'Inception' Music Twist: The hidden meaning of the Evil Foghorn?

Every single thing ever written about Inception comes with a big old SPOILER ALERT. But there’s a YouTube video which reveals something so brilliant, so hidden-right-in-plain-sight-and-yet-utterly-invisible, that…well, just watch the clip after the jump!

The inclusion of the Edith Piaf song was already kind of a filmic meta-joke, since Marion Cotillard (who plays Mal) won an Oscar for playing Piaf in La Vie en Rose. The fact that the Evil Foghorn sound (which plays over the very beginning of the movie, and returns frequently) is actually a slowed-down version of the song could mean quite a few things. Most noticeably, since “Non, je ne regrette rien” is the song the Dream Team uses as their wake-up call, and since the lower dream-levels slow down time…well, this certainly adds a new layer to our burning questions about the ending.

What do you think, PopWatchers? Is this Inception‘s version of the Blade Runner Unicorn? And is this the coolest soundtrack recycling since Mark Mothersbaugh played a Royal Tenenbaums track backwards on the Life Aquatic soundtrack? [AV Club]

Comments (102 total) Add your comment
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  • SAB

    ….now I’m even more confused. So its a dream within a dream within a dream within a dream within a dream etc. So that means Cobb is in limbo and the whole movie with the corporations, Fischer, was all a dream? Was Mal right? UGH!!!! I’M GOING INSANE HERE!!! damn you nolan for planting an inception in our minds!

    • Kevin

      Haven’t we all already settled on the fact that the whole thing was Cobb’s dream and that the “idea” being planted was being planted in Cobb’s mind? Do people really think there is another explanation?

      • Brian

        Whoa, don’t act like it’s *so* obvious. What idea was being planted in Cobb’s mind?

      • Kaci

        Well, this might be interesting to note that may answer some questions… or provoke further questions: http://revolvingdoorproject.net/2010/07/23/inception-what-happened-at-the-end/

      • William

        Moreover, that explanation ignores the fact that the top DOES fall over early in the movie, when Cobb is in his hotel room. For this explanation to make sense, then either A. the top is meaningless, or B. the top would consistently fall over within the dream state, leaving the scenes of it spinning in the safe meaningless.

      • fight club

        I’m pretty damn sure that Nolan’s intent was to leave the film very ambiguous so that everyone can create their own meaning and explanation for what’s happening. I don’t see why thinking that only the last part of the film is a dream is any more wrong than thinking that the whole thing is a dream. The fact that the spinning top falls over earlier in the film seems to suggest that some of it is set in the real world since that is the whole point of a totem. I don’t think there is supposed to be a right answer to the end. Everything was designed to be ambiguous.

      • twisted_sister

        No. There is a right answer. You’re wrong. Fool.

      • MovieMan

        This is directed at ‘William’ and ‘Fight Club':
        Just because the top fell it does not imply that the whole thing is real. Ask yourself, what is the purpose of the totem? The purpose of the totem is to use it to determine whether or not your in SOMEONE ELSE’S dream. That is why you don’t let anyone touch your totem, that way they know how much it weighs and it’s properties. They can then replicate it while you are in THEIR dream, therefore you won’t know if you are in reality or in that person’s dream.
        Now that we got that established, let’s move on to Cobb spinning his totem earlier in the film and the top falling. Again, this does not imply that it isn’t a dream. If Cobb is dreaming, then he CAN replicate his own totem’s trick because ONLY he knows its trick and how it performs.
        I hope you understood what I meant.

      • Sarah

        Sorry if someone already brought this up, but since the top used to be Mal’s, couldn’t Cobb be in one of Mal’s dreams the whole time?

      • Gina

        After some serious thinking, one theory I came up with was that after Mal and Cobb got out of limbo, they could have ended up in another dream level (like the whole team had to ride the kick up different layers). So when Mal does jump off the ledge of the building, she woke up into actual reality. Where “inception” comes into play in this theory is that now, whenever Cobb sees Mal, it is Mal trying to plant the idea in Cobb’s head that he needs to kill himself in order to wake up from the dream. All the people Cobb knows, his whole team, could actually be working for Mal. Mal does not want to kill Cobb like she kills many other people because she wants Cobb to “take a leap of faith” and kill himself to wake up. That is what I think the actual inception is – Mal is trying to get Cobb to kill himself so they can really be together again, because I do think the entire film takes place in Cobb’s dream. I don’t think he ever truly woke up from the dream state he was in with Mal.

