It is rare for a movie to sweep me off my feet; I can count on one hand the ones that have. When it happens it always catches me by surprise. Inception was one of those movies. Brilliantly written and masterfully executed, it is a movie that will force you to think about reality in a whole new light.
Fear not, I won’t give away any spoilers in this post.
The concept of the film is different from anything I have seen before. Most of the movie takes place in a created dream world which mirrors the real world. There are those who try to influence this world for gain, by extracting vital information from important people without their knowledge.
But this post isn’t about the story, you’ll have to watch it if you want to know. This post is about the use of names. Ages ago in a post titled “What’s in a Name?” I wrote about giving significant names to characters as a way to add depth to the story. The movie Inception is a great example.
Here is a partial list of characters:
Dom Cobb: Phonetically, “Cobb” means “dream” (khwab) in Urdu. Cobb is the lead character and works in the dreamland as an extractor of information.
Mal: Short for ‘Malorie’, which is derived from the French word ‘malheur’, meaning misfortune or unhappiness. The shorter version ‘mal’ means wrong/bad or evil (when a noun) in French, as well as some other Latin-based languages. Her character is the recently deceased wife of Cobb, whose memories of her interfere with his dreams.
Ariadne: In Greek mythology, was the daughter of King Minos of Crete and his queen, Pasiphaë. She aided Theseus in overcoming the Minotaur by giving him a ball of red fleece thread that she was spinning, so that he could find his way out of the Minotaur’s labyrinth. The name is also a reference to Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s setting of the myth for Richard Strauss’s opera Ariadne auf Naxos (1988). The opera is a play within a play, just as the movie is a dream within a dream. Her role in the movie was to build a maze-like dreamland complicated enough to fool would be pursuers, giving the lead characters an edge.
Yusef: The Arabic form of “Joseph,” the Biblical figure from Genesis 37-50, who had the gift of interpreting dreams. He was sold out by his brothers to Pharaoh. Through his gift of dream interpretation he helped Pharaoh to prepare for the disaster of the “seven lean years” and was rewarded as a result. The same character is also a Prophet in the Koran. In the movie Yusef aided in creating a complicated plan for the climactic dream sequence as well as worked inside the dream. His actions ultimately saved the lives of the other dreamers.
When writing give thought to the naming of your characters and when possible, give your characters names with meaning. Chances are, most readers might not catch your cleverness; but if they do, they will thank you for it.