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Sunday, 31 March 2013

A cloudy prospect

This is a review of Cloud Atlas (2012)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2012
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

31 March

This is a review of Cloud Atlas (2012)

In his review of Cloud Atlas (2012), Philip French – not at all showing off – seems to give every example that he can think of in films where actors play more than one role. (Thankfully, he did not trouble us with Alec Guinness’ eightfold cameos as members of the d’Ascoyne family.) To French, that historical view may be important, but I agree with the person (was it he ?) who said that one might be too bothered working out which actor / actress is on screen to pay attention to other things.

For me, trying to think of Hugo Weaving’s name (by reminding myself of The Matrix (1999) and its Agent Smith) was not too much for my poor little brain (not, that is, in the way that some of the intense stretches of action were, acting as some sort of overload). Having thought of some counter-examples, I cannot think that the following Tweet is correct in alleging a significance, other than damn’ good fun on the part of cast and crew (Weaving as a nurse to put Ratched in the shade ! ), in these multiple roles (which is properly the stuff of The Hours (2002)) :

As far as I am concerned, the territory that the futuristic parts of the film occupies is that before the time of the trilogy that began with The Matrix, and whose antecedents were ‘filled’ in by the collection of short works that make up The Animatrix (2003). It may be that, with his novel Cloud Atlas (published in 2004), David Mitchell was aware of this material, and has an interest in the ethics, possibilities and implications of AI (Artificial Intelligence) – I almost cannot believe otherwise, rather than that it is a layering on the book from the Wachowskis, who co-wrote and co-directed the film with Tom Tykwer (who was also one of its three composers).

We are shown an agent from Union (Hae-Joo Chang, played by Jim Sturgess) who is seeking to recruit Sonmi-451 (Doona Bae), very much in the same way that Trinity recruits Neo in The Matrix and introduces him to Morpheus : the aim in both cases is to tell the truth about the situation that fellow ‘fabricants’ and humans, respectively, are in, when they are deluded as to the reality of their existence and purpose.

Neo, before he is ‘awoken’, is in one small pod of a huge human power-source for the machine world, but, believing otherwise because of the stimuli provided to his inert, supine body (which generate the matrix in which he seems to be alive), has to be shown the truth, which shocks him. Even more shocking, in a way, is for him to be told that he is the chosen one, just as Sonmi-451 is. In her case, the lies that fabricants such as she have been told, when unmasked, cause her to engage with Union’s cause and to seek to broadcast the truth. (One is almost reminded of the closing scene of The Matrix, where Neo is making the sort of ‘wake-up call’ that was made to him by Trinity at the other end of the film.)

In another era, that of the continuing slave trade in the States, Doona Bae is Adam Ewing’s (Sturgess’) wife Tilda, to whom he returns from the colonies a changed man because of having his life saved by Autua (David Gyasi), a black slave who had stowed away : we do not learn more of it, but Adam and Tilda intend to head eastwards to campaign for the abolition of slavery. Is the multiple-character aspect significant here ? Well, yes, Bae plays both Tilda and Sonmi-451, but, in the former role and in those times, she would probably have been no more visible as a force for change than as Adam’s supporter.

There is thus a link between the mid-nineteenth century and the mid-twenty-first century in terms of seeking freedom and helping others in that search. Dr Henry Goose (Tom Hanks) would have prevented the latter, but, as Zachry, he helps, rather than hinders, escaping a stricken place, so it would appear that any pattern is not one of direct correspondence, and, if not dictated by logistics, may be little more than fortuitous.

Continued as In the clouds

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