Books,  Movies

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

This was a clever and well written book. It was ambitious and unique.

It took me awhile to read this book. It was on my Kindle so I often forgot I had it and it didn’t give me incentive to read it in time like my library books. The other reason I would forget about this book is the different narratives from this book. It is very well written and I liked it more than other books that had this kind of style such as Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad. It does mean that once you get comfortable with one chapter’s story, it changes and you have to start all over again.

It took to reading the sixth and final narrative in the middle of the book that I realized what Mitchell was doing. At that point, I had to finish the book. It became gripping and I really liked the every changing structure and tone.

The best thing about reading on the Kindle besides the convenience of having dozens to hundreds of ebooks in a small vessel is the built in dictionary. I don’t have to pause and look up the word on separate dictionary. I am not really a wordsmith, but I do love words and language so it is always fun to read an author who clearly can employ a number of unusual words.

The diction and vocabulary was quite neat in the earlier stories since Mitchell used a number of archaic words. I really enjoyed that bit and enjoyed Mitchell’s ability to shift his structure and style with each story. He had suspense, character development, great writing style, and most of all, consistent themes which weren’t too cloying.

“What precipitates outcomes? Vicious acts & virtuous acts. What precipitates acts? Belief.”

All of the stories deal with the idea of how human nature does not change and that it never really will. The idea that greed, oppression and controlling civilization will always be present is quite true and very sad. There are moments of hope of course and a lot of the stories have good endings, but I am wary to reread this again. There was something melancholic about all the stories since death and oppression were in all of them. It was not the most depressing read, but it is not one that makes you feel good. It is a good reminder of the darkness of human nature in a well written novel form.

I recommend this book for those who are interested in speculative fiction and unique structure & styles. This book is literary and also thought provoking.

Incidentally, Mitchelle was apparently influenced by Italo Calvino’s If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller which is a book I just took out from the library last week. It is one of those books I requested while browsing GoodReads so now I actually have even more incentive to read that as well.

Read on the Kindle October 31, 2012 to January 27, 2013.

The Movie

Cloud Atlas


I knew that this movie would be ambitious even before I read the book. The ensemble cast alone was enough for people to look closer. As I read the book, I knew how they could adapt it, but I wasn’t sure if it was possible to really translate all the themes and characters adequately on to the screen given the many characters, settings, and intensity of the themes.

Lana and Andy Wachowski (Matrix) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) wrote and directed it. I read this was one of the most expensive independent movies to produce at $102 million, but the Box Office only garnered about 80-90 million so the movie made at a loss. I can see why. It’s an unusual movie, a tad dark and not very action oriented like Matrix or other more deeply themed blockbusters were.

The visuals were great in the future scenes, and I enjoyed most of the stories shot in Hawaii. The tone was well set. They kept most of the stories essentially the same, but they changed the endings and the future stories the most. I did not mind these changes and thought they added to the story and sold it rather well. I found the change in the reincarnated souls not as well cohesive though.

The actors go through lots of makeup. It was difficult to recognize Hugh Grant and Hugo Weaving at times. I would recognize Tom Hanks anywhere though.I haven’t watched Tom Hanks in a movie in a long time. This movie reminded me how good he is and how really is like Jimmy Stewart. I’m always drawn to him on screen even when he plays such asshole characters. I thought he and Halle Berry had good chemistry too in the story the shared. Susan Sarandon, Ben Witslaw, Jim Broadbent, and James D’Arcy also star. The breakout in a great ensemble is Doona Bae as Sonmi and also as a Mexican woman. She was wonderful.

I also finally like Jim Sturgess in something. I found Across the Universe one of the most boring movies ever. I was dissatisfied with the adaptation to One Day (he was unsubstantial and Hathaway couldn’t maintain an accent). With this movie, I can like him a bit more I guess. Yes, he does play an Asian man, and it made me uncomfortable. As an Asian woman, it also irked me, but then again, they Asiafied everyone in this film so he’s not exactly alone. The two Asian women in the movie were also turned Mexican or White as well so the blame should go to the directors really. I got over it. His character grew on me in the Sonmi story since the writers had made him much more sympathetic than his book counterpart. His chemistry with Doona sold their romance really well.

For most of this movie, I didn’t think I would want to watch it again. There was too much going on and while I applauded the creators for their ambition, the movie was very long and not the best paced. In the end though, I really liked their effort. The changes they made were not egregious and Mitchell is satisfied as well. I also think that the repeated use of the actors, locations and props makes you want to rewatch the film. I did not realize that Ben Whitslaw was a woman in one of those scenes either though I had suspected the woman was played by a man. Moments like that only reveal themselves after rewatch.

I respect for the actors who did this film because this film had a lot of financial problems and even though they wanted a blockbuster, the book and movies themes were too dark and intense for it to be really be a pure blockbuster. It’s an interesting project.

In conclusion, I recommend this film after reading the book. While different in some key aspects, the movie makers did a good job with a very difficult work. While not as deep or as complex as the book, it still retains intelligence, many of the key themes, and all in a nice visual package with good acting for all involved.

Watched January 29-31st, 2013.

5 Comments

  • Geoff W

    For me the best part about the film was the score. I thought it was one of the most beautiful scores I’ve heard in a long time and I felt it did a great job tying everything together. It doesn’t hurt that I fell in love with Frobisher.

    I felt the book offered a lot more clarification on things in the film like the exact connectedness of some of the stories, but overall I agree with you that it came across too long. Mitchell I think did a great job on the book and the blending of styles and the continuation of the stories throughout the time line. I don’t know if I will re-read it again but I can’t wait to re-watch the film.

    (Also your CAPTCHA and comment form style make it incredibly difficult to comment on your blog – it’s why I rarely ever comment. I’ve now tried to submit this commend three times and it seems like a simple captcha.)

  • athena

    Hi Geoff! I forgot to mention the score. How could I? I agree that it was lovely and that the film was good all around.

    They changed the connectedness in the film which was a bit confusing on the reincarnation front, but I guess that was only the worse part of how they translated it. There was not enough suspense in the movie, much like in the book, but I would watch the movie again. I agree with you the book is good, but not necessarily good enough for the reread.

    Thank you for letting me know about the CAPTCHA. I have a spam problem, and I spend everyday emptying the spam folder. I have deactivated this CAPTCHA plugin for now and see how it works out. I’ve been trying to find additional anti-spam measures. If you ever find trouble commenting, let me know in the contact form page or by email: athena @ aquatique . net

    Thanks and have a good week!

  • Katie @ Doing Dewey

    I also have trouble remembering books on my kindle! I’m glad you got to it though and that you enjoyed both the book and the movie. Hopefully I’ll include this one in my books I read for the challenge too 🙂

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