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Cloud Atlas, an interesting philosophical film to watch. All in all, it’s an excellent movie, though it probably will confuse some Americans. It’s more of a European flick, to be precise-a German flick with all of its artistic cinematography, philosophy, and x-rated sex in a rated-R movie. Having watched many German films, myself, I suspected that a German scriptwriter had his hands on this project, perhaps even a European, so I looked up those involved in the project and who should be one of the co-writers and directors of Cloud Atlas other than the one and only Tom Tykwer? In case you don’t know who Tom Tykwer is, he’s the script writer and director of one of Germany’s most famous movies, Run, Lola, Run. Yes, he definitely has his finger prints all over this film with its episodic, angst ridden, fast beat scenes which have many twists and turns. And of course, as I mentioned before, the philosophy. Germans are the thinkers in the artistic world, and their art usually revolves around a dystopian, Franz Kafkaesque bizarre world…much like the one in this film.
But I would be remiss not to mention the influence of the Wachowski siblings in this film, and it’s very present as well. They are responsible for films such as the Matrix trilogy with its futuristic setting in a dystopian world, as well. However, they’re more futuristic than Tykwer who likes to write about modern society and casts Ben Whishaw in all his movies (he is also in Cloud Atlas). The Matrix trilogy’s theme of being a suppressed prisoner in a system created by someone else, and empowering yourself to breach that system through self-empowerment and unity is also present in Cloud Atlas, as I’ll explain in another blog.
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In this world, we are taken through the lives of more than 70 characters who continue to reincarnate but remain in each other’s lives in one form or another in six different plots for 500 years. For example, Tom Hanks plays the characters Dr. Henry Goose, the hotel Manager, Isaac Sachs, Dermot Hoggins, Cavendish Look-a-Like Actor, and Zachry who is in love with or whose life intersects with Halle Berry’s characters Native Woman, Jocasta Ayrs, Luis Rey, Indian Party Guest, Ovid, and Meronym. Obviously, this is an actor’s film because it’s character driven and challenges the actors’ versatility. As a person who dabbled in acting when I was young, I believe it’s one hell of task to play multiple characters at the same time; it almost takes a photographic memory to keep each character separated. But they do, and the actors do an excellent job of it. Of course they do, you have the skills of likes of Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent and other A-listers to support the film and bring dimension to the characters.
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As for the storyline, the fact that it ruminates for a brief moment over the vignettes at the beginning of the film, I feel, was a downfall for a commercial film catering to an American audience which doesn’t watch, nor appreciate, many artistic films. On the other hand, I believe it was part of the movies’ artistry-feeding into its theme of oneness, as it is clear that these characters share versions of the same problems at the same time though they live in different periods of time, with different socio-economic backgrounds, different physical traits, different races, genders, ages, sexual orientations etc. But moving quickly from character to character in the beginning, was perhaps the screenwriter’s way of showing that they are one and the same character –you have the rebel who empowers the exploited heroine, the heroine that is exploited, and the villain who is doing the exploiting. It doesn’t matter who each character is, really. But at first you’re confused and have no idea what the story is about until it starts to connect later on in the movie. To sum it up, the hook is lousy, though artistic, and the storyline and its themes were superb. Which is probably why it won many awards in Germany. Will it win awards in the United States? Probably not, but that’s because it’s polarizing here in the United States-some people love its themes and vignettes which take tangents but ultimately jell to form a few cohesive storylines and then there are those who believe that the development is messy and incohesive. You do have to have your thinking cap on when you watch this movie, but it's one of those movies that you love when you understand it.
This is a movie you have to see for yourself if you want to know more about the storyline. If I were to sum it up, it would take a lot more than a few pages to untangle this intricate storyline in a coherent, interesting manner. Instead, I will focus on quotes in vignettes in relation to a few important philosophical themes I saw in the movie. And hopefully it will help the American, and even Canadian, movie watcher have a deeper understanding and appreciation for this bold film. But that's another blog.