I almost started this post off with: “Everyone knows I’m a list person.” This is not far from the truth, in fact, definitely is the truth, and I do love my lists. The gratification one gets from crossing items off a list is so fulfilling, I cannot even begin to say how amazing it feels. Anyway, list generating is a topic of discussion for another day. But, it draws me to my main point; a long time ago I printed a list of the 100 greatest novels of all time. Now, this list is part traditional literature: Tolstoy, Bronte, Austen, Melville, and so on. Yet the other part of it is comprised of lesser known works, many of which are new age novels (written within the last half a century). Example: Harry Potter series. Another novel on that list is Cloud Atlas. At first, when I read the description on wikipedia, I was interested but it definitely did not jump out at me as one of the novels first to be read off the list. However, that changed when I read an article in the New Yorker discussing the Wachowski siblings (one brother is a transgender and now a female).
The article touched on how the Wachowskis got in touch with the author and how they made the film based off of the novel, taking the author’s concepts, ideas, and thoughts into mind at every step. So, from here, the film really is a true representation of the novel since the filmmakers took what the author had to say to heart, which as we all know, is usually not the case. Anyway, I remember that I really enjoyed the article, specifically the portions discussing the actors and their various roles in the 6 plots and who plays who, etc. Clearly, the article peaked my interest.
From here, I bought the book (of course at an inflated price since the film was coming out) and read it immediately. The novel is split into 6 plots, each with their own chapter. It is also organized in an interesting manner in which the author begins at the earliest plot and tells half of that plot in one chapter following it by a separate plot in succeeding chronological time. Five plots are partially told followed by a sixth that is told in its entirety then the plots are completed and digress in time. I remember while reading, I enjoyed some plots more than others, probably because I could relate more to the ones that took place in times that were close to the 20th century, while others, especially the futuristic plot, was a bit lost on me.
To return to the film, this novel was a challenge to read, but I think incorporating it into a film made it a bit simpler to see the themes that the author wanted to convey through the novel, but was a challenge to take away. Actors played roles of various characters throughout the plots, and some of them had birthmarks. Also, the themes of the characters were all the same; in that, Tom Hanks always played a heroine, Halle Berry the damsel, Hugo Weaving the evil one. This made for continuity, that I remember, was a challenge to follow throughout the novel. If anything, having the same actors portray various characters really drove the central theme of the novel home (something that I felt was severely lacking throughout the book): one’s path may cross in a lifetime and continue to cross throughout centuries.
Not only were the story lines clear, but the actors were amazing at portraying their characters. I felt like Hanks did an awesome job, and Weaving was just amazing. The Wachowskis must surely love to work with him after his part in the Matrix Trilogy as Agent Smith. He is such a versatile actor, and lays excellent evil characters (but also classically good ones: Elrond LOTR). I felt like Halle Berry was a bit miscast as the female lead, but she did a good enough job. The film, however, really was great in considering the supporting characters. The same actors appeared in each portion of the plots, but they really were supported by their fellow actors that were the glue to the plot lines. Honestly, I’d watch the film for the supporting cast and the scenery. I vaguely remember the New Yorker article saying that the film was shot on site at a plethora of locations, and you can definitely tell. The scenery was beautiful!
Anyway, if you can stand to sit for almost 3 hours, I would definitely watch the movie. The film is a bit better than the book, but you should probably read the novel anyway. It’s novel in the fact that no author has yet to provide a storyline in the manner that Mitchell does, and is quite unique. Hope you enjoy!