Rio Hondo College Newspaper

El Paisano

Rio Hondo College Newspaper

El Paisano

Rio Hondo College Newspaper

El Paisano

‘Cloud Atlas’; novel to film

It is not often, that the union between a novel and film-production is so well crafted, that the result is the preservation of a tale as old and as infinite in its artistic and philosophical importance.

The recent film, ‘Cloud Atlas,’ directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix Series, V for Vendetta) has polarized its audiences with the stark clarity of those who loved it between those who audaciously hated it, in such a way that the controversy and large reception alone proclaim it as a masterpiece. The film, which the Wachowski brothers said was declined by nearly every major film-studio to fund, ranks as one of the most expensive, successful, independent films in history.

Based on the novel of the same name, written by acclaimed English author David Mitchell in 2004, the novel weaves the far-spanning tale of six people who are intertwined and connected across centuries through individual acts that not only transform themselves, but the very fate of humanity.

It begins with the journal entries of Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess), a dying lawyer on his journey home to San Francisco, around the time of the Californian gold rush. From there it travels to the late 1920s, in Europe, where the young, musical prodigy Robert Frobisher (Ben Wishaw) discovers the journals of Ewing, whilst writing to his longtime friend and lover, Rufus Sixsmith (James D’Arcy).

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Decades later in the 1970s, an aging Rufus Sixsmith finds himself entangled in corporate conspiracies and confides in Luisa Rey (Halle Berry), the morally driven journalist out to expose corruption—who discovers, coincidentally, Sixsmith and Frobisher’s letters. From there the reader is taken to present day, into the life of the misfortunate publisher Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent), who suffers a humorous escapade and discovers a book about Rey.

And then the reader is transported into the far future of a dying and failing world, where Sonmi-451 (Doona Bae), a clone, is being interviewed for her part played in revolution against a corporate aristocracy.

FInally, the reader is thrust farther into the future, where the last groups of mankind battle daily for survival and Sonmi is worshiped as a god—where the goat herder Zachary (Tom Hanks), once a coward, is transformed into the most unlikely hero of all.

The structure of the novel, and its tangling plotlines, was an obstacle elegantly overcome in the film production. The first five minutes introduced the intricate web of characters, and alluded precariously to the coincidences and phenomenon that tied them all together.

Of the many coincidences and phenomena that tie each character together, the one rightly focused on in the film was the curious comet-shaped birthmark that appeared on various characters. Its significance was thoroughly emphasized, and added more to the sense of surreality that surrounded the film.

Both the novel and film capitalized greatly on the themes of rebirth, coincidence, and fate. As a result, all of the films lead actors play intertwining parts in the film. Each member of the all-star cast plays close to three to five roles in the film, it is here that the makeup and costume designing must be applauded, as well as the actors, for transforming them into extremely different roles. Hanks went from a bearded, toothy doctor, a blonde clean-cut scientist, and a scarred, rugged old man–all the while balancing varying manners of speech in such a way that the audience, at times, settled to believe these were truly different people. In more profound acts, Halle Berry took on more that once the character of a man in the film, as well as the white wife of Aryrs, the composer for whom Frobisher works.

Even if its web of layered tales stumps you, you’ll find that it is a story not to be fully understood, but felt. Of the six characters, you will identify with one, you will sympathize, hate, love, grow, and ultimately see yourself in one. For as simplistic and unordinary as each of the tales within ‘Cloud Atlas’ seem when separated, together they stand as one of the greatest contemporary stories ever imagined. You will leave the theatre thinking, to borrow a line from the character Isaac Sachs, played also by Hanks, “I feel like something important has happened to me.”

Author Daniel Mitchell, is as such praised to not only be a master of character, crafting such convincing people in his novel, but a master of genre as well. Both the novel and the film entertain a wide-range of audiences as it switches to various genres, ranging from a tragic romance, a comedic adventure, a sci-fi action filled thriller, and many others. From the old English of Ewing’s time to the barbaric and almost impossible to understand language of Zachary, Mitchell transcends barriers of language to convince the reader of the realism in his novel.

As a whole, both the novel and the film expertly explore the very core of humanity and our subsequent role in the universe, but more substantially perhaps, it offers up the belief that our individual actions can change the course of history. They can alter the fate of a murderer, to that of a hero; and a seemingly isolated, and insignificant, act of cruelty or kindness, can inspire a revolution centuries later.

‘Cloud Atlas’ will not only dazzle you with its colorful and phenomenal plot, but drastically challenge you to seriously consider your place in the world. Both novel and film successfully personalize and dash the belief that our actions have no significance, that our life, “amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean.”

But, as Adam Ewing so humbly suggests in the final line of the novel: “Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?”

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