Lights, Camera, Action

An Explanation of The Film Cloud Atlas

In 2012, I saw the trailer for Cloud Atlas and my heart literally stopped beating. Now I’m a huge fan of trailers (as you can see by my round up of best trailers here) but Cloud Atlas is hands down, the best trailer I’ve ever seen. And I just knew, I had to see the film when it came out.

Cloud Atlas was written and directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski and stares amazing talent like Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broabent, Jim Sturgess, and Halle Berry. It’s a tad hard to explain, but I’ll do my best. Cloud Atlas looks at reincarnation and the bonds that hold people together. Throughout the film, we jump within 6 intertwined stories in different era’s like historic slavery, the future, and a bleak post apocalyptic world. What they do in one moment of their life effects the other.

cloud-atlas-explained-01For example, Tom Hanks is basically the main character in the film, and in each life (past, present, & future) he falls in love with the same person – Halle Berry’s character. He can’t explain the feeling he has of being pulled towards her each time (so cute!). In most of his lives, Hanks is a good person, however, in one story he’s evil and tries to kill a man out of greed. He steals a green button (perhaps an emerald?) and we see him with that same button in the post apocalyptic world of the future. It’s a haunting reminder of his crime in his past life (which he has no memory of).

Hugo Weaving plays an evil character in all his lives, and in the future post apocalyptic world, he has become evil incarnate and is haunting Hanks character who must pay his penance for his evil deed in his past life.

What made me completely fall in love with this film was the idea that everyone’s lives are inexplicably tied to each other, whether it’s past, present or future. For instance, in one story a couple falls in love while fighting off a rebellion. As she (the character’s name is Sonmi) watches her love die we simultaneously get to experience the same couple reunited in a different time (the scene seriously pulls on the heart strings guys).

cloud-atlas-explained-02One character went from being a slave in one life, a journalist seeking the truth in another (although he was killed because of it), to finally ruling the civilized world in the end. Each moment of his reincarnation allowed him to climb his way to the top where he would ultimately save humanity from destruction.

Let’s take a moment to discuss the star birthmark that haunts the film. I have never read the book that Cloud Atlas is based on (although it’s totally on my bucket list) but I heard that in the novel the birthmark allows you to track the reincarnated version of each character. However, we don’t need that in the film because we can see when a character’s being played by the same actor (for the most part, because some are tough to tell). Here’s my take on the birthmark in the film, I think that it signifies an important moment in the characters life.

Their souls are traveling across time, but it’s once they have the birthmark that something important happens to each character. For example, Hanks’s character has the birthmark in his final story (post apocalyptic world) when he finally gains redemption for his wrong doing and gets to spend his life with Halle Berry’s character, the woman he’s been destined to always fall in love with yet never have.

The character Sonmi that I mention earlier has the birthmark when she watches her love die but begins a revolution that trickers a religious and cultural movement in the future – clearly that was big deal in her life.

cloud-atlas-explained-03 Each character experiences being a different race, whether they’re black, Chinese, or Indian, race has no meaning for the connection of lives, and that’s what makes this film so beautiful and so memorable.

Now, this isn’t something for everyone. If you want a movie to put on and let your mind go blank, then I would not suggest this for you. And if you were easily confused by the plots of films like The Matrix, The Prestige, or even Life of Pi – don’t watch this, it’s complex.

If you enjoy films that open up your horizons and give a peculiar (albeit interesting) perspective on life, give this one a try. If you want to explore the idea of reincarnation and enjoy seeing connections with characters, watch Cloud Atlas.

For me, this was the best film I saw in 2012, but I understand why many did not enjoy or understand the film. The Wachowski’s have an elaborate imagination, so sometimes going down the rabbit hole with them can be intense. Watch the trailer below and see what you think (heads up, it’s a long trailer, but totally worth it and features the music from M83 #swoon!)

cloud-atlas-explained-04Everything in the film is connect, for example, if you’ve seen the film try and follow along, if you haven’t you should just ignore this:

  • During slavery, a man writes a journal about his wife
  • Years later, a composer reads the journals and writes his lover about it
  • Around the 1970s an investigator reads the letters and solves this case, which is turned into a film
  • In the future, Sonmi watches the film, and the lines help inspire her to force a revolution and fall in love with a reincarnated version of the man who wrote the original journal
  • In the the post apocalyptic future, the words of Somni are worshipped and bring together Tom Hanks and Halle Berry’s characters (finally)

It’s crazy right? And that’s just one of millions of other connects the film has!

Have you seen Cloud Atlas? What did you think of it?

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2 thoughts on “An Explanation of The Film Cloud Atlas

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