Cloud Atlas

Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a re-watch.

The Unparalleled: Cloud Atlas

As audiences return to The Matrix courtesy of cinematic visionary Lana Wachowski’s latest outing, now seems like a good time to once again highlight her most unusual, ambitious, and downright jaw-dropping work: the 2012 opus Cloud Atlas, co-directed Lana’s sister Lilly, as well as their frequent collaborator Tom Tykwer (director of Run Lola Run). It’s a movie experience unlike any other we’ve ever seen (and remember, we’ve seen a lot).

The format of Cloud Atlas makes it difficult to summarize. In the 1840s, an American doctor (Jim Sturgess) develops a relationship with an enslaved man (David Gyasi) and becomes an ardent abolitionist. In the 1930s, a gay composer (Ben Whishaw) pens a quintet as an ode to his boyfriend (James D’Arcy), only to have it stolen by another composer. In the 1970s, the composer’s lover helps an investigative reporter (Halle Berry) expose eco-terrorism. In the present, an aging author (Jim Broadbent) involuntarily committed to a nursing home plots his escape. In the distant future, an anti-totalitarian rebel (Sturgess, again) kidnaps a cloned fast-food worker (Doona Bae). In the even more distant future, a tribesman (Tom Hanks) guides a scientist (Berry, again) to an abandoned communication station in hopes of escaping a dying Earth.

Understanding the plot (or plots) of Cloud Atlas only begins to scratch the surface of this puzzling, spellbinding cinematic experience. In essence, the film tries to visualize how lives interconnect over time, and how love guides us back to one another from one life to the next. To love is to find true immortality: something disease, revolution, cataclysms and old age can’t ever defeat. Cloud Atlas argues that our minds–and indeed, our love–transcends time, race, gender and sexuality. The Wachowski’s manifest this rather abstract concept by using their cast in multiple roles: Halle Berry plays a Jewish woman. Hugo Weaving plays a woman. Korean actress Doona Bae plays a white woman. We are the points of light across space and time, no matter how we look from different perspectives. Our love connects those points into the tapestry of time.

Cloud Atlas makes the radical statement that love is love, and moreover, love will save us all in the end. It’s a film unlike any other ever made–one that explores the fluidity of sexuality and gender–and a thrilling cinematic experience. The Matrix may have put the Wachowskis on the map. Cloud Atlas proves their real brilliance.

Streams on Netflix, HBO Max, Amazon, YouTube & VUDU.

Note: This article contains portions of previous posts on Queerty.

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