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Hand-Drawn Plot Diagram of “Inception”

I liked Inception, the Christopher Nolan movie about dreams-within-dreams. Not only was it a wild ride as an action movie, but it presented a little puzzle for viewers at the very end, in the final shot. Without spoiling anything, let’s just say that the end puzzle is solvable by viewing the movie in detail and following the logic of what’s happening. Or you may choose your answer based on emotion — as I’m sure most viewers do. Or you can do what I did: go with your gut, then check your work using math and a careful second viewing.

Without spoiling the movie, let’s just say it contains a series of layered plots. There’s a lot going on — and it is explained onscreen, although the details may fly past you during the action. It’s the kind of movie that made me want to take out a piece of paper and try to figure out what actually happened. (And yeah, I consider that a good thing.) Well, guess what? Director Christopher Nolan already did that, and has published his work — below is his hand-drawn diagram of the movie, showing the various layers of plots. The details of each plot are not shown, but the architecture of the film is.

If you haven’t seen the movie, examining this image in detail is a huge spoiler. If you HAVE seen the movie, it’s a remarkable document — an infographic that shows the director’s thinking behind the movie’s complex structure, as well as revealing some changes along the way (note the Arthur/Eames change). This image comes from the book Inception: The Shooting Script, which includes some extra material on the movie including an interview (read an excerpt here). Unfortunately, the scan is slightly cut off on the left, so we’re missing a few bits of Nolan’s scrawled notes. I guess you’ll have to buy the book for the whole thing. Anyway, here’s the plot diagram:

Inception plot diagram
Click the image for a larger version — SPOLIERS ABOUND!

If you’re into this sort of thing, check out J.K. Rowling’s Plot Spreadsheet.

(Via In Contention.)

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Date
January 4th, 2011

Author
Stranger to the World

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