February 15, 2013
Books are always a popular source of ideas for film makers. Recently we’ve seen adaptations of The Hobbit and Life of Pi, and later in the year there’s a film of The Great Gatsby to look forward to. The latest book-to-screen adaptation is a more difficult proposition. David Mitchell’s 2004 novel Cloud Atlas has been brought to the screen by the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer. It is a work spanning centuries, with an unusual structure of loosely-connected novelettes written in various styles: historical fiction, political thriller, science fiction, and more. It will be interesting to see if the film makers succeed!
The novel takes the reader from the 19th century to the far future, then back again, like a wave flowing up a beach and retreating. So too does humanity advance and retreat, as the author considers what may happen if we don’t learn to curb violence and exploitation, the abuse of our species’ power.
Uniting all of the sections are not only the deeper themes but the author’s mastery of character and dialogue, and the research that went into creating the settings. I was particularly taken by the sections of the book set in the Pacific in the 19th Century, which deal with slavery and genocide.
It is not all dark, though: there is also humour, adventure and wonder. In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, the author asked “..who says art [has] to be highbrow or lowbrow?” Cloud Atlas is a masterful combination of the two.
The film’s release date is 28 February - Will it be a successful reworking of the novel? Are there any novels you would like to see filmed, or that you think couldn’t be made?