In his 2004 Cloud Atlas, British author David Mitchell presents six stories, each from a different literary genre, written in different styles, featuring characters in diverse settings and time periods. Stories and characters intertwine via the theme of a bond running though all of humanity. The Booker Prize–shortlisted novel is now a film directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer. I spoke with Mitchell last week in Beverly Hills.
>> REVIEW: "Cloud Atlas" by Peter Keough <<
You originally thought this was unfilmable. At what point did you change your mind?
When I read the script in 2009. The script looked good, and then the directors met me, and we talked about their ideas about amplifying the motif of reincarnation and applying that principle to six or seven of the major characters — and have them played by the same actor but in different ethnicities and genders.
In the book, each story ends separately. What did you think of how they overlap in the film?
It had to be done. To ask a viewer to start over a new film six times — the sixth time being an hour and a half in — I understood. I just about get away with it in the book. With novels, as long as they don't get dull, you can do what the hell you like in them. Films are less forgiving. So reconstitute it as a mosaic. For me, this actually generates pleasure at the ingenuity of the way one scene is glued to the next. A question is asked in 1850, and then it's asked again in post-apocalyptic Hawaii.
Did you manage a cameo?
I'm in the film. Blink, and you miss me. As Sonmi [a clone in 2144 Korea] is leaving the rebel base, she goes up some steps, and I'm walking down them, and our eyes lock, and we walk on.
Is there something meta to you about being in a film that's based on something you wrote?
Yeah, it's meta-fictional. I hadn't thought of that. But if you thought about it, you'd go mad, wouldn't you!
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