February 6, 2013
An Orison of Sonmi-451 (2144)
Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After (2321)
The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing (1849)
Letters from Zedelghem (1936)
Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery (1973)
The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish (2012)
Cast: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, Doona Bae, Keith David, Hugh Grant, James D’Arcy, Ben Whishaw
An intricate story draws connections between six parallels – of the ocean voyage of a lawyer, the tale a composer narrates to his lover, the mystery of the nuclear power plant, the great nursing home escape, the rebellion in Neo-Seoul, and the travels of a tribal man in post-apocalyptic Hawaii.
No doubt this bold act will invite polarised views, the gracefully realised epic poses an intriguing puzzle of life to marvel at.
Cloud Atlas is grand. The intricately-layered premise penned by David Mitchell has been called unfilmable and calls for immense ambition to be realised. The execution steers in daring directions, asking for a whole lot of courage.
What a tremendous achievement it is to see the great leviathan navigate through six very different parallels with grace. The thoughtful process behind translating the story manifests in the changes that work for the language of film.
Tom Tykwer is an excellent fit, having experience in the non-linear field with the infamous film class essential Run Lola Run. The Perfume director is also adept at building his stories around the characters. Working together with the woe in Mitchell’s pithy words, he makes the strongest and most lingering impression with tragic romance Letters from Zedelghem. The comic timing in the arcThe Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish comfortably evokes laughter despite its relatively serious counterparts. Thriller Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery holds less emotional weight and feels only adequate.
Old letters, birthmarks and the gorgeous composition Cloud Atlas Sextet twine these individuals around the lives of others, while themes of love and life itself tie them together as one captivating tale. Some transitions are easier to discern than others, but the overall experience has the stunning ability to provoke differing levels of fascinating interpretations. The complicated timeline that spans across many eras and genres like an expansive version of Aronfsky’s The Fountain will render a single viewing insufficient. Every revisit is just as thought-provoking and refreshing as the last.
Yet Robert Frobisher says, “All boundaries are conventions, waiting to be transcended. One may transcend any convention, if only one can first conceive of doing so.” The directors are ambitious in choosing controversial portrayals to make the plot as simply understood as possible. Cloud Atlas manages to beautifully transcend conventions of gender and race as to connect what seems to be different. The message is far from discrimination. Having said that, it is hoped that the controversy will present more chances for Asian actors (to play non-stereotypical roles, that is) in future.
Click here for a brilliant infographic map of the characters in Cloud Atlas.