Thursday, July 29, 2010

What's in a name? Eames in Inception

Nolan's reach and creativity in creating playful references in the character names in Inception is quite enjoyable. Like the name Ariadne, used for Ellen Page's character, the name Eames seems clearly referencing only one person...or shall we say two? Eames seems to clearly be a reference to husband and wife design team Charles and Ray Eames.

I have chosen the picture above from the most recent episode of Mad Men, "Public Relations" (season 4, episode 1) where the characters are sitting in the Eames designed Herman Miller Time Life chair designed in 1959 for the American National Exhibit in Moscow (source).

Charles & Ray Eames in many way are most known for their revolutionary design in chairs, but are also famous for a variety of artful endeavors from their iconic home design, graphic work, and their work in the film editing, producing, and directing.

In the film Inception, Tom Hardy plays a character named Eames, who is easily a reference to these artists.

Tom Hardy's character, Eames (pictured directly above), has a unique role in the film as "The Forger." As the forger, Eames' primary role is to take on the form of another person, taking on their look, their mannerisms, style, voice, and overall persona.

In watching a 1956 NBC special where Eames lounge chair was introduced, I was struck by a conversation a couple minutes in where Charles Eames talks about how he considers himself an architect, and how he applies architecture to everything from chairs to dresses.

I found this striking, and particular could see how this concept could relate to the Eames character in Inception. Sure, Eames (Tom Hardy) is not the one who's laying out the cities, but he is designing some of the most important details inside the world.

Also, as a film maker, particularly short films, two Eames films seem worth mentioning, probably his two most famous. The first is Toccata for Toy Trains which takes toy trains and designs a video where these trains and associated toy people and scenes all move along in a fantasy world to a toccata by Elmer Bernstein. There is certainly a playful connection between this short film and the worlds that are created in Inception. Not to mention, like my theory on Saito's character (Ken Watanabe) I don't think we can under estimate illusions to trains in Inception.

Additionally, Eames also made a well known short film called Powers of Ten this video is pretty impressive for it's 1968 creation where it shows the impact of consecutive powers of ten moving out into the galaxy, and then coming back into the tiniest of matter.

To me it is easy to see the playfulness with which this 9 minute video can correlate with the concept of time as it relates to the dreams within dreams.

It's also interesting to note the video Powers of 10 is narrated by Phillip Morrison, the MIT astrophysicist famous for among other things his work on the Manhattan Project as well as ground work for the SETI projects.

Clearly there is so many potential references that I am sure Christopher Nolan is pretty pleased with his use of the name Eames for this character. I'm not sure if Eames would call themselves "forgers" in the traditional sense, but as unique twentieth century artists the reference is artful in itself.


Simon said...

Interesting. I can see the parallels, but I, being of the lowest culture possible, was just thinking about this episode of 3rd Rock From The Sun where Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes fun of a butler named Eames. Thanks for classing up the joint, anyway,

Anonymous said...

I think “Eames” is a phonetically abbreviated version of the word "memes", which are "units of cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another" and which is derived from the Greek word meaning "something imitated" (Wikipedia citation). As we all know, Eames imitated other people in dream states by adopting one's thinking (ideas), resemblence (symbols), and behaviors (practices).

DLC said...

Simon, I love your connection! While I completely doubt that's what Nolan had in mind when he named Eames, I just saw that episode for the first time right now and it increased the hilarity of the episode 2-fold for me. :) All Inception fans should check out the 3rd Rock from the Sun episode "Dial M for Dick" just for that.