“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb we are bound to others. Past and Present. And by each crime and every kindness we birth our future.” Do you believe in karma? Do you believe in reincarnation? Personally, I am a firm believer of the fact that everything in this world of ours is connected in some way or the other, that this connection exists across lifetimes, that we’re all trapped in a circle: “The Circle of Life and Rebirth” and that our lives are indeed not our own. This idea of eternal recurrence is what drives the ambitious and enlightening film ‘Cloud Atlas’.
Directed by Tom Tywker, Lana Wachowski and Andy Wachowski and based on David Mitchell’s novel of the same name, ‘Cloud Atlas’ is a baffling adventure story lasting over six hundred years and covering six seemingly different yet intricately interconnected stories. A first watch of the film will leave your head spinning with queries and theories. For those of you who haven’t seen this masterpiece yet, watch it and then come read the rest. For those of you who have, read on and perhaps you’ll find the answer to your question.
THE SIX STORIES & THE CONNECTIONS
Evidently, ‘Cloud Atlas’ is a mixture of six intertwined personal stories taking place between 1849 and 2346. Each of the story is set in its own era, starting from the Pacific Islands in 1849 to the Post-Apocalyptic era in 2346. Despite each story having its own genre, setting and narrative, all of them, in one way or the other, focus on the eternal conflict between freedom and oppression. And all though the factual connections between them are rather clear after the first watch, there are things beyond facts which seamlessly link these threads to form “The Circle of Life”. Now let’s break down each of these threads chronologically and join all the dots together.
The Pacific Islands, 1849
We begin our journey with attorney Adam Ewing, who has come to the Pacific Islands to meet plantation owner, Reverend Horrox and notarize a contract between the owner and his father-in-law, Haskell Moore. In the scorching heat of the field, Ewing faints while witnessing the gruesome whipping of Autua, a slave working for Horrox. Dr. Henry Moose makes Adam believe that he’s sick from a Polynesian worm and that he shall aid him in getting rid of it. Little did Adam know that Dr. Moose was poisoning him and making him sick so that he could steal all his money.
On the boat, Adam again meets Autua, who had managed to sneak onto the boat. An unlikely friendship develops between the two. Ewing helps Autua to become a part of the ship crew. And had it not been for the stow-away, then the villainous doctor would have definitely succeeded in killing Ewing. Autua honored Ewing’s favor by saving his life and making sure that he reached back home safely. After his eye-opening journey across the Pacific, Ewing goes up to his overbearing and racist father-in-law and says “I owe my life to a self-freed slave”. With his wife, Tilda, by his side, he decides to become an abolitionist and help the oppressed.