I was at Ajahn Brahm’s talk last Thursday night and he was speaking about Life Beyond Death. According to him, Buddhists believe in reincarnation because they are able to recall their past lives through meditation or hypnosis. These are well validated and proven. He described his own experience of being able to recall the earliest memory of being a baby of 2-3 weeks old as he is not allowed to described his past lives. The smell from his baby pram was so vivid. He also recalled a small blue teddy rattle that his mother used to play to him at a few months. In his speech, he also mentioned how we often come back to the same family and meet the same people, either to settle unfinished business or for the strong emotional ties between us.
Cloud Atlas is a movie about people connected in the past and future. To be frank, we sat through the first two hours of the movie, not knowing what was going on. The back and forth of stories between people living in the 18th centuries, the early 1930, 1960s, current, year 2144 and year 2321, was perplexing.
In 1846, a lawyer Ewing sent by his father-in-law from England to the US to secure slaves was saved by a stowaway slave when he was slowly being poisoned by a doctor friend who was after his riches.
In the 1936s, a talented gay musician Robert Frobisher is employed by a composer Vyvyan Ayrs to be a music amanuensis. He writes to his lover Sixsmith frequently describing his life and his love for Sixsmith. His discovers a half a book written by Ewing.
In 1960s, a young journalist Rey was contacted by Sixsmith to investigate a nuclear plant. She discovers Sixsmith’s murder and his pile of letters from his lover Frobisher. She found the record of the Cloud Atlas sextet by Frobisher in a record shop.
Year 2009, a publisher named Cavandish gets into trouble and is conned into a high security nursing home by his brother. He was given the manuscript of the book about Rey’s investigation.
Year 2144 in neo Seoul, a gnome clone named Somni works in a restaurant and is rescued by an ordinary man to save the world. She falls in love with him and subsequently helped change the world.
In 2321, the world is ending and tribes are killing off each other. Zachry is asked by Jocasta Ayrs to help go to a mountain in order to unlock devise to save her people. Somni, whom they had been praying to as a goddess has a message to help them escape.
And how are all these link? Whatever decisions that are made by the people in the early generations, whether good or bad, affects them when they are reborn into their new lives. How exactly I am not sure. They were looking for the truth but the movie was not clear about what the truth is.
Through all the confusion, the only clarity I got was when I succeeded in identifying the actors through their various disguises in the roles. I probably got the gist of the message, but forgive me if I got it wrong. For some of us exiting after the movie, they still did not get the story at all.
This movie is adapted from a book but if you prefer, perhaps the script is an easier read, thanks to this person who posted it.