In a word; YES!
I will admit that after seeing the film for the first time, I was a bit disappointed. I hadn’t read the book but had watched the five-minute trailer a dozen or so times (see below).
The trailer was just epic. It was the perfect introduction to the stories of Cloud Atlas and showed all the characters and how the stories lead into each other. It weaved the tale of multiple lifetimes being played out through the same individuals and perfectly interlaced the different stories with a perfectly chosen voiceover that was all accompanied by the film score and M83’s Outro.
It’s quite literally the best trailer ever. Watching the trailer I thought I was in for an easy movie to follow and one I’d enjoy without effort.
Seeing the film for the first time wasn’t that experience.
A close friend and I shared our excitement for the upcoming film and upon its release went to see it within the first few days. As I recall, we went to a late showing at a moderately packed theater in downtown Salt Lake City. I found myself riveted during the film but toward the end feeling like there was something missing in my understanding of the story. I was emotionally moved as the film tied up the character arc with Somni 451’s legend being exposed and seeing Zachary and Meronym beginning their lives together. It was whimsical, romantic, and inspiring.
But sometimes was missing in my understanding of the story.
I decided to pick David Mitchell’s masterpiece from which the film was based. I loved reading the book and found myself reading late into the night. Reading it caused me to fall in the love with the story, the characters, and accepting the invitation to put myself into the many lifetimes that are represented. It was such a magnetic read that requires the reader to shift gears and be more alert to subtle tracts in the story. I began to look at my own life as a piece of a bigger tapestry; wondering if the people to which I was close were ones from previous lifetimes as well.
Was my lover a lover from a past lifetime? Did the pull I feel toward others symbolize a deeper relationship outside of the bounds of this life? It was surreal and inspiring to let my imagination create new and exciting scenarios based on the story of the novel.
One of the more incredible things about Cloud Atlas is that each story is written in not only a different voice but in a different style. From a literary standpoint, I felt as if David Mitchell was just showing off at how incredible of a writer that he is. Once I finished the book, I went back and saw the movie for a second time. And then a third. And then a fourth.
The result is that I saw the movie and book fuse into one. The film provided images that showed the connection each person had that the book was unable to articulate. I understood details in the story that the film couldn’t illuminate. I felt a personal connection to the characters as I started to understand fully their arc as a result of seeing the movie and reading the book multiple times.
Franky, I’ve probably seen the film thirty times by now. It’s become a gift that reveals something new with every pass; a new quote, a new epiphany, a new connection to its message. Here I am several years later and Cloud Atlas is one of my most favorite stories and the source of countless moments of inspiration. The music is superb, the imagery is gorgeous and the prose is unlike any other book I have read.
It’s an acquired taste, but it’s well worth the effort to acquire it.
“Travel far enough, you meet yourself.” – David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas.
For your viewing pleasure, here is the trailer I referenced above: