Cloud Atlas
Directed by Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski and Any Wachowski
In cinemas now

THE SIX interconnected stories which make up Cloud Atlas, a film based on the 2004 novel of the same name by David Mitchell, span five centuries. Each of them, in their unique way, tells of tyranny, oppression and resistance, and a search for liberation and truth.

Cloud Atlas connects resistance to tyranny across five centuries

The filmmakers, famous for The Matrix and Run Lola, Run, opt to tell the stories simultaneously. This means an array of illuminating links is made between the stories.

The directors have ingeniously cast an array of big name actors in multiple roles, including characters of different genders and races, across space and time.

Cloud Atlas’ uplifting central theme is encapsulated in the story of Sonmi-451. Sonmi-451 is a clone, or in the language of her society, called Corpocracy, she is a genetically-engineered Fabricant, produced to work as a slave in a fast food chain with very familiar golden arches. Sonmi-451 joins an open rebellion against this tyrannical society and makes a speech called her “12 Declarations”. One line is repeated throughout the film: “Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb we are bound to others, past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future”.

This is not new-age spiritualism about the reincarnation of souls, it’s about how our actions are shaped by the past and how our acts of resistance can also shape the future. One is reminded of Marx—to paraphrase him, “People make their own history, but not in circumstances of their own choosing.”

Every story reveals a fundamental divide between the dominant group and the dominated—and a will to resist it. There are frequent references to the ruling class in society as cannibals, and in some of the stories, they literally are. It is a powerful metaphor for the rapacious appetite for profit that is speeding along the destruction of our planet.

In other stories, characters deal with slavery, racism, homophobia, the big oil industry, and imprisonment.

There is also an obvious reference to climate change, with “Corpocracy” a part of “New Seoul”, which was built on top of “Old Seoul” after it became the victim of rising sea levels.

Cloud Atlas is an uplifting film that gives encouragement that another world is indeed possible. Worth seeing on the big screen.

Mark Goudkamp

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