Vasilis Katsoupis’ “Inside” (2023) deals with the story of Nemo (Willem Dafoe), an art thief who gets trapped inside a luxurious penthouse suite while trying to pull off a high-profile heist. On a mission to steal a collection of expensive paintings by Egon Schiele, Nemo makes his way into the state-of-the-art apartment of a wealthy art collector. Not knowing his way around the place, he stumbles around, bagging all the paintings he can find but fails to locate one in particular, the self-portrait of Schiele, which his accomplice tells him is worth three million dollars.
With less than six minutes on the clock left for him to make his escape, he scrambles to find it in a state of desperate urgency but falls short. The alarm system of the apartment is triggered by mistake as Nemo’s accomplice fails to successfully hack into it in time, locking him inside a remote castle of glass. His accomplice abandons him, leaving him no choice but to fend for himself in an isolated, hostile environment where all the odds are stacked against him. Amidst a severe scarcity of food and water, Nemo is forced to resort to the most extreme measures to keep himself and his hopes of escape alive. The film attempts to juxtapose art with life in a very raw and unforgiving manner, giving rise to rather uncomfortable and conflicted sensations within anyone willing to witness the ultimate battle between a man and the undefined adversities piled against him.
In an ironic turn of events, Nemo, the man tasked with stealing priceless paintings from a picturesque skyline apartment, gets imprisoned in it, sealing his fate for good. Despite being driven to desperation by the lack of resources to sustain himself, Nemo decides to leave no stone unturned when it comes to keeping his hopes of survival alive. At first, rationing whatever supplies he could gather in the place and later resorted to more extreme measures like eating dog food and raw fish caught from the owner’s aquarium and drinking the water from the sprinkler system of an indoor garden. In the desperate scramble to turn off the alarm of the security system, the thermostat controlling the central temperature of the apartment gets damaged, resulting in adverse temperature conditions and adding to Nemo’s problems. The telephone doesn’t work, the faucets have run dry, and the refrigerator is almost empty; such are the crises that Nemo finds himself entangled with. The only electronic gadget that does seem to work in the apartment is a television, through which he could monitor the security feeds of the entire building. He tries to cut his way through the main door but finds that it is reinforced with hardened steel; the glass windows, too, seem to be unbreakable, and at this moment, Nemo perhaps has the realization that he is, in fact, in prison, designed specifically for him, surrounded by art on every wall but with no way of escaping. The only glimmer of hope that kindled a spark in his heart was the idea of somehow climbing to the skylight on the ceiling of the penthouse and escaping through the roof. Subsequently, he gets to work, building a sort of ladder out of all the available furniture in the place and tying tables, cupboards, and chairs together.
Nemo comes to notice a pretty maid through the surveillance feed of the building, whom he names ‘Jasmine,’ and slowly grows infatuated with her, sometimes talking to her in his mind and fantasizing about intimate moments with her. On one occasion, he notices Jasmine to be right outside his door and begins maniacally banging on it and shouting for help, but having put on earphones while vacuuming the hallway; she does not hear him. At one point, he discovers a narrow, hidden passageway inside a cupboard and decides to follow it. To his surprise, it led him to a concealed back room where he found Schiele’s self-portrait and a copy of William Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” under a weird-looking sculpture of a person’s body.
‘Inside’ Ending: Could Nemo Really Escape?
He gets obsessed with Blakeian ideas of ‘creation and destruction’ after reading the book and keeps quoting lines from it, having entered a suspended state of mind. He scrapes and draws on the walls, creating his own artistic designs and an altar for worship, inspired by the concepts of Hell and Heaven, destruction and creation, death and rebirth, postulated by William Blake, and his thoughts begin to transcend the usual temporality of imagination. In a last-ditch effort to attract outside help, Nemo triggers the fire alarm in the apartment, which completely floods the space but brings no attention from the outside. He scrawls an apology for the owner on a wall, admitting that he is truly sorry for having destroyed his home, and states that the place that was a ‘home’ for the owner was also a ‘cage’ for him. With nothing to lose in the end, Nemo begins his second and last ascent to the skylight, where he had once broken his foot, having fallen from the scaffolding, and the frame shifts to the bottom of the ladder. To maintain the symbolic image of the moment, Nemo’s last steps are not shown, but his escape is hinted at as the glass from the skylight falls to the ground and shatters, and Nemo’s shadow is seen above the skylight. The symbolism integrated into the final ascent is perhaps that of a man who has attained knowledge in its absolute form through his sufferings and is now ready to climb the stairway to heaven through the doorway made of light without fear of what comes next. A very theological premise of purgation.