Cloud Atlas is a novel that was turned into a movie by the Wachowski brothers (Matrix) with the help of another director and independent funding, including a contribution from the German government. It was all shot in Germany.
I have not read the novel. I saw the movie on the evening of Saturday December 1st in Portland. I then read the Wikipedia article on it.
The book, I get the impression, was divided up into six stories, starting with one set in the 1800s. In the movie, an “ensemble” of actors play various roles in different stories, and the stories are intermixed. You get the impression that various characters in different times and places are actually the same spiritual being, because those characters are played by the same actor. I don’t know how this is handled in the book.
The stories start in the 1800s with a tale involving a sailing trip. We see a young man concluding a business agreement with someone in a tropical country. As they tour the plantation, the young man witnesses a whipping and faints. He is then put under the charge of a doctor who decides to slowly poison him and blame it on a tropical disease, in order to get his hands on the young man’s valuables. Meanwhile, the slave who was whipped has stowed away in the young man’s cabin, and appears – asking for his help to prove himself capable of been a free man. The young man agrees and the slave wins his freedom. At the end of the voyage, the ex-slave discovers the doctor’s plot and kills the doctor. The young man survives, reunites with his young wife, who he had been corresponding with during his voyage, and they renounce her father, who does business with slave owners, and leave to become abolitionists.
The next story, a tad unrelated to the first, is set in the early 1900s. It involves an aspiring musician who has a taste for sex with his own gender. This musician succeeds in gaining access to a failed composer and ghost-writing several pieces for him, which brings him back to fame. He then writes his own piece, which he calls the “Cloud Atlas Sextet,” and determines to promote it on his own – regardless of his agreement with the composer. When the composer tries to stop him from doing this, the musician shoots him (but doesn’t kill him) and then must hide out from the law until he finishes his piece. He then kills himself, leaving the publishing of the work to his male lover.
Following this story we have one set in the 1970s. A young woman investigative journalist runs across a plot to allow a nuclear reactor to blow up, giving nuclear power a bad name. It seems to be funded by oil interests. Everyone who helps her loses their lives. She is helped by a security officer for the nuclear power company who knew her father. They are pursued by a professional assassin, but with the help of a Latino lady he is killed.
The next story takes place in more or less the present time. A failing book publisher runs into financial luck when one of his authors notoriously kills a book critic at a party. The publisher is now pursued by thugs sent by a creditor, and goes to his brother to ask for help. His brother, in the guise of helping him, gets him locked up in a high-security old folks home. He then plans and carries out an escape with three others who also value their freedom. Their pursuers get beaten up by a bunch of soccer fans in a pub where they go to celebrate their escape. In a somewhat separate story line, we see this publisher writing about this whole adventure. He is writing what seems to be a screenplay for a movie. In this story he redeems himself in the eyes of the lover of his youth, and they reunite to live happily.
The next story happens approximately 100 years forward from the last. It is set in Korea (Seoul) and depicts an automated civilization in which bodies are manufactured and killed (then recycled into food and more bodies) at the whim of the controlling group. The slave masters seem to have won with finality. But they rule over a decaying and war-torn world, and the urge to be free has not died. One slave asserts her independence one day and is killed by her handlers in public. Another slave, seeing this, feels the need to escape. She is assisted in this by a member of the resistance movement who shows her how the system really works (the recycling of dead bodies). She agrees to broadcast an announcement for the resistance over a hacked communication channel, and thus wins public fame. She is then captured and killed, after being interrogated by an “archivist.”
The final story is set in a post-apocalyptic land where peaceful people try to protect themselves from cannibalistic marauders who ride horses. An ET, stranded on earth with a small crew, persuades one of the peaceful ones to assist her to locate an old communications station located on top of a mountain. The station, it turns out, is called Cloud Atlas. They finally locate the station and contact her planet, which then sends out a rescue ship. But meanwhile the man’s village has been attacked by the cannibals, and all killed save one little girl who successfully hid herself. With the help of the ET woman, the man and girl escape. Through this whole story, the man is plagued by a “ghost” in a top hat which tries to get him to do the wrong thing instead of the right thing. But the ET’s love and determination to survive is stronger than the ghost, and the man’s evil intentions are finally overcome.
