With the Australian release date of Cloud Atlas approaching, the time has come to check our own atlases, reach for the clouds, and define what it means to be a 100 million dollar, three-hour-long epic scifi-fantasy-thriller-period-drama six-story composite by three of the best directors to hit German cinema, with a soundtrack to die for and a profound, awe-inspiring message open to a multitude of interpretations. The Wichowski siblings’ Cloud Atlas is, without a doubt, a thing of beauty. I’ve heard the film described as six stories “intertwined to create one magical ride through time and space”, and it is exactly that.
The film opens with a collection of stories – all unique journeys into the “interconnected”. You may not agree with the idea that Cloud Atlas is a film on reincarnation, but it can be interpreted as a comment on the nature of humanity as much as it can the nature of life. It is not necessarily about gods or future lives. No, it is about choices, about the implications of our impact on the world. It is about the human psyche, and how certain character-types in life persist throughout the ages, despite all change around us.
The use of some actors to portray different characters – even characters of different ages and genders – is a corny but necessary one. It does, however, make the film all the more confusing. So lo, before you is a map outlining the actors, their significant characters, their character types, and time itself. Follow the coloured lines as a map of each actor’s characters, arranged from left to right, from good to evil, and vertically in time.
Cloud Atlas is without a doubt a complex film, and its characters are complex in their own. Accurately mapping them onto a simple scale of “good” and “evil” is a difficult if impossible task. If you haven’t seen the film yet, just go, watch it, and see for yourself. Then, maybe, pick up the book and give it a try. I did, and it was worth it.
See you in the next life, or whatever is waiting for us at the other end of the epic, fantastical ride of a film called Cloud Atlas.