Much like most of the people who see them, movies tend to ignore and sometimes mistreat science, even as they reap its many benefits. It’s not as though David Eagleman, the neuroscientist and bestselling author of “Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain,” thinks “Inception” — his pick for BAM Cinematek’s Science on Screen series — is an airtight, rigorously scientific construction.
“By me choosing this terrific film, it doesn’t imply that it gets science right,” he explains. “But what I do love is it opens up the conversation to many scientific issues that are very close to my heart.” Those issues are dreams and, more specifically, time perception. “There aren’t a great number of films to choose from when looking for a film that incorporates science in a way that can really generate discussion.”
Eagleman says he’s been fascinated by time perception since he was a child, when he fell off a house. “I had lots of thoughts on the way down. When I got older I realized the whole thing took place in a fraction of a second. I was fascinated by that, so I became a neuroscientist.”
Christopher Nolan’s film — which, say what you will about it, is by far the brainiest movie to ever gross nearly a billion dollars — deals with time perception in relation to dreams. “What’s clear is that time is a construction of the brain, and it can change under circumstances. It can seem to run faster or slower, it can remember more of an event.”
Eagleman says the speech he will deliver after the screening will make the argument that dreams don’t move in slow motion, as they do in the film. But its portrayal of dreams is more accurate. Some critics complained about the relatively mundane (or at least unimaginative) dreams in “Inception.” But that, Eagleman agrees, is an attribute. “The whole key about dreams is that whatever your brain serves up, you buy it, hook, line and sinker,” he says. “When you’re inside the dream, you feel like this is reality, even if bizarre stuff is happening. If you put in bizarre magical creatures, then the audience would not enjoy that benefit of feeling like this is reality.”
After this screening, the “Science on Screen” will pick up again in May, with Shane Carruth’s time travel cult monster “Primer” and Terry Gilliam’s fantastical “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.” Meanwhile, Eagleman, like any good scientist, remains humble as well as knowledgeable. “The exciting part of science is we’re just at the foot of that mountain. Whatever I say on Monday night might turn out to be totally wrong.”
If You Go:
Today, 7:30 p.m.
30 Lafayette Ave.