mal as his wife who has committed suicide, manipulated circumstances so that Cobb would be blamed for her death and – in a way – is the reason he can’t live with his children. Moreover, let’s not overlook the fact that just thinking about Mal pains Cobb because he blames himself for her fate. In such a situation, is it not believable (and actually logical) that Cobb wouldn’t be thinking of rolling around in bed with Mal?

This is all's that necessary, in my opinion.

Which leads me to the first sentence of that quote: Why doesn’t anyone have (or dream of) sex in the movie? One explanation that comes to mind is that there’s simply no space in the film for sex, or need for it in the screenplay. The film – by its very nature – is a labyrinth, a puzzle made of multiple interlocking pieces. Any addition would cause a ripple effect that might impair some other part of the movie. Inception runs 148 minutes long, and each minute of that runtime is accounted for. I’m absolutely sure that somewhere in the film’s universe, the technology of dream-sharing must have been exploited for something sexual in nature. It wouldn’t even be far-fetched to imagine entire fantasy-fulfilling industries developed from that (think along the lines of that scene from Minority Report). But is there any overt reason for that to be in the film? I say nay.

Even as someone who dearly loves Inception (it’s my favorite film of 2010), I can readily admit it has a few flaws. Off the top of my head: it’s filled with unsubtle exposition, Ellen Page doesn’t come off well and Saito’s objective is a little cold. But, not having any steamy lovemaking isn’t one of them. Atleast, that’s what I think. What about you?

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  • http://www.akshul.com/ Akshay Bakshi

    Well reasoned. I have seen my poeple raving about this on forums as well and you hit the bulls eye of why it wasn’t necessary for Cobb to have carnal thoughts towards Mal.

    BTW That sleep lab that the chemist kept in the basement was used people to dream. Maybe that was used for sexual dreams *shrugs*

  • Anonymous

    Go into the dream world to have sex? Interesting. One thing – they are on a mission on the dream – and they control their thoughts. Even if they don’t, it will end up like rain in the dream world. If they get sexual thought, maybe a lady with a big bosom will cross his path. That does not mean he will start copulating.