Cloud Atlas – TIFF 2012

Yesterday I saw Cloud Atlas. Of all the films I got tickets to it is the only one I knew I would attend solo. After having seen the trailer I felt comfortable with that because I had a feeling it was going to be one of those movies that makes me cry and I like to experience those sorts of movies by myself. I was completely correct and had a wonderful experience.

The movie is long, involved, and takes you on board immediately. Told as a series of overlapping narratives, it is the story of the intersection of lives and the mistakes that all people make. Of how love is a constant, but still needs to be fought for. And of how you can only truly appreciate freedom when it is lost to you. I have not read the book and so I went into it unspoiled, and was putting together the pieces of the puzzle exactly as the filmmakers wanted us to. Each story is told more or less in order, but each segment is inter-cut (seemingly randomly) with the segments of others. What follows is almost a sea of moments, waves cresting and receding, of action and drama, comedy and tragedy. One amazing sequence was a completely comedic scene of triumph cutting back to one character’s escape from brutal murder. It seems like it shouldn’t work, but it does. Like the sextet it is named for, Cloud Atlas is a series of rising and falling notes and it played me perfectly.


There is a primary cast of 13 actors, telling six stories. The actors all appear in each story, in different roles. The stories are told across different times, from the 1850’s to a post-Apocalyptic future. Putting actors in younger or older makeup isn’t new, but the directors also had more than a few of the male actors play women (Hugo Weaving makes an amazing Nurse Ratched-type character). That was used to great effect, but they could not stop there. One of the final stories takes place in Neo Seoul, naturally populated by future Koreans. What do you do when the majority of your cast is Caucasian? Apparently the answer is Asianface. Ballsy is what that is. They even turned Keith David into a Blackasian! But in the interest of fairness they also turned Halle Berry Indian and into a blonde haired Jewess, and both Korean actress were put into whiteface. The best though was Academy Award-winner Susan Sarandon playing an Asian male doctor.


The Wachowskis there there with Tom Tykwer to present the film, though they didn’t stay for a Q&A. Understandable – it was already the second showing of it and it was nice that they stopped by at all. And I’m also somewhat glad of the lack of Q&A because the questions that get asked of complex and challenging movies usually make me want to strangle strangers. If you didn’t understand the movie, please do not ask the director to explain it to you!


I would like to ask them though if they felt nervous at all with the racial transformations in the film. They were all necessary to the plot and done very respectfully (while not always 100% successful) but it’s still risky in this day and age. I haven’t read any formal reviews yet, but I am interested to see if there will be any backlash.

Overall I am very much looking forward to seeing it again. It works very well on first viewing but I feel like my second viewing will be much richer.