View Full Version : Cloud Atlas etc - David Mitchell

June 12th, 2009, 5:31 PM

So my first venture in here for anything other than snide remarks or slagging/randomly praising a film.

I'm gonna talk about BOOKS.

I got into reading a bit later than most, over the past year basically. One book that stood out for me was "Cloud Atlas" by David Mitchell, and I was wondering what people thought about it.

For me, it's a great example of modern literature: inventive, thought provoking, varied and most importantly, gripping.

6 interweaving stories in different styles, eras and contexts...blah blah blah.

Anyway, anyone else read it?

Alternatively, if you've read something else of his that you rate. Shoot. I'm on "Black Swan Green" at the moment, it's alright.

El Capitano Gatisto
June 12th, 2009, 5:38 PM
Big fan of all 3 books. Loved Cloud Atlas and Ghostwritten in particular, but Black Swan Green is a very good read too. The style of writing in the former two is almost hypnotic.

El Capitano Gatisto
June 12th, 2009, 5:38 PM
Number 9 Dream is quite a good book too. Not as good as the other 3 but worth reading.

June 12th, 2009, 5:42 PM
Number 9 Dream! That's the one I've been trying to remember (without looking around for it).

I'm getting into BSG but I think I was blown away by Cloud Atlas so much that it's been a bit of a let-down, a lot more generic and whatnot. It has had some great spells though and I'm slowly getting gripped by the conclusion.

Cloud Atlas was amazing though. Can't recommend it highly enough for others. Brilliant social commentary, excellent mix of genre. I could spout all day.

El Capitano Gatisto
June 12th, 2009, 5:58 PM
Have you read Ghostwritten? It is quite similar to Cloud Atlas in style and structure, it's superb. I might read them both again actually. Think Frobisher might even show up in Ghostwritten.

June 12th, 2009, 6:00 PM
The Sextet and its authors are mentioned in BSG, aye. Nice touch.

I haven't read Ghostwritten though, no. Will definitely have all of his stuff in line next though. I think I've found my second favourite author.

June 13th, 2009, 7:05 AM
What are his books about? I'm going to need something new to read soon.

El Capitano Gatisto
June 13th, 2009, 8:06 AM
About lots of things. Cloud Atlas is about 6 character throughout time, past, present and future who narrate their stories to you, with common threads linking the stories. Very inventive and interesting take on the future of civilisation too.

Similarly Ghostwritten is about 6 characters narrating their stories with certain links between those too. Both are beautifully written.

Black Swan Green is a bit more straightforward, about a kid living in 1980s England and dealing with bullies. Number9dream is set in Japan, about a young fellow who obsesses after a girl, gets in bad with the Yakuza and has a hidden tragic secret in his past. It's a good read but not as good as the other three.

June 13th, 2009, 9:12 AM
Just finished BSG and I really liked it in the end. I predicted that his dad was having an affair in the very first chapter but that didn't spoil it for me. I actually welled up in tears a couple of times near the end, some of it really struck a chord for me.

I'm getting old.

August 9th, 2009, 12:26 PM
So, I finished reading Cloud Atlas today. I did think that it was incredibly well-written and exceptionally inventive. The 6 different stories in the 6 different styles with a thin inter-link story-wise between them (albeit a large one thematically) was conceptually very clever. The way that the stories were weaved together was fascinating.

But with that said, with one exception I didnt find any of the stories hugely engaging. I loved that he was able to create such a different writing style for each and still put them together in a book that doesnt jar, creating all of the different worlds realistically and with an impressive depth, but only one of the individual stories was genuinely and incredibly strong enough to enthrall.

I'd rank them thusly, least favourite first:

Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After - Had some interesting elements, but grated quite a bit too. Didnt particularly care for the writing style and didnt much care for either of the two lead characters either. Shame that this was the longest passage of the book, cos it dragged quite a bit.

The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing - Certainly preferred the second half to the first, but again didnt have too much that held my interest. Again found the lead character to be a bit bland (this is undoubtedly a trait of the novel, of course deliberate) and the story a bit slow.

Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery - Interesting enough, but light. Yes its supposed to be like airport fiction, but I did enjoy it. Nice little bit of conspiracy to it, engaging characters, decent story.

The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish - Again, interesting story (although overdone already), decent characters, feels like it could've been better fleshed out.

Letters from Zedelghem - Genuinely interesting story and characters. Somewhat Nabokov/Dostoyevskian in style.

An Orison of Sonmi~451 - An absolutely enthralling and fascinating story, setting and characters.

I enjoyed it, I like Mitchell's writing style. But I was expecting a bit more.

February 10th, 2011, 6:02 PM
About lots of things. Cloud Atlas is about 6 character throughout time, past, present and future who narrate their stories to you, with common threads linking the stories. Very inventive and interesting take on the future of civilisation too.

Similarly Ghostwritten is about 6 characters narrating their stories with certain links between those too. Both are beautifully written.

Black Swan Green is a bit more straightforward, about a kid living in 1980s England and dealing with bullies. Number9dream is set in Japan, about a young fellow who obsesses after a girl, gets in bad with the Yakuza and has a hidden tragic secret in his past. It's a good read but not as good as the other three.

