Tremendous independent work by Wachowskis and Tykwer, spanning six stories and several centuries.
Directors: Andy and Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer | Stars: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Jim Sturgess
Budget: 100 million | Box office: 65 million
I‘ll start from a galaxy far far away, but bear with me. Watching a movie Fanboys several years ago made me think which movie of all is the most important for me, made the biggest impact. After long and serious thinking the decision came clear – The Matrix. I‘ll spare the details why, maybe there will be a chance to talk about it some other time, but it‘s relevant now, because since then I was waiting for what Wachovskis can think of next. I didn‘t hate Speed Racer like many people, but it was just a little fun experiment in a long period of silence. There were some rumours about them taking a strange story in future Iraq war, even talk about Wachovskis directing the new Superman reboot, but (thankfully) it never happened. So the minute I found out about Cloud Atlas project, I started to search for the book.
David Mitchell‘s novel is a must read in order to enjoy the movie and grasp what is going on in these so different six worlds and stories, separated by hundreds of years. The novel for me was an interesting experience, because I decided not to read it, but to listen for an audiobook. Available from iTunes, the audiobook is narrated by six readers, different one for each story, and it‘s really a great way to enjoy the richness and difference of each chapter‘s style and language features.
Because of that huge difference there was much sense to split the movie direction into two teams – one Wachovskis and one Tom Tykwer‘s. The siblings directed the oldest story in 19th century South Pacific ocean and, predictably, the two future stories in the futuristic Neo Seoul of 22nd century and Hawaiian Islands in post apocalyptic world (probably 24th century). Tykwer was responsible for middle three stories: two in the 20th century and one in 2012. I don‘t think there‘s much point of telling the stories themselves – even the glimpse of them would take lots of time. So better to focus on the movie itself.
The production of Cloud Atlas was quite unique. Not only it was created by two separately working teams, but it was financed from independent sources and thus it‘s one of the most expensive independent movies ever made, already called the biggest German production blockbuster. It may sound like not a big deal, but to raise 100 million from various independent sources is a huge task and because of that the movie was even considered dead for few times. Only the actors‘, especially Tom Hanks‘, and other crew enthusiasm kept it going.
Another cool and interesting decision probably comes from the lack of finance and difficulties filming an independent production with high profile stars, but nevertheless it‘s really impressive. All of the main actors played several roles in Cloud Atlas, from major to minor ones. And the people to praise here are not only the actors themselves, but also the make-up teams. They must get an Oscar at least for that! It‘s really interesting to try and guess which actors play what roles in different segments and at the end is surprising to see them revealed.
Seeing the same actors helps to connect the different Cloud Atlas stories together much better than when you read the book. I guess the hard task for directors was to find more ways to present the picture as a whole and not just as separate stories. That‘s why the structure of the movie is much different from the book. In the novel the stories begin consequently, are interrupted in the middle of them until the book reaches the final sixth story, and then goes backwards in time and finishes each episode. It‘s a bit complicated approach and it makes hard to remember details from the beginning in the end of the book. So the movie approach when everything happens at the same time is much more suitable. At times it‘s a bit hard to adjust and it seems that you‘re watching a never ending trailer, all the events are important and there are no follow ups between the scenes, but that‘s the price to pay for such huge story. And the film is edited masterfully, again stressing the connections between different worlds and characters. Thankfully, distributors didn’t cut on the film‘s running time and the three hours really take you on the breathtaking journey from 19th century sailboat to neon flashing futuristic Seoul and the savage world „after the fall“, and all this epic trip is accompanied by wonderful soundtrack.
Just take it with consideration and please read or better listen to David Mitchell‘s novel – I can‘t really imagine watching Cloud Atlas otherwise.