Cherwell

Culture Corner: David Mitchell & Cloud Atlas

“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to other, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.” –Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas proposes a romantic theory as to how reincarnation may procure itself, a theory bound to swell your heart with wonderment. In David Mitchell’s carefully crafted world, everything is connected. In six prima facie distinct but intricately woven stories, the characters of each story are reincarnations of one another, marked by a birthmark in the shape of a comet. Mitchell brings to bear the theme of eternal recurrence – just as fate may be held in the stars, the characters in the stories are destined to meet again and again in their many lifetimes, “crossing and re-crossing [their] old steps like figure skaters.”

The ending is perfect; the film comes a full circle in the eyes of an observant audience: the actors for Hae Joo and Somni 451 have also played Adam and Tilde Ewing, destined to live the same life again, in a diff erent time. Profoundly, “I believe there is another world waiting for us…a better world.”

The characters quest after the same things – love, hope, a sense of justice. These are all parts of the prophesied “natural order” that loops ironically throughout the various storylines. The vice of slavery recurs in the fabricants of neo-soul and so forth. There is something inherently sentimental about the common human struggle and our tendency to repeat the same mistakes, in a never-ending loop.

As the melodies of the Cloud Atlas sextet ring through every arc of the show, “I’ve heard this before, in another lifetime”. “Each solo is interrupted by its successor” – and the struggles of each lifetime ring on forever through the course of time.