Where should i begin to write? I think my thoughts are still tangled in an unraveled mess of wonderment inside my head. I can not say i understand the movie, i don’t think i am that smart, nor am i wise enough. I think the stories mesmerize me more than it should, maybe i am just too easily tempted by so many ideas. Stories, yes, this is a movie about stories and retelling of a story. Here’s a trailer, for your consideration.
“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.”
―Sonmi 451, Cloud Atlas.
May contain spoiler, read at your own risk.
Adapted from a 509 page of a fiction under the same name by David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas brought us on a journey that transcends time and space. From South Pacific Ocean in 1849 to The Big Island in 2321, we were introduced to a diverse sets of characters within a smörgåsbord of stories. You can enjoy a historical drama, a thrilling romance, a mystery unfolds, a comic comedy, enthralling sci-fi, and a post-apocalyptic dystopia in the far future, all rolled into one, making this movie felt almost like an omnibus, with a great genre disparity.
Seeing the opening credits alone will tell you how much struggle the movie maker need to go through to make this piece of cinema happen. Cloud Atlas, is not a hollywood blockbuster, it is actually financed by the German production companies A Company, ARD Degeto Film and X Filme. I, personally, am grateful, despite the lack of finance and how this project was on the verge of abandonment for several times, the movie makers stubbornly finish the movie and deliver it to cinema lover every where. This concept is wildly ambitious and brilliant, just by seeing the trailer alone you would not understand what the movie is about, you will, however, be intrigued. I was watching the trailer almost more than half a year ago and breathless and bewildered and thinking, “what the fuck did i just saw?!”. I was leaning on the concept of a grand star-crossed romance that transcends time and space between Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, who at that time i asume as the lead. Apparently it was not that simple.
I finally got my hand on the copy of the film and i need to sit through it twice, mind you, it is quite a lengthy flick, roughly runs for 171 minutes. Yet i feel so in love that i need to see this again, and again, and in theaters with its huge screens for repetitive viewings if i can afford it. The movie is made by three directors, who shot the movie in parallel separately. The Wachowski brothers (Lana and Andy), most well known for writting and directing The Matrix trilogy, direct the 1949 story and the two future stories. Tom Tykwer (Perfume: The Story of A Murderer, Three) directs the other three stories. Other than directing, producing and writing the script for the movie along with the Wachowski brothers, Tom Tykwer with his long time collaborators, also responsible for composing the music for the movie.
The directors went to their usual collaborators in this movie. Working as for the production design is Uli Hanisch and Hugh Bateup, Bateup previously worked as the Art Director for the Matrix Trilogy with the Wachowski brothers, while Hanisch worked with Tykwer on his previous movies as a production designer (Perfume, The International). The costume and wardrobe for Tykwer part was handled by Pierre-Yves Gayraud who previously worked with him in Perfume. The Wachowski brother bring the costume designer from The Matrix trilogy, Kym Barrett. I have to point out that even in the costume department there are subtle linkage, a repetitive pattern that connects and create flows from each stories to the other. While the make up is not as flawless in some characters, i appreciate the effort done to by Jeremy Woodhead who handled the hair and make up design for the Wachowski brother part. The future especially require a huge amount of prosthetics especially when turning caucasian actors into quite a believable asian and vice versa. The counterpart, Daniel Parker who works in Tykwer team, do a lot of gender bending make up, which is hard to do without making the character’s look like they’re in drag.
As if the premise is not intriguing enough the movie has a little twists, each story is portrayed by the same sets of casts, the lead character in each stories are varied and each actors and actresses portray different persona every time, but within the same archetypes. The transformation in these characters is quite astounding! Not only each actor is challenged to portray different characters (emotional, accents, culture, etc) but also portraying a variety of age, ethnicity, and even *gasps* gender. The make-up department really had an immense workload in this movie. However the whole ethnicity thing triggers unfavorable critics towards the casting selection and of course piss several people, accusing the movie to be racist (some to extend of calling it ethnic-cleansing, color-blind casting. I have not read the book yet, and i don’t know whether these racist comments are true or not, but portayal of several Asian character by caucasian actors should not raise so much questions if it is just for the sake of the art of the movie itself, i mean they also portray Asian actress in caucasian roles. I mean, let’s not make mountain out of mole hill. I think this argument is as thick as asking why don’t they cast a fat, black guy for the nutty professor.
What is a movie with amazing scripts, under distinguished directors, if it is not cast to perfection. Thank God this is not the case here. The ensemble of cast is wonderful. You can see each of them carry more than 2 different characters both minor and major. This setting is both intriguing and amusing, you can see how each character is very different yet has a similarity to it in sense of its essential stereotypes. Hugo Weaving as the archetype character of evil is just divine. Hugh Grant seems to be quite fond of his diverse role in the movie, especially in roles that are not usually ones he got typecast for. Tom Hanks and Halle Berry (both have six roles in the movie) handle each characters like a pro that they are. Doona Bae who i never saw in anything before was quite stunning in her role, giving innocence and an adulterated sense of righteousness in her wake. Jim Broadbent performance was deliciously funny! obscenely absurd but befitting its comic storyline, which personally, became a great relieve amongst all the exasperating drama and taut tension. I shamelessly gonna say, that i am absurdly in love with Ben Whishaw here (I have not joined the Whishaw love fest when he was in Perfume (2006) or Skyfall (2012), thank you very much). His portrayal of Robert Frobisher, through his letters to his friend and lover Rufus Sixsmith, is so endearing and he performs so much brilliance, you can hear his despair just from his eyes. It’s just an understated subtlety of acting, really.
Stories, connections, underlying characters, time lines skewed and space overlays, the movie would seem to be very hard to chew at first. But as it develops, it gets easier to see the motifs, the struggle, the fear, the mistake, the despair, the hope and the love, all that transcends the said space and time, and it probably begins before the beginning and would not end even after the ending. Maybe the tagline, is the clue, how everybody is connected, their life, their karmic retributions, their story. And maybe ours too?
The movie left you with overwhelmed with emotions and endless questions which you probably should not try to answer. This movie reminds me of the end of Inception (2010) which leads to a loads of conundrum and raise heated debate. I say, just enjoy it as it is, as a story. I don’t think the movie need digesting, all i need is to savor all the flavours that touches the tip of my palette and forever will be stored and catalogued into my memories. And hopefully i have shared enough of the story, to keep it alive a little bit longer.
“I understand now that boundaries between noise and sound are conventions. All boundaries are conventions, waiting to be transcended. One may transcend any convention if only one can first conceive of doing so. Moments like this, I can feel your heart beating as clearly as I feel my own, and I know that separation is an illusion. My life extends far beyond the limitations of me.”
―Robert Frobisher, Cloud Atlas.
Here’s hoping Cloud Atlas to come to Indonesia very soon! (fingers and toes crossed for IMAX, pretty please!). The DVD/Bluray will be released on May 14th, 2013.
All Pictures are courtesy of IMDb.
(Writing this accompanied by the beautiful The Cloud Atlas Sextet for the Orchestra, part of its original score. Which is a bad decision on my part because it all just reminds me of all the melancholy of Robert Frobisher)