knowledge is a mirror
cloud atlas is a sweeping film. it aims big but with a simple, reassuring message. it’s populated with some of our most well known screen actors, almost all of them playing multiple roles. it has three writer/directors. but i think it fails miserably.
it aims to be revolutionary, as almost all of the wachowski brothers films do. revolution and subversion run through this film just as they do in v for vendetta and the matrix movies.
but i don’t quite get what the revolution is here. actually even in those films i didn’t get it. for me, the end of the first matrix negated the need for everything that happened before it. and v for vendetta was a perversion of the actual guy fawkes story.
cloud atlas seeks to be an exploration of the human spirit and the idea that we are all connected: past, present and future. and yet it seems to contradict the most insistent aspects of human nature – the ‘self’ that we all insist on.
the film tells six stories, across centuries, of several people. lets call them souls. in each life they commit such and such deeds and end up somewhere very different in the next life. you are kind of beaten over the head with this idea because they are played by the same actor in each life.
this is a bold technique but very failure prone. here i think it fails – especially when the asian girl is made to play ‘white’ and when tom hanks is supposed to be a scottish writer but he looks more like fu man chu.
the thing that seems to rule out reincarnation is that fact that there are now more people alive than ever on the earth. so at some point, new souls would have to be created. i know that people who believe in reincarnation have a cute workaround for this logic, but for me it’s just that – a workaround.
and a major thing that bugs about reincarnation is it’s nature itself: some think that if you do bad things, you’ll be reincarnated as something we think is distasteful or lowly. whether this is the case or not isn’t important, but if you don’t get to carry some form of the knowledge you learned in that previous life, what difference does it make if your soul ‘goes on’ or a new one is created with each new life? if i’m a rich man in the next life, or a cow, or a little girl who dies in a car wreck, how does me ‘being me’ behind it all matter one way or the other?
reincarnation is a very comforting, super simple and, as is customary, wholly self-serving belief system. the function of most belief systems is to quiet your fear of death and the unknown. reincarnation is hardly any different from the christian idea of heaven or the mormon idea that you’ll go to your own planet and live with your family forever, with everyone well, happy and intact. oh, and if you misbehave in this life, you might end up in a somewhat lowly station in the next. it’s almost always the same with belief systems.
the film has this idea behind all the amazingly shot scenes that people can be ‘perfected’ if only we’d pay more attention and be more mindful of our connectedness. if we would only pay more attention to each other, and be more loving. if only we appreciated the unforeseen consequences of our ‘words and deeds’ (although, being unforeseen, i don’t know how you would act differently most of the time).
the films point of view seems to be that if we all treated each other better, things would be progressively better each generation. this seems horribly simplistic.
but it denies that pushy and selfish ‘me’ of human nature. a space ship like the one halle berry lands on the water wasn’t developed because people wanted to be do something good for one another. it was designed and built because a government, business or individual wanted something or needed something for itself. sometimes technological advances come out of war. sometimes understanding and deeper knowledge come out of grief. it seems quite rare that great art or music (or even film) comes from perfectly happy, well adjusted and comfortable people.
i think the film could have been served by giving fewer details about each story and not necessarily having each actor put on all this (sometimes quite silly looking) makeup to play the roles. having separate people play the roles and conveying through subtext that they were the same ‘soul’ might have been more elegant and ultimately, effective.
anyways – some things that bugged me about the movie:
why did the composer have to kill himself? he just composed a great work, he had someone who loved him…sure he had the law on his ass but he could have tried to get out of the country. i didn’t quite get that.
on the hawaiian islands or whatever in the distant future where tom hanks plays zachary, an islander and halle berry plays meronym, they speak this goofy english that really takes you out of the scene. it’s so strange and off putting that i would have appreciated subtitles. (that true true, no minder need – meh)
but the chief complaint against this movie is that it’s too damn long. it’s almost three hours long. this film is the best argument yet for bringing back intermissions and against the giant 50 ounce sodas the theater sells.
i think just as with their last film, speed racer, the wachowski brothers (or rather, brother/sister) have failed miserably.
what did i mean about that brother/sister thing? well, above is lana/larry wachowski. many people aren’t aware that one of the wachowski brothers under went gender reassignment surgery and is now a woman.
lana seems much happier being lana, so good for her. why did lana change? because she was unhappy as a man. because it was in her self interest to change. because of her past or her ‘identity’, she wanted to change. i guess my problem with the movie is that it tends to disregard a lot of the ‘wants’ that people have that drive people and society forward. the film wants us to be nicer, to feel happy and connected. i don’t think humanity is ready for that type of society, mainly because we are still slaves to the illusion of the self. but for someone who would want and then can actually undergo a sex change, real transformation seems more feasible and likely, i’m sure. as for me, i can’t see it as possible because i’m here with my life and my problems. you see my point?
i wonder if lana gets reincarnated, will she be reincarnated as a man or a woman?
anyways – below is a nice speech lana gave when she got an award recently. she’s a great director, even if the ideas she and her brother tend to tackle feel overly simplistic.
i found this extended trailer for the movie. even in trailer form it’s too damn long.