Cloud Atlas (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Based on||Cloud Atlas
by David Mitchell
|Editing by||Alexander Berner|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Running time||172 minutes|
Cloud Atlas is a 2012 German epic drama and science fiction hyperlink film written, produced and directed by Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer and Andy Wachowski. Adapted from the 2004 novel by David Mitchell, the film features multiple plotlines set across six different eras. The official synopsis for Cloud Atlas describes the film as: "An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution."
During four years of development, the project met difficulties securing financial support; it was eventually produced with a $102 million budget provided by independent sources, making Cloud Atlas one of the most expensive independent films of all time. Production began in September 2011 at Studio Babelsberg in Potsdam-Babelsberg, Germany.
Cloud Atlas polarized critics, and has subsequently been included on various Best Film and Worst Film lists. The film was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score for Tykwer (who co-scored the film), Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil. It also received several nominations of the Saturn Awards including Best Science Fiction Film, winning for Best Editing and Best Make-up.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Production
- 4 Music
- 5 Release
- 6 Reception
- 7 References
- 8 External links
South Pacific Ocean, 1846
Adam Ewing, an American lawyer from San Francisco, has come to the Chatham Islands to conclude a business arrangement with Reverend Gilles Horrox for his father-in-law, Haskell Moore. He witnesses the whipping of a Moriori slave, Autua, who later stows away on the ship. He confronts Ewing and convinces Ewing to advocate for him to join the crew as a freeman. Meanwhile, Dr. Henry Goose slowly poisons Ewing, claiming it to be the cure for a parasitic worm, aiming to steal Ewing's valuables. When Goose attempts to administer the fatal dose, Autua saves Ewing. Returning to the United States, Ewing and his wife Tilda denounce her father's complicity in slavery and leave San Francisco to join the Abolition movement.
Robert Frobisher, a bisexual English composer, finds work as an amanuensis to aging composer Vyvyan Ayrs, allowing Frobisher the time and inspiration to compose his own masterpiece, "The Cloud Atlas Sextet." While working for Ayrs, Frobisher begins reading the published chronicle of Adam Ewing's journal which he has found among the many books at Ayrs's mansion. He never finishes reading the journal and notes in a letter that "A half-finished book is, after all, a half finished love affair." When "The Cloud Atlas Sextet" is revealed to Ayrs, he wishes to take credit for Frobisher's work, claiming it is the result of their collaboration and threatens to expose his scandalous background if he resists. Frobisher shoots and wounds Ayrs and flees to a hotel. Perhaps spurred by his inability to complete Ewing's book, he finishes "The Cloud Atlas Sextet", then commits suicide, just before his lover Rufus Sixsmith arrives.
San Francisco, USA, 1973
Journalist Luisa Rey meets an older Sixsmith, now a nuclear physicist. Sixsmith tips off Rey to a conspiracy regarding the safety of a new nuclear reactor run by Lloyd Hooks, but is assassinated by Hooks' hitman Bill Smoke before he can give her a report that proves it. Rey finds and reads Frobisher's letters to Sixsmith, resulting in her tracking down a vinyl recording of Frobisher's "The Cloud Atlas Sextet." Isaac Sachs, another scientist at the power plant, passes her a copy of Sixsmith's report. However, Smoke kills Sachs by blowing up the plane in which he is flying, and later also runs Rey's car off a bridge, but she is able to escape. With help from the plant's head of security, Joe Napier, who knew her father, she evades another attempt against her life which results in Smoke's death and exposes the plot to use a nuclear accident for the benefit of oil companies.
United Kingdom, 2012
65-year-old publisher Timothy Cavendish reaps a windfall when Dermot Hoggins, the gangster author of Knuckle Sandwich, publicly murders a critic who gave the novel a harsh review. When Hoggins's brothers threaten Cavendish's life to get his share of the profits, Cavendish asks for help from his wealthy brother Denholme. Avenging an old affair with his wife, Denholme tricks Timothy into hiding in a nursing home, where he is held against his will and abused by the head nurse, Noakes. While there, Cavendish reads a manuscript of a novel based on Luisa Rey's story. Plotting with three other residents, Cavendish escapes and goes on to write a screenplay of his story.