The cast of characters is lead by Tom Hanks, who plays the evil doctor in the first story and the man who helps the ET in the last story. In between he plays several other characters who struggle with their moral choices, including the criminal who kills the book critic.
Another main character is the ET woman played by Halle Berry. She also plays the young abolitionist in the first story, a daughter of the composer in the second story, and the reporter in the third story. This being, then, remains pure throughout the entire piece.
Hugo Weaving, of Matrix fame (Agent Smith), plays a string of bad guys, including the 1970’s hired assassin. He seems to be a being thoroughly caught up in the various games of power and unwilling or unable to free himself.
An oriental actress Doona Bae plays the girl who marries the young man in the first story, the Latino woman, and the slave girl in New Seoul. She is a parallel to the Halle Berry character in many ways, but more caught up in the system.
Another set of important characters are those played by the black actors Keith David and David Gyasi. These include the slave in the first story, the man who helped the reporter in the third story, and one of the ETs in the last story. Here are competent beings who have principles and are willing to live by them.
Hugh Grant also plays many roles, usually someone “successful” but with compromised principles. He plays these roles strongly, and I had difficulty knowing what to think about these characters. They achieve a kind of “freedom” for themselves by playing within the system, but they don’t seem happy; they know they have betrayed their own integrity.
My Scientologist friends told me “you have to see Cloud Atlas – it’s about past lives!” Well, it is, kind of. But I would not describe it that way. I think it uses the idea of past lives as a way to explain the continuity of human experience over extended periods of time. And this is a very valid explanation. But the film does not dwell on it.
What the film does dwell on is the continued and persistent arrogance of the “dominant” race on earth (oddly, the only race with recessive genes for skin color) to maintain power through any convenient myth that they can appropriate, but particularly the genetics myth, and what has become known as “social Darwinism.” This manifests as a teaching that society is the way it is because it was meant to be that way.
In opposition to this is the shared urge towards freedom of all people. This urge is not handled carefully or finely in this film, but rather coarsely. It deserves more contemplation than this movie gave it, yet I suppose we should be grateful that it appeared as a theme at all.
A dominant, but to me unwanted, theme in this movie was the topic of sexual confusion. We had the gay composer, his lover who played a woman in another story, and various other crossed-sex roles, such as Susan Sarandon playing a technologist in New Seoul. It is not that this topic is unworthy, but that it was used in this film as a way to make the story line even more confusing than it already was. It is quite true that the fact of past lives can indeed cause gender confusion in people. But that connection was not dealt with in this story.
The urge towards freedom did not win out in these stories; the urge to find a mate and reproduce did. And that, again, is genetics.
Genetics is also very involved in the various New Age teachings, and in most of the “channeled” material being presented to us.
They want us to focus on the “problem” of genetics, which I believe is a manufactured problem. Like the “problem” of Mid-East terrorists, or “global warming”. These problems have been manufactured by the power structure to keep us attached to their game. All these subjects ARE problems – for THEM! It is their genetics that are failing, their lives and property being endangered by criminal elements, and their planet – which they think they own – being threatened by cosmic shifts that they have little or no control over.
But the big problem for the rest of us, I believe, is actually freedom. This whole power game being played on this planet by what are basically a collection of criminal groups has the rest of us all caught up in activities that we would rather have no part of – be free of. War, murder, robbery are not things that suit most of us. Yet on a planet ruled by criminals, these activities become commonplace.
Routes to freedom
So, what do we desire to be free of? First and foremost, we desire freedom from these criminals and their destructive games. And this reduces to freedom from the criminal mind (as played by the “ghost” in this movie). This is something that Scientology offers us. Any spiritual practice worth the name would offer something similar. And they all do. I have attached myself to Scientology because I think it is actually delivering real freedom to beings. Because of this, I think it deserves our support. Not our blind support, but our informed support.
At this time, many of us are not in a financial position to afford professional Scientology services. But most of us could afford to buy the books and study them, and even some of the lectures. Those who have done so at least have an idea of what the subject is, and what its technologies can and can’t do. I think it is worth doing. I know of no other spiritual subject that has advanced to the point of practical application, as Scientology has. There may be something in this subject that could assist you. You will never know if you don’t study it.
Do you want a future such as the one portrayed in Cloud Atlas? This year is only 2012. We still have time to change the course of events. There is much to learn about freedom, and if you desire it you owe it to yourself to learn more about it.