The long established question. Which is better? Book or Film? Invariably, the question exists like this because ‘books’ are made into ‘films’. Are films made into books? Don’t ever recall one……..ever! But, maybe there is one out there. Certainly, stand alone/stand out films written by script writers exist. But my three favourite books of all time exist in film. A Christmas Carol, (my favourite number one book) has many adaptations in film with modern takes just about bearable. Re-telling of the story in film having either a non altruistic (I despair) or altruistic (I smile and applaud) link to the beauty and sentiments of Dicken’s original vision linked to embracing Christmas spirit with the result of Ebenezer Scrooge regaining human dignity and achieving personal transformation which is told so eloquently within his original wonderful storytelling. Number two, The Lord of the Rings, has an unfinished project of creating a full cartoon version film of the book (only Part One, an Unexpected Journey, of the books, being realised). What followed was very satisfying. The Peter Jackson trilogy we all love and know. Number three. Cloud Atlas. I read the book three times and literally finished it and read it again, finished it a second time and then read it again. Not since my annual visit to re-reading of both Dickens and Tolkien has a book got under my skin.
I don’t really have the skills to put down thoughts of analysis as to what this book is about. I can explain what this book does for me. It’s a joy of 6 different format styles. It’s unique in it’s Russian Doll take apart and rebuild format. The first story simply stops, as do the next 4 others until the 6th middle story (which is read in full) and then it continues with the stories which sequence 5,4,3,2,1. That is….the first story becomes finished at the end of the book. Chronological order. Written in a chained ongoing sequence of different eras from past times to the future and back again to the past.
It’s a puzzling, challenging and complex book which requires a few readings really. And David Mitchell, in this and his other books, includes various reappearing characters from different stories. In other words, the same characters or people linked to characters appear in different books. The following link is essential reading from David Mitchell’s thoughts of this application to his writing.
As a David Mitchell fan? It’s a club. He’s the only author I actually look to the internet to check if any more of his work is available. Tolkien, Conan Doyle, Richmal Crompton, Stephen King, Murakami, Andrew Miller, Agatha Christie and very many more authors I have read can weave within their words a visual extravagance that sits in my psyche. David Mitchell does this too. But, he somehow transcends the imagery and I leave his books having experiencing a total immersion in the world/worlds I’ve just visited. I’m there, within that story, watching it all develop. It’s like the film exists and plays out there and then.
And so……the film adaptation of Cloud Atlas by the Wachowski siblings.
An atmosphere all of it’s own. Completely different format to the book. The various stories interweaving with each other with a jumping back and forth experience. I knew the story so well that it was not an issue for me. As with all visually presented film characterisation, I had that so familiar experience of thinking, ‘Nah! That’s not what I thought they’d look like’. Also, the Wachowski’s used the same actors/actresses in various different guises/disguises to play various parts. Some crossing genders even. Men become female characters and females become male characters. An extension of the life changing decisions of the Wachowski brothers, who are now sisters. Whilst this ‘actors in various roles’ happened, I found myself not comparing the film and book. But got caught up in the film precisely because it took itself off into an individual Wachowski philosophical presentation. It became awesome of its own accord. A fascinating development of guessing of the actors, who was who, then sitting back and enjoying the film for all its holistic presentation on second viewing, and then spotting the Easter eggs in subsequent viewings. And I keep watching the film or dipping into it from time to time to get a ‘hit’. The philosophy of Buddhist links just simply resonates. It’s like carrying around a familiar book of quotations that ground the mind’s wandering. A smile at familiarity and logic. The atmosphere presented in both book and film is a beautiful experience. I treasure each now as classics/cult status in their own right.
Cloud Atlas is a book I always recommend to family and friends. Some are as enthusiastic after reading. Others scratch their heads. Not quite Marmite qualities of love or hate. But, worth a try. Like Marmite. You may discover a whole new challenging and good feel enhancer. I recommend the film too. Again the same scenario as mentioned. I have three situations. My mind’s eye of characters from my own visualisation after reading the book. The actors’ presentations in the film. And the environmental imagery created by both David Mitchell’s words and the Wachowski filmed experience. Akin to the beauty that was inherent in the Lord of the Rings film filmed mainly in New Zealand.
David Mitchell is simply a genius in his skill regarding the written word. The Wachowski siblings are geniuses too in the visual format. The Arts are much richer for these people. Yummy.
2 thoughts on “Cloud Atlas. Iconic Book/Film”
I must admit I was not aware of this author. Sometime after Christmas (a simple post about my December reading is drafted and scheduled for posting later) I’ll be seeking him out to see if he ‘grabs’ me in the same way. I do like the sound of its odd construction as you describe it. I remember well the effect ‘The French Lieutenant’s Women’ had on me when I first read it with its alternative endings – something I had never come across before. Many years later I’ve adopted it in something I’m writing.
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Sometimes you are in the right place at the right time. I was in my car listening to a panel discussing the book when it was first published. All of them were completely bowled over after reading it. I got out of the car after the discussion to visit my local Arts Centre and there it was in the book store. They say ‘you are always one decision away from a totally different life’. Not quite life changing, but that one decision to buy it led to all David Mitchell’s books having now been read. And my life is a little richer for them. Bit like looking for VW Crossover information and finding your blog page. Life can be a strange little affair of finding the right things or people at the right time. Thank you Roger. Hope you are well.
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