Cloud Atlas

#cloudatlas

I saw Cloud Atlas recently.  Twice.  I have read a bunch of reviews for it, which are pretty middling, describing it as many things. Dodgy prosthetics.  Trite moralising.  Overly long.  Disjointed.  Ambitious failure.  Feel free to chart these out yourself…

I agree that it was ambitious, and I agree that it failed to reach the mainstream, but I was very impressed.  A lot happens in the 2-3 hours of the film, and even more goes on behind the scenes.  The cinematography was lovely, and the music too.  My take: We are witnessing the lives and interactions of a group of souls across several generations.  In addition, certain souls remain typecast in fairly constant roles, whereas other seem to change and develop.  See the table below (from the Wiki):

Actor “The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing” (1849) “Letters from Zedelghem” (1936) “Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery” (1973) “The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish” (2012) “An Orison of Sonmi~451” (2144) “Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After” (2321)
Tom Hanks Dr. Henry Goose Hotel Manager Isaac Sachs Dermot Hoggins Cavendish Look-a-like Actor Zachry
Halle Berry Native Woman Jocasta Ayrs Luisa Rey Indian Party Guest Ovid Meronym
Jim Broadbent Captain Molyneux Vyvyan Ayrs N/A Timothy Cavendish Korean Musician Prescient 2
Hugo Weaving Haskell Moore Tadeusz Kesselring Bill Smoke Nurse Noakes Boardman Mephi Old Georgie
Jim Sturgess Adam Ewing Poor Hotel Guest Megan’s Dad Highlander Hae-Joo Chang Adam / Zachry Brother-in-Law
Doona Bae Tilda Ewing N/A Megan’s Mom, Mexican Woman N/A Sonmi~451, Sonmi~351, Sonmi Prostitute N/A
Ben Whishaw Cabin Boy Robert Frobisher Store Clerk Georgette N/A Tribesman
James D’Arcy N/A Young Rufus Sixsmith Old Rufus Sixsmith Nurse James Archivist N/A
Zhou Xun N/A N/A Talbot / Hotel Manager N/A Yoona~939 Rose
Keith David Kupaka N/A Joe Napier N/A An-kor Apis Prescient
David Gyasi Autua N/A Lester Rey N/A N/A Duophysite
Susan Sarandon Madame Horrox N/A N/A Older Ursula Yosouf Suleiman Abbess
Hugh Grant Rev. Giles Horrox Hotel Heavy Lloyd Hooks Denholme Cavendish Seer Rhee Kona Chief

Hugh Grant and Hugo Weaving play characters bound to order and consistency, the former as some kind of profiteer who works the system to his advantage, the latter as the defender of the status quo.  Weaving’s Nurse Noakes was exquisite! By contrast:

Tom Hanks starts off greedy, then works his way towards happiness at the end.

Halle Berry is questing for truth, becoming increasingly empowered towards the end.

Jim Sturgess starts off struggling to develop a moral backbone, and towards the end is increasingly empowered in defence of his ideals.

Doona Bae starts off as Jim Sturgess’ love, meekly sharing his moral sensibilities, and is elevated to godhood at the end.

There are lots of stories here, and the interactions between them merit exploration too.  I know the prosthetics may be distracting, but they serve to identify the souls by a similarity of appearance.  Alternative devices may have been more subtle, but I suspect would have made the identification nigh impossible for people.

I have a soft spot for the words of Sonmi – very simple but elegant language, food for the soul.  To those who described the meaning as some wishy washy tale of cosmic interconnectedness, I’d say that a shallow man sees his own reflection in the deepest of ponds.

‘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.’ – Sonmi-451

Stirring the Waters

Though it was only a short walk from the resort, it was far enough to seem like a tropical paradise. I had meandered for perhaps twenty minutes, far enough to escape the rest of the tour party huddled around the finest overpriced gewgaws I had ever seen. My mind had been flooded with misgivings and regrets for a long time, and I had hoped the trip would bring some kind of peace. At the very least, some distraction. Sadly the only ones forthcoming had been the drawling accents of fellow passengers and other buzzing pests. I just needed some time to myself.

Continue reading

Charlie Whede

A sword fighter with a mysterious past and memory loss! Not terribly original, but I have a fondness for the conjunction of sword fighting with the sea, ever since the 7 Seas RPG came to my attention. As balance and agility are such an important part of fencing, to have this gentleman on board ship forces him to become skilled at balancing on uncertain surfaces, adapting to situations that life throws his way. His memory loss stems from the day he was dragged from the sea, barely alive, clinging to driftwood.

Continue reading

Who am I?

Depending on how you interpret the question, there is potentially a lot of mileage in this. I want to address the concept of personal identity because I really fail to understand the problem that a lot of philosophers seem to have with it. If there is a problem, it is about accepting the way things are.

What makes a person a person? What makes a person the same person they were a minute ago? Or yesterday? What am I? I think a lot of the problem grows from a tension between general conceptions of identity in space and time conflicting with the idea that people are special in their identity.

Identity outside the realms of maths and logic is a messy affair. Ships get replaced bit by bit. People change their minds and behaviour. Organs are transplanted. Plant grow from seeds and people grow from infancy. Despite these changes, we still identify a person as that same person, simplistic matters of mistaken identity and error aside. Indeed, errors are possible, but in most cases the identity is sound and useful. Otherwise I’d not know if you were my mother, a stranger, work colleague or whatever. Cunning philosophers offer many thought experiments to eat away at this kind of identification, involving switching brains between people, removing parts of the body until the person ‘disappears’ and suchlike.

Continue reading