Cloud Atlas: A Film, A Novel, A Vehicle for Ben Whishaw

If we believe that humanity may transcend tooth & claw, if we believe divers races & creeds can share this world as peaceably as the orphans share their candlenut tree, if we believe leaders must be just, violence muzzled, power accountable & the riches of the Earth & its Oceans shared equitably, such a world will come to pass. I am not deceived. It is the hardest of worlds to make real…A life spent shaping a world I want [my son] Jackson to inherit, not one I fear Jackson shall inherit, this strikes me as a life worth the living.

Cloud Atlas, with the combination of huge buzz and Ben Whishaw, was a significant discovery for me; the novel speaks to me on a level that most books cannot, it reached into my own soul and displayed my beliefs on the page. I was not in Toronto yesterday and did not see the film (which is unfortunate since October 26th is too far away) but the generous five minute trailer is enough to make me believe the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Perfume) have really translated the core material into a complex, compelling cinematic narrative. In a surprising move, the Wachowskis even talked about the process of getting the film made.

The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer introduce their five minute trailer:

The trailer itself, massive in scope…

The author, David Mitchell, approves of the script and believes the film could be better than the novel. How rare is that for an author to say? This post mainly serves as a sounding board for my indescribable excitement over the project and its subject matter (and its stars). Ben Whishaw has a tendency to choose projects that simultaneously challenge me intellectually and depress me thoroughly. Ben’s star is ascending, and I hope he finally gets on America’s radar with this and November’s Skyfall. But enough gushing, how about some images/quotes from the novel?

“Dreamt I stood in a china shop so crowded from floor to far-off ceiling with shelves of porcelain antiquities etc. that moving a muscle would cause several to fall and smash to bits. Exactly what happened, but instead of a crashing noise, an august chord rang out, half-cello, half-celeste, D major (?), held for four beats…Deliberately now, smashed a figurine of an ox for the next note, then a milkmaid, then Saturday’s child — orgy of shrapnel filled the air, divine harmonies my head.”

“Working nights on Cloud Atlas Sextet until I drop, quite literally, no other way to get off to sleep. My head is a Roman candle of invention. Lifetime’s music, arriving all at once. Boundaries between noise and sound are conventions, I see now…One may transcend any convention, if only one can first conceive of doing so.”

“At hour five we man our tellers around the Hub, ready for the elevator to bring the new day’s first consumers. For the following nineteen hours we greet diners, input orders, tray food, vend drinks, upstock condiments, wipe tables, and bin garbage.”

“Then Old Georgie sunk his crookit spoon thru the Hawi Man’s sockets, yay, an’ dug out the soul, drippin’ in smeary brain, an’ crunched it, yay, it cracked ‘tween his horsey teeth.”

“A man in a dark suit sat there. He had tubed himself a coffee and watched me watching him across the dinery. He spoke, finally. ‘Good morning, Sonmi-451. I hope you’re feeling better today than Seer Rhee.'”…He, Mr. Chang, had a message for me, Sonmi-451, from his own seer. This message was in fact a choice.”

“Beyond the Indian hamlet, upon a forlorn strand, I happened on a trail of recent footprints. Through rotting kelp, sea cocoa-nuts & bamboo, the tracks led me to their maker, a White man, his trowzers & Pea-jacket rolled up, sporting a kempt beard & an outsized Beaver, shoveling & sifting the cindery sand with a teaspoon so intently that he noticed me only after I had hailed him from ten yards away.”

“I watched clouds awobbly from the floor o’ that kayak. Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies, an’ tho’ a cloud’s shape nor hue nor size don’t stay the same, it’s still a cloud an’ so is a soul. Who can say where the cloud’s blowed from or who the soul’ll be ‘morrow? Only Sonmi the east an’ the west an’ the compass an’ the atlas, yay, only the atlas o’ clouds.”

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About Staciellyn Chapman

Grad student at the School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University. This blog is an attempt to condense the craziness that is my TV viewing habits (with the occasional aside into film, music, and general life).

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