I recently watched "Sucker Punch" and came across some interpretations of the movie on IMDB; the one I favor views the stepfather and asylum scenes as the movie's reality and the brothel and action game scenes as the main character(M. Rease)'s attempt to cope with the her past and present through psychodrama sessions guided by Dr. Gorski. I believe that the girls in the brothel world are conjured in M. Rease's imagination. Though we see the girls in the theater as she first enters the asylum, there are no scenes in "reality" which hint at an interaction between M. Rease and these other girls.

This claim can be supported by these clues:
a) According to Wiki's page on Psychodrama, the tool "is most often utilized in a group scenario, in which each person in the group can become therapeutic agents for one another's scenes. Psychodrama is not, however, a group therapy, and is instead an individual psychotherapy that is executed from within a group."
The focus here is on the individual aspect, each patient writes their own stories in the fantasies. In this case, the other girls provide a vessel for various facets of M. Rease's persona.
b) In the brothel level, M. Rease imagines these four girls are able to help her, but this does not imply that this is happening in the asylum level; when we go a level deeper, in Baby Doll's action scenes, even though she's the only one dancing in the brothel, she imagines the other girls are able to enter the action scene level. Another important aspect of those scenes is that Baby Doll is always the one who retrieves the objects in question, regardless of who's assigned the task in the brothel level, further suggesting that she's the only one partaking in the escape plans in the asylum level.
c) In the closing scene, the narrator insists that "you have all the weapons you need," highlighting the fact that M. Rease is on her own in her fights.
d) In the scene where M. Rease is taken away following the lobotomy, the cook eyes her and his hand immediately move to his belt, showing the missing knife. His knee-jerk reaction to seeing her suggests she's the one who took the knife in the asylum level, not Amber, as would have been suggested by her brothel fantasy.
e) The deaths of the three girls are never mentioned by Gorski; surely something as relevant as this would have been mentioned if it did occur in the asylum.

However, there are inconsistencies with this theory:
a) Following the lobotomy scene, Dr. Gorski tells the doctor that M. Rease started a fire, stabbed an orderly and helped another girl escape. Some IMDB'ers have explained this (backed by the expression and way Gorski says the word) as therapist's use of "escape" as a trigger word so that M. Rease will embark in her fantasy where Sweet Pea is able to escape into "Paradise," providing a mental escape for the lobotomized main character. What irks me about this is that following the lobotomy, the movie shows the burnt closet and the stabbed orderly, which seems to imply that the third thing Gorski listed also occurred in reality.
b) If at the asylum level, M. Rease is the only one involved in pilfering the items needed for her escape, then how can she take Blue's map? It is plausible that the character can steal smaller items like a lighter or a knife without the orderlies' noticing, but it just seems highly unlikely for her to be able to obtain a copy of the map. Perhaps, she never stole the map in the asylum level; she could have studied it while distracting Blue. What bothers me about this explanation, however, is how in the brothel level, Blue notices something wrong about the map.
c) In the brothel fantasy, Blondie confesses the plan to Blue and Gorski, while the other girls are trying to distract and steal the knife from the cook. I don't think this can be explained by the all-five-girls-are-the-same-girl theory if the events occurred simultaneously. If not, it could have been possible that in a moment of weakness, M. Rease reveals her plan, but later decides to carry on. If this was the case, I think the asylum staff would have been alerted and the girl would have been stopped before she could have started the fire and made an attempt for it.

Could the girls have been different characters in the asylum? How would you explain the arguments that support/oppose this theory?


My own take is that the asylum level is real, but the characters are not necessarily. The events described in the asylum level is real, including her helping an inmate to escape, but that's not necessarily any of the brothel-level characters seen. Everything in the brothel level is an analog for someone in the asylum level, but the events are allegorically related, and not directly comparable.

I believe Snyder has also been deliberately coy on any specific interpretations because, at its heart, he never intended any aspect of the story to become concrete, so you could say "this part, this is real". It is part of what makes the movie re-watchable, since you can get more out of it with every viewing.

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