The film adaptation of "Cloud Atlas" is either a lone anomaly in the world of complex movies, or it's a renewed beginning of something we saw close to 45 years ago after "2001: A Space Odyssey" hit theaters. Even if "Cloud Atlas" is somewhere in the middle of the above two scenarios, it's still a mind-boggle to think that a three-hour movie with multiple storylines, timelines, and characters could manage a studio green light. And yet it may give us a legitimate litmus test to see whether audiences are still in the mood to be engrossed in a movie with a complex narrative.
In a different film era, Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" did more to allow other films with a similar pace and structure to be released in mainstream theaters. You couldn't have had Andrei Tarkovsky's tortuously slow "Solaris" play in American theaters or even any other deliberately-paced Kubrick film released throughout the 1970s without the success of "2001." It's obvious, though, that slow and complex film narratives have always been risky endeavors if they didn't have a compelling tale to back the movie up.
Once in a rare while, we'll get a movie reflecting so deep into the human condition with excellent actors that you can't help but be emotionally invested in what's happening. "Cloud Atlas" appears to be heading toward that assumption, no matter how impossible it seemed to have the book of the same name adapted into a movie. While that may translate to a smaller audience, will it be enough to reshape the attention deficit minds of the average moviegoer we've seen evolve in the last 20 years?
It's not as if many audiences aren't up to such a challenge. The problem may be more to do with the emotional investment necessary and skepticism with whether the movie can pull it off. We've seen the same issue develop in TV when the classic "Lost" managed to stick a pin into the multiple years of viewing investment for those who stayed committed.
That all depends on how you look at entertainment, which may be the "Cloud Atlas" philosophy on the subject matter it covers. As "2001" did in being vague about a superior intelligence communicating with Earthly civilization, "Cloud Atlas" does the same in dealing with what we might as well call a continual form of reincarnation. For those who don't believe in reincarnation, however, the meaning behind it all could instead fall under something resembling memory transfer.
Such a vagueness as that can make a film much deeper and able to have multiple viewings as "2001" still commands to this day. Most people can say they watch "2001" not for a straightforward narrative as in the original Arthur C. Clarke book, but more for the idea that the monoliths are something approaching the spiritual. The thought of the same trope in "Cloud Atlas" will likely give the film a chance to have the same repeated viewings 45 years from now.
Whether it sets off a bevy of other complex narrative films may be decided by how many Oscar nominations or wins "Cloud Atlas" achieves. As an allegory to the film, consider it fortuitous that "Atlas" broke the chain of attention deficits in film audiences before it became nearly impossible to make another film like it again.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Stanley Kubrick