Sonmi~451 is a genetically-engineered fabricant, a human clone and slave worker living a compliant life of servitude as a server at a fast food restaurant. She recounts her memories before an interviewer, an archivist whose purpose is to document her thoughts and story for the future. Sonmi begins by recounting a day in the life of a fabricant like herself. She tells how she was exposed to ideas of rebellion and liberation (based on Cavendish's adventures), and how she was rescued from captivity by Commander Hae-Joo Chang, a member of a rebel movement known as "Union". He smuggles her to a residence in Neo Seoul where he exposes Sonmi to the larger world, including the banned writings of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and a film version of Timothy Cavendish's "ghastly ordeal". They are found and Sonmi is captured. Hae-Joo rescues her, introduces her to the leader of the rebel movement, then shows her that fabricants are not freed at the end of their contract as she believed, but are killed and "recycled" into food for other clones. She decides that the system of society based on slavery and exploitation is intolerable, and makes a public broadcast of her story and manifesto. Hae-Joo is killed in a firefight and Sonmi is captured again. After telling her story to the archivist, she is executed.
The Big Island, 2321
(This section is dated "106 winters after The Fall" in the end credits and book cited as 2321.) Zachry lives in a primitive society called "The Valley" after most of humanity has died during "The Fall," a largely-unexplained apocalyptic event. The Valley tribesmen speak a degenerated form of English, and worship a goddess called Sonmi (Sonmi~451), their sacred text taken from the broadcast of her manifesto. Zachry is plagued by hallucinations of a demonic figure called "Old Georgie" who manipulates him into giving in to his fears. One day, Zachry, Adam (Zachry's brother-in-law) and Zachry's nephew are attacked by the cannibalistic Kona tribe. Zachry himself runs into hiding and watches as his companions are murdered. His village is visited by Meronym, a member of the "Prescients", an advanced society still using the last remnants of technology. Her mission is to find a remote communication station called Mauna Sol and send a message to Earth's off-world colonies. Catkin, Zachry's niece, falls sick, and in exchange for saving her, Zachry agrees to guide Meronym into the mountains to find the Atlas. At the station, Meronym reveals that Sonmi was not a deity as the Valley tribe believes, but a normal human who died long ago. After returning, Zachry finds his tribe dead, slaughtered by the Kona. He kills the Kona chief, rescues Catkin, and Meronym saves them both from an assault by Kona tribesmen. Zachry and Catkin join Meronym and the Prescients as their ship leaves Big Island (Hawaii).
Prologue / Epilogue
A seventh time period, several decades after the events on Big Island, is featured in the film's prologue and epilogue: Zachry is revealed to have been telling these stories to his grandchildren on a beach near a city on an extraterrestrial Earth colony. The epilogue also confirms that Meronym succeeded in sending the message and traveled to the off-world colony where she lives with Zachry.
|Actor||"The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing" (1849)||"Letters from Zedelghem" (1936)||"Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery" (1973)||"The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish" (2012)||"An Orison of Sonmi~451" (2144)||"Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After" (2321)|
The film is based on the 2004 novel Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. Filmmaker Tom Tykwer revealed in January 2009 his intent to adapt the novel and said he was working on a screenplay with the Wachowskis, who optioned the novel. By June 2010, Tykwer had asked actors Natalie Portman, Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, James McAvoy, and Ian McKellen to star in Cloud Atlas. By April 2011, the Wachowskis joined Tykwer in co-directing the film. In the following May, with Hanks and Berry confirmed in their roles, Hugo Weaving, Ben Whishaw, Susan Sarandon, and Jim Broadbent also joined the cast. Actor Hugh Grant joined the cast days before the start of filming.
Cloud Atlas was financed by the German production companies A Company, ARD Degeto Film and X Filme. In May 2011 Variety reported that the film had a production budget of $140 million. The filmmakers also secured approximately $20 million from the German government, including €10 million ($13.5 million) from the German Federal Film Fund (DFFF), €100,000 ($130,000) development funding and €1.5 million ($2.15 million) from Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, a German funder, as part of their plans to film at Studio Babelsberg later in 2011. The project also received €1 million ($1.5 million) financial support from Filmstiftung NRW, €750,000 ($1 million) from Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung and € 30 million ($40 million) from UE-Fonds (the biggest proportion of the budget), and €300,000 ($400,000) from FFF Bayern, another German organization. The Wachowskis contributed approximately $1 million to the project out of their own finances. The budget was updated to $100 million.