Finished Black Swan Green the other day. Rather enjoyed it. Would've liked for it to have gone on for another couple of hundred pages to be honest.

February 10th, 2011, 6:06 PM
I've forgotten a lot of the details of that book now. Did you see the spoiler in my above post coming or not?

February 10th, 2011, 6:10 PM
Not that early, no.

February 11th, 2011, 4:50 AM
Im still ploughing through the autumns of Jacob De Zoet. Need to get myself sat down and actually try and get into it as ive been doing 15-30 minutes here and there

El Capitano Gatisto
February 11th, 2011, 2:37 PM
I got about halfway through last summer then I left it in a bag in a pub when I was steaming drunk. Got it bought for me again for Christmas and haven't started again, I think I'll wait awhile then start reading it from scratch again.

February 11th, 2011, 2:45 PM
I recently read Number9Dream.

My friend said it was her favourite of his, so I was looking forward to it.

As it turned out I was a bit underwhelmed if I'm honest, but probably partly due to the high expectations I had. Overall it was all a bit too wacky for my liking. It seemed to have weird sections for the sake of it, and didn't really set scenes/atmospheres as well as his other books I thought.

That said it did have some very enjoyable chapters, and I still like his style. I think part of the problem may have also been in my rush to read books I often get into a habit of scanning and I probably do myself a disservice as a result. So it's probably a book I will go back to at some point.

February 13th, 2011, 8:06 PM
So this is being adapted for a film. Not sure when it's due out; IMDB says 2011 but half the cast are marked as rumoured and they don't appear to have begun shooting yet. Natalie Portman has said she has a part but not what or whether her pregnancy will affect that, but I doubt it'll actually be out in under 12 months. Do you folks who have read it think it will make for a good film?

February 14th, 2011, 2:13 AM
Who's adapting/directing it?

El Capitano Gatisto
February 14th, 2011, 5:09 AM
I can't really see how Cloud Atlas will be adapted. Not sure why it needs to be in that case.

February 14th, 2011, 5:57 AM
I wouldnt adapt it. All of the stories individually could be films, but none of them would be especially interesting. All of them together would just be a mess.

El Capitano Gatisto
February 14th, 2011, 7:06 AM
Mitchell's writing style factors pretty heavily on the enjoyment of the book as well, that would be completely lost from the film. I don't really get how it could be adapted at all.

I guess if Terence Malik directed a 9 hour adaption it might work.

February 14th, 2011, 7:23 AM
Not so confident about it from the guy who did Run Lola Run and the girl who used to be a guy who directed The Matrix then? The cast circling it is impressive, but the source material is tough.

El Capitano Gatisto
February 14th, 2011, 7:28 AM
No. I thought Run Lola Run was pretty poo to be honest (up there as one of the most overrated films ever). Same for The Matrix and most of Wachowski's other work. Neither fits the style I would expect from a Cloud Atlas adaption.

Something beautifully shot, low-key and contemplative is what I would expect.

February 14th, 2011, 7:30 AM
Alfonso Cuaron could do a rather lovely job I'd suggest. Or Joe Wright for that.

Cant see why either of the Wachowski brothers would be circling this. It seems completely out of their comfort zone.

El Capitano Gatisto
February 14th, 2011, 7:40 AM
Alfonso Cuaron might be a good shout. Joe Wright is a bit literary for me, I think for Cloud Atlas you need someone who could take the tone of the book and reproduce something poetic on the screen. I think Terence Malick is about the only person I could see doing it and me being really excited about. I'm thinking of The Thin Red Line and The New World, that sort of vibe, where a character semi-narrating the story with their own abstract thoughts fits in nicely with the beautiful images on the screen.

October 28th, 2012, 9:21 AM
So, the film's out. I thought this would have been bumped already with people rushing off to see it. I liked it, but felt it had fairly significant problems, not least of which was weird audio mixing that made half the dialogue impossible to understand, even if it wasn't deliberately overly stylised speech from the future. The only segment where I could hear every character speak clearly was the 1970s part. Anyway, it was good, it was epic, it had some beautiful vistas and some awful make-up, but I felt the core of it was kind of missing. I haven't read the book yet but (minor thematic spoilers)...

The whole point the film seemed to be making, which it essentially had to telegraph by having a character outright say it, was that your actions are always going to have significant and unintended consequences and you should keep that in mind before acting. Presumably the act of a man helping a slave has echoed through time, like all sorts of other acts, to shape the world and the acts of the future, but I never felt there was a real thread connecting the time periods together. There's the journal, but it only really seems to be kept in mind one time-line over. Beyond that, the whole thing seemed very fragmented, and not being able to make out what half the cast was saying didn't help.

