I’ve been following the movie Inception, due out in theaters this summer. The movie, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, involves a pseudo-government dream research team who can access people’s dreams, and perhaps construct their reality too a la the Matrix. About two weeks ago, a video showed up on youtube, showing a rough 6 minute cut of three interviews of dream researchers by the director Chris Nolan. The unfinished video looks like raw footage of interview material for a DVD bonus, but it’s actually a very clever viral marketing video, because the third dream researcher doesn’t really exist.
Who are the Dream Researchers Interviewed by Chris Nolan?
The first dream researcher in the clip is William Domhoff, a professor of psychology at University of California Santa Cruz. The video cuts away when he identifies his title, but gives viewers enough to search for and verify his credentials. Domhoff specializes in linguistic dream content analysis.
The second featured dream researcher in the video is Jayne Gackenbach. Her lucid dream research helped define the field in the early 1980s, and she served as editor of the now-defunct journal the Lucidity Letter. Gackenbach now focuses on video game research, but has released a few studies about the topic of lucid dreaming and video game interfaces, making her a natural interviewee for Nolan. I’m excited about Jayne’s influence on this movie!
Then we have the third interviewee: a woman who is not identified by name, and talks and looks like a professor. Her interview is fascinating, almost… scripted. As she discusses the science of lucid dreaming, she says, “if one can actively participate in one’s own dream, what would happen if one could actively participate in someone else’s dream?”
Mystery professor continues, “The military calls this project Project Somnacin. And from what I’ve heard, 2 or 3 subjects are able to collectively participate in one dream.”
Government research into mutual lucid dreaming? That really is a nightmare. Luckily, this is the viral plot device in the movie, not based on reality. Thanks to Wendy Iraheta for her insight on the topic.
Blending Dreams and Reality
Here’s how Inception fans sleuthed it out:
Slashfilm published a viral t-shirt image for Inception, including a QR code image on the back of the shirt. Someone decoded the image, leading to the discovery of this website which has specs for the “dream machine,” known as the PASIV device: Portable Automated Somnacin IntraVenous Device.
Therefore, Somnacin is a plot point, not a real government program, and the third dream researcher is an actress. This movie has already done a good job blending dreams and reality, and its generating interest in dream research all the while. Yah Chris Nolan!
This is great year for lucid dreamers in the media, first Avatar, and now Inception.
Here’s the full video interview: