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Media Unit. The Big Picture. In this unit we will: Watch the film Inception directed by Christopher Nolan. Analyse 5 key scenes in detail. Looking at mise-en scene, music and characterisation.

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the big picture
The Big Picture

In this unit we will:

  • Watch the film Inception directed by Christopher Nolan.
  • Analyse 5 key scenes in detail. Looking at mise-en scene, music and characterisation.
  • Learn to write a Critical essay on the film, looking at mise en scene, camera shots, characterisation, symbolism and music.
christopher nolan
Christopher Nolan
  • Born in Britain, but his mother was American.
  • Directed Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.
  • Is renowned for pushing the limits of film-making, particularly using camera angles and mise-en-scene for dramatic effect.
characters in inception
Characters in Inception
  • In an interview Nolan explained that he based the roles in Inception to that of film making
  • Cobb – director
  • Arthur – Producer
  • Ariadne – production designer
  • Eames – actor
  • Saito – studio
  • Fischer –audience

Leonardo DiCaprio as Dom Cobb:

A professional thief who specializes in conning secrets from his victims by infiltrating their dreams. Cobb leads a team with the goal of influencing Robert Fischer's actions via his dreams.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Arthur:

Cobb's partner who takes "point" during jobs and is responsible for researching the team's targets.


Ellen Page as Ariadne:

A graduate student of architecture who is recruited to construct the various dreamscapes, which are described as mazes.

Marion Cotillard as Mallorie "Mal" Cobb:

Dom Cobb's projection of his deceased wife and a frequent presence in his dreams. As the film's main antagonist, she is a manifestation of his guilt about the real Mal's suicide. Dom is unable to control these projections of her, challenging his abilities as an extractor.


Tom Hardy as Eames:

A sharp-tongued associate of Cobb's. Eames uses his ability to take the form of others inside the dream world in order to manipulate Robert Fischer in his own dreams.

Ken Watanabe as Mr. Saito:

A businessman who employs Cobb for the team's mission, and insists on joining them inside.


Dileep Rao as Yusuf:

A chemist who formulates the drugs needed to sustain the dream states.

Cillian Murphy as Robert Michael Fischer:

The heir to a business empire and the team's target.

key notes for inception
Key Notes for Inception
  • Was made in 2010.
  • During production the film’s plot was kept secret. Nolan said, “it is set within the architecture of the mind.”
  • It was originally conceived as a horror film, but Nolan rewrote it as a heist film, although “traditionally they are very superficial in emotional terms”

Nolan decided to “make sure the emotional journey of his character was the emotional driving force of the movie.”

  • This makes the film’s genre a difficult thing to pinpoint.
    • It is a combination of science fiction (set in the future with new technology), heist (a thief attempts to steal something from a multi-million-dollar corporation), film noir (dark and sensual plots), action film (hero is involved in battle, car crashes and explosions) and thriller (suspense is built).
the 5 key scenes
The 5 Key Scenes
  • Mirror Scene
  • Dreaming in Mombasa
  • Mal Commits Suicide
  • Zero Gravity Scene
  • Final Scene
before we watch the clip
Before we watch the clip

Answer the following questions individually:

  • Why do you think Mal kills herself?
  • What effect does this have on Dom? Physically? Mentally?
  • What genre do you think this scene portrays? Why?

We will now watch the scene 4 times.

As you are watching the scene I want you to take notes on the following:

  • Mise en scene
  • Use of Camera
  • Characterisation
  • Music

Each time we watch the scene you should focus on a different aspect (e.g. music) of the scene.Be prepared to feedback after we watch the scene


Now we have watched the scene and you have a deeper understanding of the scene, lets look at the questions we answered at the start of the lesson:

  • Why do you think Mal kills herself?
  • What effect does this have on Dom? Physically? Mentally?
  • What genre do you think this scene portrays? Why?
think pair share
Think, Pair, Share

Now that you have a deeper understanding of the text, you are going to use the think, pair, share technique to answer your questions.

Think: 3 minutes

Pair: 5 minutes

Share: Be Prepared!

mal s final speech
Mal’s Final Speech

You are waiting for a train, a train that will take you far away, you know where you hope this train will take you, you don’t know for sure, but it doesn’t matter because you will be together.

mal s final speech1
Mal’s Final Speech

Discuss in your group in what way does Mal’s Final Speech further reveal the genre of this scene?

Be prepared to share your answers.

other zero gravity scenes
Other Zero Gravity Scenes

We are now going to watch zero gravity scenes from other famous films:

  • Matrix
  • Apollo 13

As you watch these clips write down the differences between this and the inception scene. Which scene is the most effective and why?


In groups you are going to answer questions on the zero gravity scene.

  • Each worksheet has questions focussing on Setting, Camera Shots and Music.
  • Answer the question in as much detail as possible.
  • We will play the scene a few times through the lesson.

Remember our paragraph structure:






pceda paragraphs
PCEDA Paragraphs

You now have to write a PCEDA paragraph including each of the elements you answered questions on:

  • Setting
  • Use of Camera Shots
  • Music
peer assess
Peer Assess

You are now going to peer assess one member of your groups PCEDA paragraph.

Remember to give positive feedback (Stars) and targets to work on for redrafting (Wishes).

We will use this feedback for redrafting our paragraphs.


Jigsaw Lesson

Inception Key Scenes

part one jigsaw task
Part One - Jigsaw task


  • You will have 12 minutes in your groups to gather the information.

In Your Groups you need to explain the genre your scene portrays, have notes on each of the following:

  • Mise en scene
  • Use of camera,
  • Characterisation
  • Music
part two jigsaw task
Part Two - Jigsaw task


You will now be organised into ‘teaching groups’ that include a member from each of the ‘learning groups’ (so that there is someone one who has knowledge/information from each area.

Each person in the teaching group should share their information so that everyone in the group has written notes for each key scene.

teaching groups
Teaching Groups

You will teach the rest of your group about the key scene you focussed on.

You will have 4 minutes each to teach the rest of your group about your key scene and the genre it portrays.

You need to explain each of your points clearly and be prepared to answer any questions.

These notes will help you write your CEL.

critical evaulation
Critical Evaulation

Critical Evaluation Question:

Discuss/explore genre in Christopher Nolan’s film Inception. (Focus on mise en scene, use of camera, characterisation and music)

Use the essay plan to help you with the structure of your essay.