Cloud Atlas - Mission Unfilmable

Chutzpah is a Yiddish word that describes a quality of audacity, derived from the Hebrew word ḥuṣpâ, meaning "insolence". This word comes to mind when I think of the effort that the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer have undertaken to adapt a book such as "Cloud Atlas" for the big screen. In a comprehensive article in the New Yorker (an achievement in itself), Aleksandar Hermon chronicles the daunting task of putting this monster screenplay together in a way that would be faithful to author David Mitchell's concentric vision of interconnectedness and rebirth across the centuries and continents. The article was all the more surprising because the Wachowskis are notoriously press-shy, but they have given Harmon unprecedented access. 



This is a $100 million independent film; the most expensive indie ever made, according to IndieWire. No one who read the book understood how this could ever be accomplished, so the directors had to find financing for it themselves. Did your mind blow up after seeing the extended 5 minute trailer? That was put together because they had a hard time selling distribution rights. Even David Mitchell told Hermon that when he was writing this book, he considered it to be unfilmable. 

Book review website The Millions placed Cloud Atlas in 3rd place for the best books of the new millenium, and in my opinion it should be in 1st place. This is a book like no other, one of the best books I've read, written like one of those collapsible cups where each of the six stories folds into the next one chonologically, and then dizzyingly unfolds at the ending of the novel, which actually takes place in the middle of the book. The problem with turning this novel into a movie is that each of the stories interrupt the previous story and you find out that the character in the new story is reading or watching the previous story in a book / letter / film / egg-shaped iPhone, and the ending of each interrupted story is at the other end of the book.  Whew! Natalie Portman was reading this book on the set of "V for Vendetta;" she was the one that recommended it to the directors, Lana (then Larry) and Andy Wachowski.

Early reviews are mostly positive but still mixed; most people consider it a great "experiment" in filmmaking, which could sadly place it in the same bucket as "The Tree of Life" in the eyes of the easily-bored public. What gives me confidence that this might be a great film is that according to Hermon, when the movie was screened to Hollywood big-shots, they unanimously burst in applause in the screening room. This has to be this year's unmissable event, the one film that you absolutely have to see, starting October 26.

In non-eponymous news, and since the movie has not come out, last week I visited this summer's rooftop sculpture at The Met, "Cloud City." Highly recommended if you are in New York City until November 4th, 2012; you can walk inside and try to process incredible views of Central Park from 20 feet in the air:
"Artist Tomás Saraceno (born in Tucumán, Argentina, in 1973) has created a constellation of large, interconnected modules constructed with transparent and reflective materials for the Museum's Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden. Visitors may enter and walk through these habitat-like, modular structures grouped in a nonlinear configuration."





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