If you haven’t seen the trailer for Cloud Atlas, you’re really missing out. It’s epic, to say the least. I hadn’t heard of Cloud Atlas so when the trailer came out and the movie date was announced, all the buzz put it on my radar.
And apparently I wasn’t the only one; reportedly, Twitter shut down temporarily from the craziness that ensued from people sharing and watching the trailer.
When I’m asked about the types of books I like to read, fantasy doesn’t instantly come to mind. But if I think back to books that have stuck with me, I am actually quite a sucker for fantasy. To be clear, I’m not talking about the vampire variety, I prefer the type of fantasy stories that makes you question whether it could all be real, whether the parallel world or fantastical people could exist.
After I saw the Cloud Atlas trailer, I knew that I absolutely had to read the book, and preferably before seeing the movie. I didn’t want to see the movie first because I thought I may never go back to the book and if I did, I would see Tom Hanks and Halle Berry in my mind’s eye while reading.
So I read the book and man, did I read it. In every spare moment of every day, in miniscule spots of time, I’d read a word or two if that’s all I could fit in but it was worth it. It was difficult and slow going at the beginning and sometimes in the middle too. The intricate combination of six, different stories is interesting and slightly strange. Apparently, David Mitchell wrote the book as six short stories and cut them up and spliced them together to create the novel. But it doesn’t feel jarring or unnatural, somehow the stories all flow together joined by an underlying thread apparent in each story. I found this same aspect of connectivity in the movie, as well.
The story follows several characters through different periods in time; but the key is that they are all the same ‘souls’. The characters make their way from a boat in the Pacific in the 1800′s and move towards a future where we no longer live on Earth and back again. The story starts in the past and ends in the past. This aspect of the book is made apparent in the movie by using the same actors who each play multiple roles throughout time.
The theme of reincarnation is present but is not stated as such. The continuation of the same soul is recognised by an unusual comet-shaped birthmark that makes its way through past, present and future. The line up of characters, played by Tom Hanks in the movie, starts off as an evil man and throughout history, working towards the future, becomes a somewhat cowardly but good man. This ‘soul’ represents the Everyman and reveals that good and evil can exist in everyone.
So I loved the book. But what about the movie? Of course, as with all movie adaptations, there are certain aspects of the book that are altered or removed. But I did not find this bothersome in any way. I did keep thinking about the book while watching the movie and thinking about where we were in the book compared to what I was watching onscreen. Which I think is better than referring back to the movie while reading the book.
The movie was very much a piece that could stand on it’s own and be enjoyed independently from the book. I would recommend reading the book as well as seeing the movie, preferably reading the book first, since there is equal enjoyment to be had from one and the other. At least in the order I did it in.
Did You Know?
During my research, I discovered that David Mitchell said that while he was writing Cloud Atlas, he thought, “It’s a shame this is unfilmable,” and when the movie directors Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski and Andy Wachowski presented their idea and screenplay to David Mitchell over a cold pint in a tavern in Cork, his response was, “This could be one of those movies that are better than the book!” Well I might not go that far but I would say that the story is told equally well by David Mitchell in writing as the directors and actors onscreen.