Inception’s Nod to the [Greek] Gods

27 Jul

In Christopher Nolan’s Inception, actress Ellen Page plays architect Ariadne. First of all, I love that name. If I marry a remotely Greek man, Ariadne definitely makes the baby name list.

If you haven’t seen Inception, I’m not going to attempt an explanation. (I’ll leave that to IMDb.) Suffice it to say, it’s about building and exploring dreams.

In Inception, Ariadne (Ellen Page) is studying architecture in Paris (cool!) when she is recruited by Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) to help with constructing dream scapes.

In Greek mythology, Ariadne, like many of her compatriots, is a variety of things in different evolutions of her story.

Here are a few fun facts about the mythological Ariadne…

1. The name ‘Ariadne’ is rooted in the Greek word àgni –which means ‘the most holy’ – also similar to the Latin agnus for lamb.

2. One story has Ariadne falling in love with and helping the hero Theseus  find and fight the minotaur in her father’s twisted cavernous mazes.

3. Ariadne appears in Homer’s The Odyssey – she is mentioned as having been abducted and taken to the island of Dia-where Artemis killed her out of pity for her unhappiness with Theseus- this version of her story is less common.

Ariadne at Naxos by John Williams Waterhouse

4. In some versions of her myth, she remains with Theseus, in others she becomes unhappy with Theseus and is rescued by the god Dionysus.

Ariadne and Dionysus

5. As a Cyprian version of the story goes, Theseus’ marriage to Ariadne forged a friendship between Crete and Athens- but on the couple’s journey back to Athens their ship runs aground on Cyprus where Ariadne dies in childbirth.

6. Some stories place Ariadne farther back in chronology than Theseus, having her become Dionysus’ bride before he mounts Olympus. In this version she dies in battle and Dionysus rescues her from the underworld.

7. Ariadne is the goddess of labyrinths- both literal and figurative- the goddess of twisted paths. She is also associated with the spiral motion.

“She represents tangled issues and their untangling, deep, core issues, and the dark secret at the center of the maze, that to be healed, must be brought out to light.” (Thalia

Which brings us back to Inception. Ariadne as the architect in Inception has the task of creating a dreamworld that resembles a maze. Physical anomalies, sharp twists and turns- created with precision and a clear head- that is the Ariadne of the movie’s job…quite similar to the mythical Ariadne’s navigation of the Minotaur’s maze.

Nice touch, Christopher Nolan, Bravo.


One Response to “Inception’s Nod to the [Greek] Gods”

  1. Kate July 29, 2010 at 10:39 am #

    I was trying to remember who Ariadne was during the movie, and forgot to look it up afterwards :) That was an excellent movie, and references like that always add a nice touch, I think.

    ps – thanks for the addition to your blogroll!

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