|Tom Hanks as Dr. Henry Goose, Keith David as Kupaka |
and Jim Sturgess as Adam Ewing in 1849
You might think it would be too odd and too sharp a tonal shift to go from a ship in the south seas in 1849 to a nuclear plant in 1973 to a book release party in present day to Seoul, Korea in the 22nd century, a 'corpocratic' future where fabricants are created only to serve consumers and back again and again.
|Doona Bae (center) is Sonmi 451|
a fabricant in Korea in the 22nd century
The filmmakers are helped in the delivery of this message with their genius re-use and recyling of actors in a range of roles in different time periods and even genders. Given director Lana Wachowski's transgender status, I would suspect this material had tremendous personal power and impact for her.
|Jim Sturgess as Hae Joo Chan|
The directors made the point in last night's q&a that rather than objecting to playing multiple roles, the actors like Hugo Weaving who plays parts in each of the stories, including the role of a female nurse, embraced this stage tradition. And the audience's understanding of that theatrical tradition enhances and informs the production. That's a nuance that intrigues me because it's true, in the theatre we are used to seeing actors don beards and wigs and old age makeup. We applaud it. But in film we tend to see on the nose casting. In other words the 30 something male Asian actor will play the part of the 30 something male Asian character or eyebrows are raised. I think it was brave to use this ensemble approach, to have actors mix it up, to help tell the world 'I am you and you are me and we are all together. Koo Koo Kachoo.'
|Halle Berry as Meronym, Hanks as Zachry|
in a scene from 24th century Hawaii
The whole point of this isn't just gimmick and trickery. It's a real effort to melt the lines between the genres and expectations which serve, in their opinion, to limit and constrict us. It mostly works. Tom Hanks has said he wanted to do something unexpected, Cloud Atlas is certainly that.
While the novel was for me, too dense and mystifying at times, the film shakes off the murky clouds and finds a way to shine through. It's a trans-genre, transgender and even transformative film, soaring this way and that. Somehow or other we go along for the fast ride and despite a guffaw here about this prosthetic (check out Hank's teeth as Dr. Henry Goose) or a gasp there over that very graphic bit of violence (watch for the tooth flying through the air) we arrive at our final destination feeling pretty good considering our 2 hour investment. I think a lot of people will dislike this film, calling it pretentious and overreaching - there is something to be said for more linear story telling - but when I compare the film versus the book, no question I would rather see the film again instead of finishing the novel. And I actually think the film helps explain the book.
|James D'arcy as Sixsmith, Whishaw as Frobisher|