JMM: Cloud Atlas. What a peculiar title. What does it mean? In all likelihood, it means something different to each of us because in the vernacular of the film itself we are all connected yet at the same time we are all separate.
To see this film is a trip into history as well as a lengthy look into the future. But that is kind of a simplistic overview. So today, I’ve asked reader FD to join me for a discussion of this film. On that note I’ll invite FD to kick this off with an opening statement.
FD: According to Wikipedia, a Cloud Atlas is a guidebook for identifying the different types of clouds (e.g., cirrus, cumulus, stratus, etc.). David Mitchell , author of the novel upon which the movie is based, says the “Atlas” part refers to things in life that remain constant; “Cloud” refers to what can change. In other words, “Atlas” is existence and “Cloud” is the soul.
He took the title from a piece of music by Toshi Ichiyanagi, who was once married to Yoko Ono. So this is a story of continuous existence, how some part of us may survive even after death. And the tagline, “Everything is Connected” implies the cause and the effect of each life that a soul experiences.
JMM: The above statements were written by each of us before either of us had seen the film. Now that we have both seen the film – we have a bit more solid footing. It is my view that film cannot be easily described or explained. Having said that I will quote two speeches made in the film:
The first is by Tom Hanks (as Dr. Henry Goose): Fear, belief, and love are phenomena that determine the course of our lives. These forces began long before we were born and continue long after we perish.
The other is voiced by Susan Sarandon (as The Abbess): Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others: past and present. And by each crime, and every kindness, we birth our future.
Would you agree that these statements – even out of context – are at the heart of the film, and go a long way to describe the film’s main theme?
FD: First off, I want to go out of my way to agree with you that this is a very unusual movie and certainly not easy to describe or explain. And it’s certainly not an easy movie to review. In fact at one point in the film, the book publisher Timothy Cavendish played by Jim Broadbent says to author Dermot Hoggins, played by Tom Hanks, “Come now – what’s a reviewer? One who reads quickly, arrogantly, but never wisely.”
JMM: [interrupting] Here is the review that led Mr. Hoggins to give his reviewer, a Mr. Finch an award of ‘free flight’:
None-hit wonders like Mr. Hoggins are the road kills of modern letters. Mr. Hoggins should apologize to the trees felled for his bloated ‘autobio-novel’. Four hundred vainglorious pages expire in an ending flat and inane quite beyond belief.