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Film Studies 101
Feature
What The Heck Is Cloud Atlas?
Everything you need to know about the genre-bending epic

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Between them, Cloud Atlas’s creative forces – Lana and Andy Wachowskis, Tom Tykwer and writer David Mitchell – boast a pretty mean body of work. Between them, on screen and page, they’ve built sci-fi universes, breathless thrillers, neon cityscapes and nostalgic tales of Worcestershire kids who love Fox’s Glacier Mints. If you haven’t already, here’s how to navigate through the eclecticness.

Lana and Andy Wachowski
Directors
Tom Tykwer
Director
David Mitchell
Writer
Bound
Bound (1996)
An instant smash with lovers of classic noirs and teenage boys – a rarely twinned demographic – the Wachowskis' breakthrough film had Double Indemnity running through its veins and a coquettish look on its mush. With Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly's lesbian couple at its heart, it joins The Last Seduction, The Usual Suspects and The Grifters in a mini '90s revival of sexy, murky neo-noirs.
Run Lola Run
Run Lola Run (1998)
Aka Sliding Döors, this cult thriller saw Tom Tykwer cleverly constructing three wildly different outcomes from one scenario with a dynamism that got him noticed outside his native Germany. A breathless Franka Potente is charged with saving her boyfriend from the wrath of his mob boss when a sack of cash goes walkabout. The result was perfect fitness training for Bourne.
Ghostwritten
Ghostwritten (1999)
A perfect primer, David Mitchell's first novel is almost as kaleidoscopic as Cloud Atlas. In each of its ten stories there's a character who appears in the next strand (think The Three Colours Trilogy or Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon) as deeper themes emerge. There are also foreshadowings of Cloud Atlas, with Luisa Rey and Timothy Cavendish both appearing and a mysterious comet-shaped birthmark involved.
The Matrix
The Matrix (1999)
Buoyed by the critical success of Bound, the pair set to work on an idea for a wildy ambitious future-tech sci-fi in which an ordinary Joe discovers all dark secrets of the universe, has a spiritual epiphany and kicks binary ass in bullet time like it had never been done before. It hadn't. It was called The Matrix and it made it blue pills everywhere weep.
Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer
Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer (2006)
Tykwer is no stranger to adapting much-loved novels, as this black take on Patrick Süskind's Perfume proves. Ben Whishaw – back again in Cloud Atlas – plays Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a low-born Frenchman who grows up aspiring to be Coco Chanel but ends up more like Hannibal Lecter. The period detail was so rich you could almost smell it. Thankfully, Smell-O-Vision isn't around anymore.
Number9dream
Number9dream (2001)
The Tokyo of Mitchell's second novel is part bebop cityscape, part metaphysical mysteryland scoured by 20 year-old student Eiji for clues of his dad's whereabouts. Like Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood, it's named after a song penned by John Lennon and offers a beautifully quirky osmosis of East and West.
The Animatrix
The Animatrix (2003)
The Animatrix is nine anime shorts that the Wachowskis conceived as a means of stretching further into the world of the Matrix. They do exactly that, even if the effect can be occasionally be akin to swallowing great fistfuls of red pills and double-piking into the nearest rabbit hole. The Japanese and South Korean anime directors the pair assembled ensure that this rabbit hole goes deep.
The International Original Soundtrack
The International Original Soundtrack (2009)
The film may have been a bit of a stinker, seemingly borrowing its plot from the minutes of a Barclays board meeting, but the soundtrack is a handy reminder that Tykwer's talents extend beyond the camera. Alongside Pale 3 pals Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil, his musical collaborators since the early '90s, he crafts a breezy, fresh soundtrack that's a lot better than the movie.
Black Swan Green
Black Swan Green (2006)
The most personal of Mitchell's novels, Black Swan Green is the semi-autobiographical story of Jason Taylor. He's a 13 year-old with a stammer whose escapades at his Worcestershire home are charted over the space of 13 months in 13 chapters. Cloud Atlas references come in the shape of Vyvyan Ayres's (Halle Berry) daughter, Eva van Crommelynck, and Robert Frobisher whose symphony is playing when Jason visits her house. Meta, eh?

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Have Your Say
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Your Comments

1 missed another
Jim Broadbent appears near the end of the Sloosha's Crossing story when Halle Berry's ship comes to rescue them More

Posted by matsnowie on Sunday December 15, 2013, 19:08

2 You forgot all about some people...
Susan Sarandon is missing Keith David is missing David Gyasiis missing More

Posted by Montago on Wednesday July 3, 2013, 09:08

3 Ben Whishaw
Ben Whishaw also plays in "the first Luisa Rey mistery", as the seller in the music shop who's listening cloud atlas record. More

Posted by macha24 on Thursday March 21, 2013, 13:11

4 Run Lola Run
...it's actually NOT 'The Matrix'... More

Posted by Midgit315 on Tuesday September 11, 2012, 15:45

5 Bollocks
So now once I've waded through Cloud Atlas (it's fun don't get me wrong) I now have to read all David Mitchell's other books as well!!?? Can't wait! :) More

Posted by Guinevere6 on Monday September 10, 2012, 19:41

6 RE: What The Heck Is Cloud Atlas?
Urm, you guys might want to check out the Run Lola Run bit on page 3. More

Posted by MonsterCat on Monday September 10, 2012, 10:53

7 Goon likeness
Hugo Weaving (post apocalypse) looks awfully like the Zombie Priest. Knife to the eye! More

Posted by Varcolac on Friday September 7, 2012, 17:54


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