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Tuesday 18 December 2018
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Commentary

Inception conception

TRINIDAD, THE PLACE, is like a really long extended version of Inception, Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi/fantasy/action/mystery flick. Like Inception, the movie, Trinidad, the country, is based on an impossible premise you have to just swallow whole, without question, or the whole thing simply crashes and you steups, turn it off, and go your own way, leaving those impossible people to play their impossible selves according to their impossible premise.

Like Inception, the film, Trinidad, the place, features an array of gifted actors in the lead roles: Leonardo DiCaprio is not really a thief who can break into people’s dreams and pickpocket their intellectual property, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is not really a navigator of other people’s dreams to discover their most closely-guarded secrets and Ellen Page is not really an architect of dreamscapes; just like Keith Rowley is not really a prime minister, Colm Imbert a finance minister or Kamla Persad-Bissessar an opposition leader – though the Trinidadian performances are pitched to win votes, not Oscars.

In both the movie and the country, everyone, from chief suspect to chief justice, is not who they are, but just vigorously pretending to be who they are visibly, demonstrably not; indeed, the truest true-true Trini in Inception is Tom Hardy, the forger, who can effortlessly, innately imitate anyone at once – but Trinis are more likely to imitate Americans in everything, from Halloween or hip hop through Thanksgiving sales to security guards wearing suits.

In the movie, the preposterous premise is that a bunch of people can inhabit the same dream and move about in it as though it were real, while unanimously pretending to raise their shallow fantasies to the level of art; in the country, the preposterous premise is identical.

(In fact – meaning, “in fact,” not “actually” – Trinis can achieve, within their dreamlike stupor, a reality it would take decades to fake in a real country. Consider that, without a single tweet or Instagram, far less the thousands of Facebook messages it would take to arrange a five-minute flash mob, Trinidadians have unanimously agreed for two generations now that the overtaking lane on every highway is to be treated as the slow lane. We might as well change the highway road signs to read, “Keep right except when undertaking.”)

In the movie, the land of make-believe is as crammed full of amazing spectacle as it is empty of real value: everything you ooh and aah at in the film is actually completely firetrucking worthless, and you know that even as you look at it. But it’s so very pretty to look at, you wouldn’t touch it, in case you popped the bubble; in the country, ditto. Any Trinidadian audience prefers a pretty lie to a harsh reality.

In the movie, the most bizarre occurrences – the explosion of the whole world all around them as the main characters sit, oblivious, at a café; the collapse of one spectacular dream into another into yet another; the sinking of all human enterprise ever lower; the deathbed recognition of the hero as the villain – take place without a single person batting an eyelid; in the country, the ordinary is even more weird: prisoners in their cells order the murders of prison officers outside their homes; new governments adopt as policy, without stumbling, everything they railed against while in opposition; leaders who should be ashamed of their public actions boast about them.

If anything, Trinidad out-incepts Inception.

Just as it often out-Trinidads itself.

Trinidad is most like Inception in three critical ways, though. First, because the central character – ie, every single one of us – cannot be sure whether he is awake and in terror of his very life, or asleep and wrapped up in the best entertainment anyone could imagine, no one ever gets worried enough about the dream to do anything about the reality.

Indeed, no one can tell the difference between the illusion and the reality; and everyone is prepared to argue about the dream and leave the reality untouched. No matter how bad things get in Trinidad, people seem to believe that the worst thing that could happen is that they have to wake up, get out of bed and really go to work.

Second, just like in Inception, the dream that has been planted in the collective unconscious of the place is a false one, whether you call it “rainbow nation,” “all o’ we is one family” or some other con.

And, the third trick in the trinity: in both cases, a dream turns into a nightmare before you can say, “Boo!”

BC Pires is dreaming and he dreamed that he bounced up Leo, Shadow and mo’

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