It’s hard to answer and describe what life is and our place here on Earth. Frankly, it’s a question we all have sought to answer at some point, some to dizzying heights, and others to unimaginable lows.
The new film “Cloud Atlas” attempted to do the same thing in a beautifully confusing and viscerally stunning fashion that will be viewed and debated for years to come.
The film followed a series of stories ranging from the 1800s to the mid-2100s and beyond as the stories and characters in them wove a tapestry of all the elements of existence: love, sorrow, adventure, passion, hope, resilience, courage and kindness.
To explain exactly what this movie was “about” is a feat I dare not attempt. This movie did not flow to the same current that all others do in a linear fashion with one or maybe two sole ideas running through it. No, this movie operated on its own level.
The Wachowskis (Andy and Lana) and Tom Twyker trioed the writing, directing and producing of the movie, which had five stories. each with its own genre. One was a story of passion involving a young musician. Another was a tale of camaraderie between a slave and an English lawyer.
Then there were a 70s’ thriller, a modern comedy between senior citizens, a sci-fi epic followed by a dystopian future adventure. All were woven together and jumped to and from, mimicking different times all on one level of humanity. See what I mean?
The actors, who inhabited more than one story, featured Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Jim Broadbent and Bae Doona. Each brought out the varying uniqueness of each story and character with some accompanied by great makeup (Hanks) and others not so much (Doona, Weaving). All were taken through stories that intertwined and showed how the smallest acts and deeds make waves throughout time and affect everyone as time travels and progresses. It was an other-worldly experience.
To ponder this movie was to ponder life itself. It was mystifying and elaborate and may even leave some angered and distraught about not being given answers or order. But that was the beauty of its inner workings: There is no answer to life. We move through life, thinking we are smaller than we really are, not knowing the impact we may have on future generations and the impact those past lives have had on us.
Reviewer Roger Ebert put it best, noting no matter how many times he viewed it, there would never be one solid answer. It will always be mysterious.
Again, it’s dizzying to describe the feeling this movie gave off. The feeling of witnessing something bigger than yourself, yet still feeling so small. It was life filmed. Instead of taking one element of life and claiming it is the human experience (much like “The Tree of Life”), it encompassed all the humanity of life…from the heart break to the laughter and from its adventures to its unsolvable mysteries.
One line at the end of the film stuck with me the most (despite the many in the film that had the capacity to do so). Weaving said to Strugess and Doona as they were about to flee and support an abolitionist movement, “You will amount to nothing more than single molecules in a vast ocean.” Sturgess replied, “What is an ocean but the accumulation of molecules.”
The point was we are all molecules making drops that could soon form waves that can both destroy and unite and move the wheels of time and the generations who inhabit it.
But, hey, that’s just a small part of life and only one way to put it.