        Sarah, I thought the same thing. He said the totem was Mal’s, so it wouldn’t work for him the way Arthur’s dice or Ariadne’s chess piece would for them.

      • 011

        Ohmy, didn’t you see that at the very last scene the top started dropping? There is no dream within a dream mystery. At the end he really managed to go home and see his kids faces. It is the most logical, most satisfying ending possible

      • Joe Zakko

        what do you mean “haven’t we all settled” that interpretation is a far out, absurd interpretation that was clearly not meant by Nolan, but is still interesting to think about. So no, nobody’s settled, and there are infinite other interpretations.

      • michelle

        but does anyone know what happens to people’s bodies when they die on a dream? because when mal “committed suicide” cobb clearly sees his wife’s body…
        and if you consider that everything is cobb’s dream, is cobb, therefore, living in our world but having an extraordinary dream about dreams inside dreams in which he ages rapidly? is he therefore a child? how is he able to have a friendship with one of the projections (joseph gordon-levitt)?

    • Fitzie Mcgee

      I read an awesome article that said it’s not really about the top or music that let’s you know when Cobb is dreaming but about his wedding ring. When he’s wearing it, he’s dreaming, when it’s off, he’s awake. He doesn’t have it on at the end of the film, so voila! Happy ending!

      • Paul McGuire

        When it’s off, he *thinks* he’s awake.

      • Gina

        i agree with Paul McG. not wearing the ring doesn’t mean it’s true reality. it means it’s Cobb’s reality.

      • Arpit

        Well i must say he is still in a dream and he never came out of limbo.One of the proof is that when he meet his children again at the end, their age is still same. Cobb had memory of his children when he left his home, he is been away from home for a considerable time so his children must be grown up at least a bit!

      • Arpit

        Also the first scene quite rightly express that Cobb and Saito are aged and that’s why they r still in a limbo!!!

    • Addison Lee

      At the movie’s start, Cobb an Saito are in Limbo, although we don’t find that out until later in the film. Therefore, the music, would be playing so slow that it’s not recognizable. That music cue is just a really, really cool extra touch for repeat viewers. Awesome.

    • Someone

      My neighbor has this theory about the music. He watched it three times (Inception, that is), and came to a conclusion-Cobb was dreaming the whole thing. Like it says in the article, time in the dream is slower than in real life. Ergo, if you are in a dream WITHIN a dream, that second dream has even SLOWER time that the original dream, AND real life. This also applies to the third dream in and the fourth dream in-time is slower. So, my neighbor believes that the music is the key to the truth, because IF Cobb was really in reality, and decided to undertake Inception, then the music should NOT have been the same tempo in each level of the “Inception” dream. For example, the snow fortress one should have had slower music, while the hotel room would have faster music. The city one (Yusef’s level) would have pretty much normal tempo, since it was only the first level. However, this did not happen, therefore, Cobb could have dreamt up Project Inception. Another fact which lead my neighbor to this conclusion is the fact that the music in the beginning was the slowed-down version of the kick. Another popular theory is that Ariadne was hired by Cobb’s father to attemp Inception HERSELF, by planting an idea in Cobbs mind-that he should stop questioning reality, and let go of Mal. However, the Inception might not have neccesarily been by his dad; it could have been by someone else. There are many other theories, but, as a 13 year old who’s only watched Inception once, and has yet to formulate my own theory, I tend to agree with my neighbor’s version. One last part of my neighbors theory, by the way, is that Cobb’s “totem”, the top, was defective, because it was originally Mal’s, and therefore, was replicated by Cobb’s mind. Therefore, it couldn’t be an adequate enough totem.

  • Laura K.

    I actually noticed that when I saw it the second time. I don’t think it means anything in particular–it’s a leitmotif. It’s clever, but I doubt it implies anything mindblowing about the movie.

    • ericalina

      that’s what i thought too, especially since hans zimmer mentions that he manipulated the piaf song in interviews, etc.

      • maestrobwhite

        Zimmer always manipulates things in his scores. And that is an introduction, which is one of the most manipulatable pieces of the score. Very common chords and rhythms.

  • whatever

    You got to love how every single aspect of this movie leads to questioning about a meaning… ^^

  • Henry

    Look….I’ve promised to buy the damn BluRay disc set! I can not afford to see this film in the theater the amount of times it will take for me to understand and fully absorb what I saw the first time.

    • Spider

      I’m with Henry. I’ll buy the BluRay, watch it, read more reviews, watch it again, pause it, rewind it, read more reviews until I’m able to grasp at least 60% of what’s going on.

  • Anne

    That just blew my mind

    • Loki

      I know!! I got goosebumps when the person slowed the song down.

  • Madd

    gahhhhhhh i’m going crazy with theories!
    i’ll just stick to my dumb/cheesy theory that he was dreaming right before the plane landed/in the airport and it was a sign he could dream again.

  • darclyte

    Just like the last scene, the usage of the music is left to the interpretation of the viewer/listener. While Nolan certainly could have meant it for one purpose or another, the fact that he’ll never tell leaves it to those who have seen the film to decide for themselves. In this way, there is not “right” or “wrong” answer because unless Nolan comes out and says what the music meant, or what the last scene meant, then the solution belongs to the viewer just as the same everyday life events are often interpreted differently from one person to another even if both were right next to each other as the event took place. People will argue about this movie forever, but unless Nolan reveals if there is a “right” or “wrong” answer, then it’s just left to interpretation.

  • amber

    i found this to be very creepy.

    • the little one

      eek, yes. had to pause the youtube clip halfway. it seriously gave me the chills.

      • Michael

        I think he isn’t in reality. At the beginning he’s at the same place at the end with the old man. He had a flash back then was deciding whether to go back out of limbo again. After that it’s all just moving time in reality. I personally had a conversation with nolan and he said the spinning infinite-spinning totem was a joke and that after the movie he makes peace with mal and continues with inception as a job.

    • Carrie #2

      Me too, I was getting really freaked out. It doesn’t seem as bad in the context of the movie.

  • I’m gay for Tina Fey

    Meh. I think we’re just plain stretching at this point.

  • Chris M.

    Nolan said he thought about dropping the Piaf song when he cast Cotillard.

  • Eve

    I’m fairly certain the song they use is “La vie en Rose” and not “Non, je ne regrette rien”. It’s still a Piaf song so the theory could still work on some level.

    Am I wrong?

    • sassyfras

      No, it’s ‘je ne regrette rien’. That’s one of my favorite songs and I remember thinking, at least they didn’t use it to score a brutal murder scene or anything.

    • a simple google search of hans zimmer/inception/edith piaf will show you plenty of articles talking about non, “je ne regrette rien.” so yes you are wrong.


  • James

    I’m utterly confused. I do NOT get this video at all

    • V

      James, the slow haunting music that is used as the soundtrack for most of the film, is actually just the French kick song slowed down.

      • Glenn

        go on..?

      • John

        Well, since every time they hear the actual song in the dream world it’s slowed down, you could say that every time you hear the dramatic music it signifies that they’re still in the dream.

  • Gina

    This reminds me of how John Williams sped up the Emperor’s theme (Return of the Jedi) for the “celebration” at the end of The Phantom Menace.

  • Ben Sona

    Very Cool, but it doesn’t mean the entire plot has changed! I think nolan just wanted to convey that time slows down in the real world more and more in relation to the lower levels in the dream.

  • Ben Sona

    If you watch the end credits, the french song is played and then it becomes slowed down to this fog horn shound right as the final word on screen “INCEPTION” is shown. Basically this is the song that is heard by dreamers in the lower levels. Remember when Cobb was in limbo at the end, he heard this to wake up while his team in the higher levels heard the song at its proper speed? Again, very cool but thats all it is.

    • Anne

      Crap! I should have stuck around for the credits…This is brilliant. And it totally supports my theory that it’s a film about film. The music at the end reminds the viewer that you’re watching a dream – Nolan’s dream.

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