The directors stated that due to lack of finance, the film was almost abandoned several times. However they specified how the crew was enthusiastic and determined: "They flew—even though their agents called them and said, 'They don't have the money, the money's not closed'". They specifically praised Tom Hanks' enthusiasm: "Warner Bros. calls and, through our agent, says they've looked at the math and decided that they don't like this deal. They're pulling all of the money away, rescinding the offer. I was shaking. I heard, 'Are you saying the movie is dead?' They were like, 'Yes, the movie is dead.'... At the end of the meeting, Tom says, 'Let's do it. I'm in. When do we start?'... Tom said this unabashed, enthusiastic 'Yes!' which put our heart back together. We walked away thinking, this movie is dead but somehow, it's alive and we're going to make it." "Every single time, Tom Hanks was the first who said, 'I'm getting on the plane.' And then once he said he was getting on the plane, basically everyone said, 'Well, Tom's on the plane, we're on the plane.' And so everyone flew [to Berlin to begin the film]. It was like this giant leap of faith. From all over the globe."
Some German journalists called Cloud Atlas "the first attempt at a German blockbuster" (although the 1984 fantasy The NeverEnding Story was written about in similar terms before its release). Tykwer and the Wachowskis filmed parallel to each other using separate camera crews. The Wachowskis directed the 19th-century story and the two set in the future, while Tykwer directed the stories set in the 1930s, the 1970s, and 2012. Warner Bros. Pictures representatives argued they were happy with the film's 164-minute running time, after previously stating that it should not exceed 150 minutes.
Filming began at Studio Babelsberg in Potsdam-Babelsberg, Germany, on 16 September 2011, which was the base camp for the production during its shoot. Other locations include Düsseldorf, in and near Edinburgh and Glasgow, Scotland, and the Mediterranean island of Majorca, Spain. Glasgow doubled for both San Francisco and London. Scenes filmed in Scotland also feature the recently built Clackmannanshire Bridge near Alloa. The "Big Island" and "Pacific Islands" stories were actually shot on Majorca, mostly in the World Heritage site of the Serra de Tramuntana mountains. Scenes were shot at Cala Tuent and near Formentor, amongst others. The opening scene of the film, when Adam Ewing meets Dr. Henry Goose, was filmed at Sa Calobra. Port de Sóller provided the setting for the scene when the 19th-century ship is mooring.
The original orchestral soundtrack was composed by director Tom Tykwer and his longtime collaborators, Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek. The trio have worked together for years as Pale 3, having composed music for several films directed by Tykwer, most notably Run Lola Run, The Princess and the Warrior, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, and The International, and contributed music to the Wachowskis' The Matrix Revolutions. Work on the score for Cloud Atlas began months before shooting commenced on the film. The music was recorded in Leipzig, Germany with the MDR Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Leipzig Radio Chorus.
The soundtrack has received praise from critics. Film Music Magazine critic Daniel Schweiger described the soundtrack as "a singular piece of multi-themed astonishment ... Yet instead of defining one sound for every era, Klimek, Heil and Tykwer seamlessly merge their motifs across the ages to give Cloud Atlas its rhythms, blending orchestra, pulsating electronics, choruses and a soaring salute to John Adams in an astonishing, captivating score that eventually becomes all things for all personages ..." Erin Willard of ScifiMafia described the soundtrack as "cinematic, symphonic, and simply, utterly, exquisitely beautiful ... in the wrong hands the opening theme, which is picked up periodically throughout the entire soundtrack, could easily have become cloying or twee or sappy, but happily this hazard was avoided entirely." Jon Broxton of Movie Music UK wrote, "Scores like Cloud Atlas, which have an important and identifiable structure that relates directly to concepts in the film, intelligent and sophisticated application of thematic elements, and no small amount of beauty, harmony and excitement in the music itself, reaffirm your faith in what film music can be when it's done right."  Daniel Schweiger selected the score as one of the best soundtracks of 2012, writing that "Cloud Atlas is an immense sum total of not only the human experience, but of mankind's capacity for musical self-realization itself, all as embodied in a theme for the ages." The film's soundtrack was nominated for a 2013 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score, and for several awards by the International Film Music Critics Association, including Score of the Year.
The film contains approximately two hours of original music. WaterTower Music released the soundtrack album via digital download on 23 October 2012 and the physical CD on 6 November 2012.
Cloud Atlas was released on 26 October 2012 in the United States. Warner Bros. distributed the film in the United States and Canada, and Focus Features International handled sales and distribution for other territories. The movie was released in cinemas in China on 31 January 2013 with 39 minutes of cuts, including removal of nudity, a sexual scene, and numerous conversations.
A six-minute trailer for Cloud Atlas, accompanied by a short introduction by the three directors describing the ideas behind the creation of the film, was released on 26 July 2012. A shorter official trailer was released on 7 September 2012. The six-minute trailer includes three pieces of music. The opening piano music is the main theme of the soundtrack (Prelude: The Atlas March/The Cloud Atlas Sextet) by composing trio Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil, followed by an instrumental version of the song "Sonera" from Thomas J. Bergersen's album Illusions. The song in the last part is "Outro" from M83's album Hurry Up, We're Dreaming.
