Cloud Atlas, a Brilliant Wachoskian Cartography of the Spiritual Dimension

  Cloud Atlas is the best film I’ve seen in many weary months of multiplex disappointment. The only thing wrong with this movie is the trailers that don’t begin to do it justice.  Cloud Atlas is a visionary masterpiece that is not getting the appreciation it deserves. It is easily the finest work by the Wachowski siblings (once brothers, they are now brother and sister) since the first Matrix film. Tom Tykwer is the third director, and the sequences he directed are equally brilliant, so for the purposes of brevity I will make him an honorary Wachowski sibling and hereafter refer to all three directors as the Wachowskis.

Some people apparently found the movie confusing and assumed it was confused. It is not confused; it is brilliantly and precisely complex and surreal.  Cloud Atlas is based on a novel by David Mitchell that involves six complexly interlocking storylines that expand into multiple incarnations. The sextet of stories interlock with the precision one might expect of the inner workings of one of Salvador Dalí’s finest melted clocks.  Every story line is a version of a single theme: eros/love versus the power principle, false hierarchies and divisive constructs of the patriarchy. This theme, and the bonds between souls, play out across time and incarnation. Essentially, the movie takes as profound a view of the spiritual dimension as has ever been attempted, but rather than getting that view through the sanctimonious eyes of a religionist, or the sappy, dazzled-by-the-white-light eyes of a New Ager, you get to see it through brilliant, Wachowskian optics.

In other words, you see the spiritual dimension in a more surreal, ingenious, horrifying, funny, CGI and special-effects-intensive way than you ever hoped for.  There are more spiritual truths revealed in this movie than you could get in a thousand years spent at Sunday school or imbibing New Age catechisms.  Two or three more inspiring masterpieces like this and I’ll be ready to forgive the Wachowskis their Matrix sequels.

To really appreciate the film you need to see it twice. First time see it with no preparation (excepting, of course, the blood-brain-barrier-crossing, movie-enhancing psychoactive substance of your choice) for the raw impact. Before your second viewing, go to the wiki or IMDB and read the plot summaries very carefully so that you understand the six interlocking story lines. Also, stay into the credits. They’ll show you how the key actors were morphed into several characters, some of whom will be unrecognizable.

Don’t be the last mutant in your sector to get Cloud Atlased. See this amazing film today.



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  1. Hi Jonathan,

    I completely second your thoughts here. I’ve seen the film twice myself, and was a big fan of the novel – even being able to point to a notable synchronicity that took place when I first read it several years ago. It is a masterful exploration of both the spiritual dimension, but also much of what makes us human in the here and now, and how that stretches beyond what we might immediately know, yet sometimes sense. It is also just a beautiful movie, and is regrettably kind of falling by the wayside in people’s minds, which I think is really too bad.

    In a few of the negative reviews I read (there were also many tremendously positive ones, including Roger Ebert comparing it to 2001: A Space Odyssey, and also called it ‘visionary’ – I cite him not only because he is well known, but also because he appears to be a thoughtful man), I took issue with what appeared to be the most common criticism, which was that the film was a fairly superficial rendering of some pseudo-intellectual cereal box ideas of the spiritual dimension of life. If I read someone say, ‘you know, I wasn’t really a fan of the structure…it didn’t let me into the movie.’ or ‘the make up bothered me’, I might not agree, but I’d be fine with that if that is what doesn’t jive with someone’s particular film watching sensibilities. However this complaint, which seemed to be the one most often put forward, I felt was totally unfounded and seemed to miss the point of the film entirely. It’s one of those rare instances, where I can’t understand what would drive someone to that interpretation of what they were seeing. And frankly, I couldn’t think they are more wrong.

    So in response to that, I’d like to encourage everyone to see it. More than once. Listen to the beautiful score, read the book, etc. It is something that well lends itself to multiple encounters with its many layers.

  2. Ps, I would highly recommend all of David Mitchell’s work as well. He is a brilliant writer and certainly one of the best of this age.

    • Great comments Neil. What I suspect is that many of the reviewers are of the atheist/materialist/pseudo-sophisticate type who think the spiritual dimension is bogus and prefer to scorn that which they have yet to experience or comprehend. I just finished the audio version of the novel which was great and I look forward to reading more of David Mitchell’s work.

  3. 100% agree and came to the same conclusion of watching a second time the next day before reading your post.

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