Cloud Atlas – Freedom or Collectivism?

(The quote in the above image, as was said by several characters throughout the movie, was actually, “I will not be subjected to criminal abuse.”)

It is always odd to see such a movie as this get so little press. Even the reviews have been bereft of any deep interpretation. What is it about ‘Cloud Atlas’ which elicits such hesitation, such muted detachment, such reverence?

Normally, a Hollywood movie (directed by Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis) with an A-list cast (Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Hugo Weaving, Hugh Grant,) based on such an excellent book (by David Mitchell,) commanding such an enormous budget, and with arguably one of the best, most innovative screenplays (Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis) in a long time would be hyped ad nauseum. Normally, the reviews of such a film would tear into the plot, dissecting it, explaining every motif, exposing every hidden nuance. Normal does not seem to be a word one can easily associate with this film.

Roger Ebert had nothing to say. The New Yorker review read like a history of the Wachowskis and only mentioned the plot in the second paragraph of a much too long article, going on to drop names of other great movies for lack of any constructive analogies. Salon broke the movie down chronologically and descriptively, did an FAQ style article, but failed to give any meaningful interpretation of the plot. Why such hesitation on telling an admittedly confused public what the movie was really about?

The New York Times, surprisingly, does a better job. At least it uses the words others shy away from using: freedom; slavery; deprivation; political; humanity; hope. Perhaps here are we getting closer to the ‘true-true’ reasons for such quiet praise.

There is one common thread in this movie and that is freedom. It underlies each scene and every word. Every character is at once a subject and a master. Confinement and escape are in every action. Even gravity is portrayed as an oppressive force, as well as one which brings everything together (the bridge, the cliff, the walkway, and the comet.) Yet, in the end, all are bound to each other, to the universe, and to time itself.

Collectivist ideals are rampant throughout the film through cliques, tribes, classes, and societies, yet the individual struggle to affect the whole is put front-and-center.

The film is highly politicized, as could be expected from the Wachowskis, but the lack of pre-release hype is itself telling. In this world of geo-political duplicity and main-stream propaganda, has Hollywood shown its hand as far as support for political agendas goes? It is obvious that the media wants us to feel, not think, and that subdued masses are what is needed to further the goal of societal change on a global level. One wonders if the film would have been shown at all had the story-line been any less confusing.

The film ‘Cloud Atlas’, much like ‘The Matrix’, is as close to a call-to-action as one could hope to find in a film of this scope. Truly the world needs more block-busters like this, if only to feed the divide between those who know and those who believe. Division is, after all, the goal of any socio-political movement. The modern politics of Washington are no different in this respect. Even the fabricants’ hair displays a red and a blue striped marking (which Sonmi is shown cutting off when her understanding grows.) Hopefully, there are still those amongst us who will look deeper into the message than just ‘stunning visuals’ and ‘an all-star cast.’ Hopefully, there are those who will heed the call to act when individual liberty and state sovereignty are the prize at stake.

“The weak are meat, and the strong do eat.”