Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cloud Atlas

I love David Mitchell. I don't love him the way I love Kazuo Ishiguro. For Kazuo Ishiguro I have a wistful, secret love. I like to lie in the spaces between his words and cry. But David Mitchell. I love him like I am drowning. David Mitchell gave me my happy place. It is a scene in a forest, from The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet, that I go back to when I need comfort. A snowy pine forest on a slope, under siege by bowmen. It is an odd place to seek refuge, but I find it there. And Cloud Atlas. It was described somewhere as a Matroyshka doll, but I find that description inadequate. I don't want to undermine anyone or anything, but it is a bit like the Universe. You know, how it is about everything, and everybody. I know what that makes David Mitchell, and I don't find that idea unbelievable. But Cloud Atlas. What is that animal? How was it ever written? And how did the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer ever make a movie out of it? You can't tell a story like Cloud Atlas, primarily because it isn't one story, it's several, and not just six. You can pair up any two stories, and they would make one story. Likewise for any three, or four, or five. To make a movie out of Cloud Atlas one needs to love the book, and movies. One needs to love the book enough to want to be true to it, and one needs to love movies enough to believe that such a movie could be made. And this film was a labour of such deep, abiding love. You feel it in every frame, in every actor cast, and in every sequence shot. The movie is steeped in a desperate desire to tell a story. Imagine the book in your hands. Now tear it int pieces. Now put it back together. Only this time, take six pieces from six different stories, and put them together. Make as many sets as make sense. Now arrange them in sequence. That is Cloud Atlas, the movie. But doesn't the makeup jar at times? Of course it does. Most people would hate Hugo Weaving as Nurse Noakes, but I loved him. His makeup was terrible, but what was important for me was the continuity between the different roles played by the same actor, and that was preserved. I could believe that Nurse Noakes could look like Hugo Weaving in drag. Some women do. But what was truely terrible was Halle Berry as Jocasta Ayrs. She looked like she was made of CGI. At no other point does the makeup get that distracting. In fact, I found it fun to spot the actor and make the connections. That David Gyasi was Autua and Lester Rey, or that Doona Bae was Somni-451 and Linda Ewing, were like Easter eggs to me. But Jocasta Ayrs was ghastly. She had this unearthly golden glow, like Angelina Jolie in Beowulf, or Ryan Reynolds in every movie, and did not look real. She could have been played by Andy Serkis for all that I knew. But the movie resonates. I love telling stories, and as storytellers would know, telling someone the story of a novel is hard. You must work hard at distilling the core of the story, embellish with adequate details, and create something that stands on its own feet. Cloud Atlas does that. The colours are brighter, the themes more distinct, and the movie becomes what an adaption should aspire to be- a retelling. It doesn't adhere to form or structure or sequence, and it creates some that there never was, but it does so in a way that you feel- this could have been there. The story could be this. This doesn't change much (I am looking at you, Zach Snyder and Watchmen). I don't know if my opinion is compromised by my love for the book. But I don't care. For a movie adaptation of a book that is a mobius strip of infinite sides, Cloud Atlas does remarkably well at tearing that strip apart and piecing it back in a different, yet recognisable form. I see my book in this movie. And that is more than I could have hoped for.


Somdutta said...

Quite lovely, the way you write. But I think you should have spent a sentence or two about hope. 'Hope is a good thing. Perhaps the best of things.' Hope was the primary human emotion that I was flooded with. Such a lovely movie, and the way you write about it makes me want to see it again, right now.

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