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Cloud Atlas – The film or the book?

August 12, 2013

I have finished Cloud Atlas, a novel by David Mitchell, and having watched the film, starring Tom Hanks and many others, I feel that I need to write a post comparing the two. This post will be a book review, film review and a comparison of the two.

First up is the book, this took me a while to read, it comprises of many little books entwined together in a bigger novel. It was clever and allowed the reader to link these stories and see what they can between them. The stories are told in parts, going through history to the future, with the final story being whole and then going back through time, finishing the stories. The first story is set in the past, in the Pacific, a doctor and a Adam Ewing, a notary are on a ship together, they witness slavery and religion and Adam has to make a choice that lives depend on. This story has part one at the start of the novel and part two at the end, Adam becomes increasingly ill with a parasitic worm, luckily for him, the doctor is treating him, but as his condition worsens, suspicions rise. His writing is in the style of a diary.

The second story is more recent, set in-between WWI and WWII, about a young bisexual musician, Robert Frobisher, he is working in Belgium for an old dying composer, but has a relationship with Rufus Sixsmith back in England, but also falls in love along the way in Belgium. He is reading Ewing’s diary during his stay, which in part two turns sour. We find his story in the form of letters sent to Sixsmith.

The third story is set in California in the 1970’s, and is written like a mystery novel. It features Luisa Rey and also Sixsmith, whom she meets and offers her services as a journalist, he obliges but what he tells her has a disastrous effect on her career, her life and the lives of those around her. A report Sixsmith has written damning the nuclear power plant as being unsafe, but some people do not want the authorities to know about it.

The next story is my favourite; it is about a publisher called Timothy Cavendish, and is set in modern day England. Cavendish comes into some financial troubles and goes to his brother for help, however, his brother tricks him into entering a nursing home, part two sees us plan for his escape, while coming across Luisa Rey’s mystery book.

The fifth story is a futuristic Korea, in which clones are required to serve in a fast food restaurant, but sometimes, one or two become intelligent and think for themselves. Somni is one of them, and so she is sent to a university, for experimentation, but she secretly learns. While there, she watches a film, The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish. She is rescued from the university by Hae-Joo, and they have to run from the authorities, many people want Somni for many reasons. In part two we see the real reason Somni is needed. The way in which this story is told is through questions and answers from an archivist, a futuristic way of making sure details of everything are made for the future.

The final story is in the middle of the book and told in one. It is far in the future, civilisation has almost died out, but there live a few tribes on Hawaii, one tribe is friendly, they are simple, they farm, trade and barter and worship a goddess called Somni, but they are faced with a danger, another tribe, the Kona, who attack and take prisoner many of the peaceful folk. Zachry loses his father and brother to this tribe, but his life changes when a Prescient, Meronym, comes to Hawaii. Prescients come to trade with the valley people on Hawaii, they have technology and medicine that the tribal people can’t even dream of. Meronym wants to stay with them for a year to study them and the island and stays with Zachry and his family. Most of her time goes by peacefully, but when the Kona strike everything is turned upside down and the truth about the Prescients is revealed. The language used is how the tribe speak, and is difficult to keep up with, but is also clever, I think it is an interpretation of how we will speak in the future, a shortened version of how we speak now.

Are you still with me?! This is a confusing novel, I found the film makes it slightly easier to comprehend, but I still had to look at some interpretations online to help me.

The film goes through each story with far less detail, but uses the same actors for some characters so it flows through, it stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae and Ben Whishaw, a fairly all star cast. The film jumps between stories, showing the links between them, but still keeps the stories the same, but does it in a way that is easier to film than to write. I think the acting is good, the film is comical as well as thought provoking and the way in which it is portrayed is excellent, well worth watching.

The book and the film are hard to compare, although they tell the same story they do so in a different way, and so I would recommend trying to watch the film and read the book to get the two views.

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From → Book Reviews

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