The film has had polarized reaction from critics, who debated its length and editing of the interwoven stories, but praised other aspects of the film such as its cinematography, score, visual style, ensemble cast, and originality.
The film premiered on 9 September 2012 at the 37th Toronto International Film Festival, where it received a lengthy standing ovation. Review aggregator Metacritic collected the "top 10 films of 2012" lists from various critics and Cloud Atlas was placed at number 25 overall.
Critical response to the film has been generally positive. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 66% of critics have given Cloud Atlas a "Fresh" rating based on 250 reviews, with an average of 6.6/10. The site's consensus from the collected reviews was "Its sprawling, ambitious blend of thought-provoking narrative and eye-catching visuals will prove too unwieldy for some, but the sheer size and scope of Cloud Atlas are all but impossible to ignore." The film currently holds a Metacritic score of 55 out of 100, based on 45 reviews, indicating 'mixed to average' reviews.
Film critic Roger Ebert praised the film for being "one of the most ambitious films ever made", awarding the film four out of four stars. He wrote "Even as I was watching Cloud Atlas the first time, I knew I would need to see it again. Now that I've seen it the second time, I know I'd like to see it a third time ... I think you will want to see this daring and visionary film ... I was never, ever bored by Cloud Atlas. On my second viewing, I gave up any attempt to work out the logical connections between the segments, stories and characters." He later listed the film among his best of the year.
Variety described it as "an intense three-hour mental workout rewarded with a big emotional payoff. ... One's attention must be engaged at all times as the mosaic triggers an infinite range of potentially profound personal responses." James Rocchi of MSN Movies stated "It is so full of passion and heart and empathy that it feels completely unlike any other modern film in its range either measured through scope of budget or sweep of action." The Daily Beast called Cloud Atlas "one of the year's most important movies". Michael Cieply of The New York Times commented on the film "You will have to decide for yourself whether it works. It's that kind of picture. ... Is this the stuff of Oscars? Who knows? Is it a force to be reckoned with in the coming months? Absolutely."
Slant Magazine's Calum Marsh called Cloud Atlas a "unique and totally unparalleled disaster" and commented "[its] badness is fundamental, an essential aspect of the concept and its execution that I suspect is impossible to remedy or rectify". The Guardian stated "At 163 minutes, Cloud Atlas carries all the marks of a giant folly, and those unfamiliar with the book will be baffled" and awarded the film 2 out of 5 stars. Nick Pickerton, who reviewed the film for The Village Voice said "There is a great deal of humbug about art and love in Cloud Atlas, but it is decidedly unlovable, and if you want to learn something about feeling, you're at the wrong movie." English critic Mark Kermode on his first viewing called it "an extremely honourable failure, but a failure" but then on a second viewing for the release of the DVD in the UK stated "Second time around, I find it to be more engaging – still not an overall success, but containing several moments of genuine magic, and buoyed up by the exuberance of high-vaulting ambition."Village Voice and Time Magazine both named Cloud Atlas the worst film of 2012.
Reaction from the crew
On 25 October (after the premiere at Toronto), Andy Wachowski stated "(a)s soon as (critics) encounter a piece of art they don't fully understand the first time going through it, they think it's the fault of the movie or the work of art. They think, 'It's a mess ... This doesn't make any sense.' And they reject it, just out of an almost knee-jerk response to some ambiguity or some gulf between what they expect they should be able to understand, and what they understand."
In the same interview, Lana Wachowski stated "(p)eople will try to will Cloud Atlas to be rejected. They will call it messy, or complicated, or undecided whether it's trying to say something New Agey-profound or not. And we're wrestling with the same things that Dickens and Hugo and David Mitchell and Herman Melville were wrestling with. We're wrestling with those same ideas, and we're just trying to do it in a more exciting context than conventionally you are allowed to. ... We don't want to say, 'We are making this to mean this.' What we find is that the most interesting art is open to a spectrum of interpretation."
Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell stated he had been impressed by the screenplay, saying the film was "magnificent". He was very satisfied by the casting as well, especially by Hanks, Berry and Broadbent, and stated he couldn't even remember now how he was originally portraying the characters in his mind before the movie. He also supported the changes from the novel, impressed by how the Wachowskis and Tykwer successfully disassembled the structure of the book for the needs of the movie.
|Alliance of Women Film Journalists||Best Editing||Alexander Berner||Nominated|
|Movie You Wanted to Love But Just Couldn't||Cloud Atlas|
|Art Directors Guild Awards||Best Production Design in a Fantasy Film||Hugh Bateup and Uli Hanisch|
|Austin Film Critics Association Awards||Best Film||Cloud Atlas|
|Top Ten Films||Won|
|Best Score||Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil|
|Bavarian Film Awards||Best Production||Stefan Arndt|
|Black Reel Awards||Best Actress||Halle Berry||Nominated|
|Boston Online Film Critics Association Awards||Ten Best Films of the Year||Cloud Atlas||Won|
|Central Ohio Film Critics Association||Best Score||Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil||Nominated|
|Chicago Film Critics Association||Best Film Editing||Alexander Berner|
|Costume Designers Guild Awards||Excellence in Fantasy Film||Kym Barrett and Pierre-Yves Gayraud|
|Czech Lion Awards||Best Foreign Language Film||Cloud Atlas|
|Critics' Choice Awards||Best Costume Design||Kym Barrett and Pierre-Yves Gayraud|
|Best Makeup||Cloud Atlas||Won|
|Best Visual Effects||Nominated|
|German Film Awards||Outstanding Feature Film||Grant Hill, Stefan Arndt, Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer and Andy Wachowski|
|Best Direction||Lana Wachowki, Tom Tykwer and Andy Wachowski|
|Best Editing||Alexander Berner||Won|
|Best Cinematography||Frank Griebe and John Toll|
|Best Film Score||Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||Kym Barrett and Pierre-Yves Gayraud||Won|
|Best Makeup||Heike Merker, Daniel Parker and Jeremy Woodhead|
|Best Production Design||Hugh Bateup and Uli Hanisch|
|Best Sound||Markus Stemler, Lars Ginzel, Frank Kruse, Matthias Lempert, Roland Winke and Ivan Sharrock||Nominated|
|Audience Award for German Film of the Year||Cloud Atlas|
|GLAAD Media Awards||Outstanding Film - Wide Release|
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Original Score||Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil|
|Houston Film Critics Society Awards||Best Film||Cloud Atlas|
|Best Original Score||Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil||Won|
|Technical Achievement||Cloud Atlas||Nominated|
|International Film Music Critics Association Awards||Film Score of the Year||Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil|
|Best Original Score for a Fantasy/Science Fiction/Horror Film|
|Film Music Composition of the Year||Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil for "The Cloud Atlas Sextet for Orchestra"|
|NAACP Image Awards||Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture||Halle Berry|
|Online Film Critics Society Awards||Best Adapted Screenplay||Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer and Andy Wachowski|
|Best Editing||Alexander Berner||Won|
|Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards||Best Production Design||Hugh Bateup and Uli Hanisch||Nominated|
|Best Visual Effects||Cloud Atlas|
|San Diego Film Critics Society Awards||Best Production Design||Hugh Bateup and Uli Hanisch||Won|
|Satellite Awards||Best Editing||Alexander Berner||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||Kym Barrett and Pierre-Yves Gayraud|
|Best Visual Effects||Dan Glass, Geoffrey Hancock and Stephane Ceretti|
|Saturn Awards||Best Science Fiction Film||Cloud Atlas|
|Best Editing||Alexander Berner||Won|
|Best Production Design||Hugh Bateup and Uli Hanisch||Nominated|
|Best Costume||Kym Barrett and Pierre-Yves Gayraud|
|Best Make-up||Heike Merker, Daniel Parker and Jeremy Woodhead||Won|
|St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association||Best Cinematography||Frank Griebe and John Toll||Nominated|
|Best Visual Effects||Cloud Atlas|
|Best Music Score/Soundtrack||Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil|
|Washington D. C. Area Film Critics Association||Best Art Direction||Uli Hanisch, Hugh Bateup (production designers), Peter Walpole and Rebecca Alleway (set decorators)||Won|
|Young Artist Award||Best Performance in a Feature Film - Supporting Young Actress Ten and Under||Raevan Lee Hanan||Nominated|
Immediately after the film's release, the advocacy group Media Action Network for Asian Americans criticized the film for the use of what is sometimes labelled 'yellowface' makeup to allow non-Asian actors to portray certain Asian characters in the neo-Seoul sequences. The directors pointed out that the same multi-racial actors portrayed multiple roles, of various nationalities and races (not just Asian), across a 500 year story arc, showing "the continuity of souls" critical to the story.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cloud Atlas (2012 film).|
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- Official website
- Cloud Atlas at the Internet Movie Database
- Cloud Atlas at Rotten Tomatoes
- Cloud Atlas at Metacritic
- Cloud Atlas at Box Office Mojo