El Capitano Gatisto
October 28th, 2012, 3:56 PM
For me the theme of the book is quite clearly, broadly, a damning indictment of humanity's dominant cultures, of rapaciousness, greed and unfettered capitalism. It is about people who feed off other people like parasites and try to crush anyone who subverts this. It's about the homogenisation of culture, spanning human ages and coming to its inevitable consequences in the future, where we see humanity come full circle. It's also concerning those people who try to fight against this and who sacrifice themselves for the good of others despite the inevitable march of progress. Of course this theme massively appeals to me and I think the story is a beautiful, subtle way of condemning our society, by the same turn I can see this film (if it's true to the book) being very problematic for conservatives and people of a right-wing disposition.

October 28th, 2012, 7:29 PM
That theme appeals to me as well, but it seems like it was drowned out in the film by more broad platitudes about karma and human connection. Only one of the six timelines really dealt with issues like greed and capitalism, mostly with snide remarks referring to the consumers. I think you're going to be disappointed with the film, unfortunately, if you're looking forward to seeing these ideas portrayed on the screen. I'd be surprised if the film itself is difficult for conservatives because it's far too subtle for them, and shies away from a significant indictment beyond...

Eating slaves is bad, m'kay.

One of the six timelines is basically an episode of Last of the Summer Wine and barely contributed a thing. The whole thing just felt very unfocused and if it was meant to portray the story you're talking about, I really feel they missed the boat in trying to get across the essence of the book here, but I may be missing something myself, particularly as the dialogue was so messed up for a good portion of the film. Without knowing exactly how detailed the book is, I think a major issue with the film is that it misses so many details that audiences may well feel alienated and baffled half the time. There are all sorts of things going on that are never explained, and there are a handful of stabs at cartoon capitalism that are never really given time to have real impact or nuance.

November 28th, 2012, 10:13 AM
Watching this now. Bloody love my job.

November 29th, 2012, 11:44 AM
Bloody loved it lads.

It's a bit cutesy but I thought it was really good. The various threads are too cliched, hackneyed, or catroony to make it an excellent whole, but it was rather touching and lovely.

Hanks is all over the shop, he clearly saw this as a potential Oscar winner for him, but his performances for the most part (apart from the FUTURE SHIT one) go against the grain a bit.

Anyway, I enjoyed it. That's that.

November 29th, 2012, 3:38 PM
Wish I'd gotten to see it. Its not out until fucking February.

Simmo Fortyone
December 23rd, 2012, 8:52 PM
Stumbled across the trailer for this. Looks fucking epic, but trailers have lied to me in the past.

Should I read the book before watching, or will that make me scoff at the film adaptation?

March 3rd, 2013, 6:16 PM
Saw it, would recommend that everyone else go to see it at the cinema before it goes too.

March 7th, 2013, 8:28 AM
Days later and the themes of this movie are still rattling around in my head.

Go and see it.

March 7th, 2013, 9:07 AM
See it being one of those films that has a renaissance years after its release? I've read a lot of very average reviews.

It's always been on my list to check out, but will certainly knock it up a few places on your recommendation.

March 7th, 2013, 9:33 AM
It looks like a movie that a stoned teenager would think is deep.

Tom Hanks looks great in black face, though.

March 7th, 2013, 12:00 PM
Nah, it actually IS deep.

March 7th, 2013, 4:47 PM
Well, no doubt the book certainly is.

July 12th, 2013, 10:34 AM
Was there just me and Alf that ever got to see this? Its out on Blu Ray now and it is definitely worth a watch.

El Capitano Gatisto
July 13th, 2013, 2:02 PM
I don't really want to see it. The concept of using the same actors for different characters has really put me off, it suggests they got the wrong end of the stick with the story in my opinion. It was worth a try to film the novel I suppose.

It was available on the plane on my flight over to Canada but I avoided it in case it annoyed me.

July 14th, 2013, 6:46 AM
I had the same misgivings at first, I think that they were trying to simplify the concept to make it easier for an audience to understand. But I think that it works quite effectively and stays true to the spirit of the novel. I was really surprisingly impressed with it, you should give it a try.

February 21st, 2014, 7:30 PM
Have you watched this yet Gatisto you bastard?

February 21st, 2014, 7:39 PM
I just finished Cloud Atlas the book last week. I loved it. I'll definitely be looking into more of Mitchell's works.

February 21st, 2014, 7:48 PM
Number 9 Dream is quite a good book too. Not as good as the other 3 but worth reading.

Yeah I read this a few months ago. Didnt enjoy it as much as Cloud Atlas or Black Swan Green, but still thought that it was pretty interesting.

El Capitano Gatisto
February 22nd, 2014, 5:09 PM
Have you watched this yet Gatisto you bastard?

No. I don't know if I ever will, I love the book a whole lot and I don't know if the film-makers really "got it" with this story, going by what I have heard of the film.

February 22nd, 2014, 5:14 PM
I think that you should think of it as being an interpretation of the book rather than an adaptation. David Mitchell himself does not seem opposed to it. Its a lovely film on its own merits, even if it isnt the book as such. As an 'unfilmable book', which I do think it might well be, I dont think we could really expect a better effort than this is.

El Capitano Gatisto
February 22nd, 2014, 5:24 PM
I'd like to have seen a good TV production effort at it actually. TV has really caught up with film nowadays in regards to production values etc. and some stories suit either medium better. This may be one that TV could do perhaps.