Saturday, October 27, 2012

"Cloud Atlas" shines

I have rarely seen a film that captures a book the way "Cloud Atlas" does.

I felt after finishing "Cloud Atlas" the book earlier this week that the film would not be able to replicate the feeling one had in reading the book. There is simply no way to capture the scintillating virtuosity of David Mitchell's prose, and I thought that telling the story the way it was told in the book would not work. Mitchell's work obliterates time by telling six stories in chronological forwards and backwards order on a horizontal plane. That could not bode well for a visual version.

The filmmakers understood this and obliterated time by using a "Slaughterhouse Five" approach, which is a random movement across centuries that moves backward, forward and ultimately sideways. Through this, they captured the spirit of the book. And what's more, they told 80% of the book's story in less than 3 hours, and it did not drag.

The actors brought a spirit, earnestness and strength to their performances, ensuring that we believed them in each moment. They did not try to be the same spirit or person, and simply let us recognize that we have different aspects in our own personalities.

The film makes more concrete the sense of reincarnation than the book, though one finds the same spirit in a lifetime of another in a couple of instances, which might be a logic problem, but was simply washing over everything and us. Also, for reasons that may have to do with money people, the anti-corporate analysis within the book is whitewashed to a point where it is only likely to be seen by a few viewers. That again is not a fatal flaw or even a flaw for the larger story unfolding.

The music was stunning, as well, and gave the film an extra lift that was itself a wonderful surprise. The music had a flow and again spirit that reenforced both the long arc of serene resignation and satisfaction and the peripatetic jumps back and forth across time.

My wife deeply enjoyed the film, yet had not read the book. She said the beginning was difficult to follow, but she eventually picked up the structure and "plot," which I deliberately put in quotes. We agreed that this film may be the most bold film in a long time in that it drops you into the various narratives and forces you to catch up. Most American audiences will not countenance such a thing, I must admit.

Whether anyone sees the film before or after reading the book, I can say that reading the book made watching the film a rich experience. I felt the book flow across my eyes and through my ears. A marvelous experience.


Oh, and Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles a savant idiot (meaning someone who seems awfully bright, but is really an idiot). Just as Turan blasted "The Postman" (Kevin Costner's great interpretation of the outstanding David Brin novel) as a combination of Frank Capra and Mad Max, and thereby gave a positive review without his being conscious of it (see this blogger who drew the same conclusion I did), Turan did the same with "Cloud Atlas." He recognized that the book was a difficult one to create visually, and he recognized the ambition of the film. But he was unable to see that the film's peripatetic movements across time were simply another way of obliterating time (and history) which captures again the essence of the printed work.

Damn the reviews, full speed ahead for "Cloud Atlas" the film!


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