Everything is connected.
So, the tagline goes, so goes the introduction to this article as I connect a few dots. 2004 saw the release of writer David Mitchell-no-not-that-one’s third novel entitled Cloud Atlas. A novel that took its titular inspiration from a song by Japanese composer, and former partner of Yoko Ono, Toshi Ichiyanagi. A connection that Mitchell’s previous novel Number9Dream similarly had, having its own name inspired by a piece of music composed by another former partner of Yoko Ono’s – namely one John Lennon.
Cloud Atlas, the novel, picked up a number of awards (British Book Awards Literary Fiction Award and the Richard & Judy Book Of The Year Award) and nominations for prestigious awards such as the Booker Prize among others. At some point that book was picked up and read by filmmakers Tom Tykwer and Andy and Lana Wachowski, as in 2009 Tom Tykwer announced intentions to adapt the novel, with the Wachowskis optioning the film. 2010 saw cast members being approached. 2011 saw the Wachowskis fully jump on board with the film being announced as co-directors of the film with Tykwer.
Lots of international financing was found after the trio struggled to completely win over Warner Bros. The film was filmed. July 2012 a six minute trailer dropped. At some point after it, I watched it on the recommendation of drunken insistence in a beer garden. I immediately ordered the book. I didn’t read the book because I was still reading another, then moved away to university where I was told what to read and when to read it. The film came out in America. The film got pushed back over here. It came out this weekend. I went to see it Saturday. I decided I needed to read this book as soon as able. Sunday I wrote this article.
Everything is connected – an unfortunately lazy tagline, atop an unfortunately lazy marketing campaign. This is part of the reason I am writing this. So, as eventually stated above, I went to see Cloud Atlas this weekend, an event I’d been eagerly awaiting since first seeing that first trailer and buying the book, intending to read it before the film came out. A feat I thought possible when the film release in the UK was pushed back until this February, though the film was out in October in America.
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My general failings as a person, in the literary sense, aside we’ll promptly discuss the film and the book as I try to encourage you to see the film, though perhaps most importantly read the book too. I’ll race you to the latter, as evidenced previously you can see you’ve a good chance of winning. Upon seeing the film, it became clear to me that this film was not getting the reception it deserved really, especially after its haphazard release and effortless marketing.
Unfortunately, it seems, the studio’s uncertainty of the film lingered longer than the initial faltering at the first hurdle of funding it. After that initial ‘what the fuck? I must buy book’ trailer dropped, attached to an introduction by all three directors, Warner Bros. went through the motions entirely with this. No real trailer campaign with a few new ones dropping, but nothing much, a poster(see below) that looks like a cross between Star Wars and old school James Bond and… well, that’s about it really. Unless you include a disorganised releasing of the film that kind of left it floundering between nations and without any impact.
It basically bombed at the box office in America for this reason, and on top of that was snubbed at the Oscars. Those two facts and the mixed reviews of critics might leave you replying ‘it failed cause it must be shit.’ Not true, now that it’s finally released in the UK it has a chance of receiving some well deserved credit.
Don’t get me wrong, for the uninitiated the film could be a complete headfuck, but then who doesn’t like getting their brain fornicated when it’s done as epically as it will be with this film’s penis. Being familiar with the source material will of course help, but isn’t necessary, just bone up on it before (without spoiling anything for yourself) and read the book after. It’s what I’m having to do.
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For sheer imagination, creativity and cinematic scope alone this film is worth watching. Sure, it’s long, there’s no denying that, but speaking for myself it did not feel long. With six different stories from six different locations across the globe from six different periods in time, all of them intertwining and all of them sharing a cast. Though, initially dizzying this constant cut and paste of the stories allows you to not get run down by one and opens your attention span considerably to the film’s length. Once established, together, each story rises and falls, together, in a pattern like waves. I didn’t want it to end when it did, I wanted more, but they turned the lights on and kicked us out.
The performances from the ensemble cast are there too. Whether it Ben Whishaw’s impressive turn as the extravagant Robert Frobisher in a heartstring tugging tale, Hugo Weaving as a middle aged evil nurse at an elderly nursing home, Jim Broadbent’s comic relief as the elderly and haphazard Timothy Cavendish, Doona Bae’s centrally key performance as Somni 451 or Hugh Grant staking his claim as having a repertoire beyond charmingly befuddled, Brit-Rom-Com, arsehole; here he manages to play a carnal cannibal, a sleazy soap addicted Korean, a slave owner and more in a quite surprising display of talent.
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Drawing to a close though, regardless of its flaws (a slightly distracting ensemble cast, not entirely convincing prosthetic makeup, a heady runtime, a perhaps epilepsy inducing attitude to structure) it does not deserve to be swept under the carpet as a failure; especially not on accounts of incompetent marketing at the hands of a production pie with too many financial fingers in it. It missed the opportunity to be a block buster in America and had the Oscars turn their collective nose up at it, don’t let it be the same here. Prove we have a bit more going on behind the eyes. Go see it, go read the book, get lost in all six stories, swoon to a stunning film score, stare wide eyed at the visual aesthetic of the film and just enjoy it.
It’s sci-fi, it’s fantasy, it’s period drama, it’s romance, it’s action, it’s gritty espionage, it’s comedy, it’s cinema.
Everything is connected.