Six Stories in One: Cloud Atlas and Value of Art


Fia Cooper

“Truth is singular. It’s ‘versions’ are mistruths.” The movie reflects on how truth and beauty intertwine to create history.

Noemi Skovierova, Staff Reporter

A ship crossing the ocean in the 1800s, an elderly composer and young apprentice, a dysfunctional nuclear plant, a nursing home, a ruined Korean capital, and a post-apocalyptic island are what make up the six stories that weave and intertwine together to create the complicated and thought-provoking film that is 2012’s “Cloud Atlas.” 

Although the film made a mere $27 million, has earned a 66% on Rotten Tomatoes, and gathered hundreds of confused reviewers, the film itself illustrates the themes of art, beauty, and cause and effect in an exquisite and tasteful way. 

Based on the novel of the same name, the film follows the journey of the cast of 10 main characters, who all play different parts in the various timelines. The viewer has a chance to internalize the conflict between good and evil, and how it affects everyone in a different way, depending on their surroundings. 

During each storyline, the different protagonists and antagonists not only have to battle with each other, but also have to consciously cross the line between good and evil that lives in every human, which is demonstrated flawlessly in the film. 

The idea that unlimited power in the hands of limited people always leads to cruelty is something that is portrayed very well in the story, as shown by each character fighting for what they believe is right, or what they must do in order to survive. The characters crossing their lines of morality during the course of their story exemplifies the balance between good and evil that each human has within themselves, and how this balance can be disrupted depending on their environment. 

While watching the movie, the viewers will find themselves stunned as more and more connections between the plot lines come up, either subtle, such as the reading of a book written during a different story, or the characters and their lives directly overlapping and creating the fabric that becomes history. Although, each action seems to amount to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is an ocean, but a multitude of drops?

Novel writer David Mitchell writes the whole story as tales of six seemingly unconnected circumstances to enable the viewer to see how every action that the characters take in one timeline could affect their lives in another one; how the hurtful act of power toward someone in one time would later become the reason they are oppressed. 

This theme touches on the topic of free will and fate, due to the impact that each character had on each other’s lives. 

As the actors change character in every story, so do their background, opinions, and their moral compass on what is good and what is evil. With each character comes a new morality on the just thing to do — either shown as a man leaving his life as a wealthy businessman to become an abolitionist, or a journalist seeking the truth about a nuclear plant. 

The shift in moral compasses also illustrates how each time period and circumstances shape each person’s identity, which can also be shown through our own lives. 

Although the entire movie left many minds muddled with complicated twists and turns, the ending encourages a deeper comprehension of the effect of art on the populace, fate, and the amalgamation of everyone’s actions to create a singular historic timeline. 

Throughout the complicated storyline and character lineup, humanity is shown through the lens of connectivity and the beauty of such an intertwining. The fluidity of the transitions between each character’s story begins to become more apparent the more times the viewer watches the movie; with each new viewing come previously unknown details. 

Though intricate, long, and occasionally disorienting, “Cloud Atlas” is a complex film that enriches the viewer’s understanding of the world, each person’s place in their environment, and how art, beauty, and wisdom can change the world.