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Tyler

Cloud Atlas

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I finished reading Cloud Atlas recently, and one of the refreshing things about it was that there was no way I could see it ever being adapted into a movie; a lot of novels these days seem to be written with a movie already in mind. But Cloud Atlas has so many genres, locations, stories, characters, ideas, and perspectives floating through it, and so much of the book's structure depends on reading, that I thought a movie version simply couldn't work. Well...

Apparently the Wachowskis (and Tom Tykwer, and maybe Natalie Portman) have other ideas. (Turns out that story is a year and a half old.) Here's the latest:

Tom Hanks, Natalie Portman, James McAvoy, Halle Berry and Ian McKellen are now attached to Tom Tykwer’e potential adaptation of David Mitchell’s dense novel “Cloud Atlas,” a source tells The Playlist. All of the above talent had been rumored to be circling the project, though now it seems to be “official.”

Wikipedia has a decent summary of the book's structure and stories.

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I guess I thought the brothers would produce and Tykwer would direct or something like that.

This just seems strange to me:

Entertainment Weekly (I will never figure out what concert tickets I bought to get a free subscription to this magazine, but it's great bathroom material) from 1.7.11 quotes Natalie Portman as saying, in regard to Cloud Atlas, "I don't know what's going on with financing. I read it while I was doing V For Vendetta, and I gave it to the Wachowskis and to Tom Tykwer. Now they're directing it together, the three of them. I will have some acting role in it if it happens, but probably nothing major."

THREE?! Hope they don't trip over each other in the process.

Edited by Persona

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The book is segmented, so maybe each director would tackle a different section. There are six distinct stories, so maybe they'll take two or three each.

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And in the book each of the segmenets is written in a strikingly different voice. I wonder if they will try to duplicate that visually in the film…

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Yeah, I read part of this recently, and it really is unfilmable. Whatever movie comes out of this project will be interesting, but it sure won't be a big-screen version of the book.

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Wow. I watched that trailer and I'm in. I'm so in.

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That trailer didn't work for me at all.

It's definitely too long to be a really effective "trailer" in the conventional sense, but I felt like it gave a taste of the overstuffed, sprawling narrative that this film is going to be.

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That trailer didn't work for me at all.

It's definitely too long to be a really effective "trailer" in the conventional sense, but I felt like it gave a taste of the overstuffed, sprawling narrative that this film is going to be.

I wasn't put off by the length, so much. I just didn't find a lot to like. The performances seemed all kinds of wrong, the dialogue was very lacking, the visuals seemed grand but kind of lifeless, and the sentimental music gave everything a sappy edge.

But I haven't read CLOUD ATLAS, so maybe this is all just-right as an adaptation and I'm not tuned into the wavelength of the material.

Edited by Ryan H.

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The part that works really well, as an adaptation of the novel, is the sequence near the beginning where it transitions from one person reading a document, to the writer of that document appearing in the frame and then reading a different document, and another author appearing, and so on. That's how the book itself is structured, and it's illustrated well here. It looks like there will be more back-and-forth between sections in the movie, but that's not automatically a bad thing. I liked how the LOTR movies went back and forth from one storyline to another, instead of having all of Frodo's story in one half of the book.

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After reading the book again, the trailer seems to imply that the film will press hard on the buried reincarnation trope with some sort of love story twist to it. As this is one of the aspects of the storyline that is least explored by the book, I wonder if the script has ended up a bit tangential. This is pretty much what happened to Time Traveler's Wife, which strayed pretty far from the text due to its chronological complexity.

Edited by M. Leary

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I just picked up a copy of the book. From the look of the trailer I expected it to be a tome, but it's only just over 500 pages.

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From The New Yorker -

... Mitchell’s book is not a simple read, with its interlocking stories and a multitude of characters, distributed across centuries and continents. Each story line has a different central character: Adam Ewing, a young American who sails home after a visit to an island in the South Pacific, in the mid-nineteenth century; Robert Frobisher, a feckless but talented Englishman, who becomes the amanuensis to a genius composer in Flanders, in the nineteen-thirties; Luisa Rey, a gossip-rag journalist who rakes the muck of the energy industry in nineteen-seventies California; Timothy Cavendish, a vanity-press publisher who finds himself held captive in a nursing home in present-day England; Sonmi~451, a genetically modified clone who gains her humanity in a futuristic Korea, ravaged by consumerism; and Zachry, a Pacific Islander who struggles to survive in the even more distant future, after “the Fall,” which seems to have endangered the planet and eradicated much of humankind. These characters are connected by an intricate network of leitmotifs—a comet–shaped birthmark crops up frequently, for instance—and by their ability to somehow escape the fate that has been prepared for them. The book’s dizzying plot twists are infused with lush linguistic imagination. For the Zachry sections, Mitchell constructed post-apocalyptic mutations of the English language, which effectively force readers to translate as they go.

“As I was writing ‘Cloud Atlas,’ I thought, It’s a shame this is unfilmable,” Mitchell told me. But the Wachowskis found themselves instantly, and profoundly, attracted to the idea of adapting the book for the screen. They were drawn to the scale of its ideas, to its lack of cynicism, and to the dramatic possibilities inherent in the book’s recurring moments of hope. They also wanted to work on something with Tykwer, whose 1998 movie, “Run Lola Run,” they’d loved (“our long-lost brother,” Lana called him), and “Cloud Atlas” seemed like the right project to unite their cinematic sensibilities.

In 2006, at the Wachowskis’ prompting, Tykwer took the German translation of “Cloud Atlas” with him on a vacation to the South of France. “It was a mistake,” he told me, with a laugh. He sat on the beach reading for days, “stressed and inspired” by the book; when his wife finally persuaded him to go on a day trip, he made her pull the car over so that he could finish a chapter. The moment he was done with the novel, he called Lana in San Francisco, where it was the middle of the night, and breathlessly declared his commitment to the plan.

... The main challenge was the novel’s convoluted structure: the chapters are ordered chronologically until the middle of the book, at which point the sequence reverses; the book thus begins and ends in the nineteenth century. This couldn’t work in a film. “It would be impossible to introduce a new story ninety minutes in,” Lana said. The filmmakers’ initial idea was to establish a connective trajectory between Dr. Goose, a devious physician who may be poisoning Ewing, in the earliest story line, and Zachry, the tribesman on whose moral choices the future of civilization hinges, after the Fall. They had no idea what to do with all the other story lines and characters. They broke the book down into hundreds of scenes, copied them onto colored index cards, and spread the cards on the floor, with each color representing a different character or time period. The house looked like “a Zen garden of index cards,” Lana said. At the end of the day, they’d pick up the cards in an order that they hoped would work as the arc of the film. Reading from the cards, Lana would then narrate the rearranged story. The next day, they’d do it again.

It was on the day before they left Costa Rica that they had a breakthrough: they could convey the idea of eternal recurrence, which was so central to the novel, by having the same actors appear in multiple story lines—“playing souls, not characters,” in Tykwer’s words. This would allow the narrative currents of the book to merge and to be separate at the same time ...

Edited by Persiflage

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