A world of false profundity

I was entertained, but the movie isn’t nearly as good as its makers want you to believe.

David Mitchell’s novel Cloud Atlas, considered one of the greatest literary achievements of the last two decades by many critics, has been on my bedside table or very nearby since it came out in paperback in the United States in 2004.

I’m not sure why, but I never opened it. I meant to, I swear. I love long, weird books, and that’s Cloud Atlas: There are six narratives that take place in wildly different times and spaces – the journal of a 19th century shipwrecked notary, an investigative journalist in 1970s San Francisco, a post-apocalyptic future where a tribesman is visited by a member of the last technologically advanced society, among others – and they’re connected in weird and wonderful ways.

The connections are tactile when one character in one time is reading the letters of another in another time. But the connections are more importantly thematic and metaphysical. Cosmic even. In a long novel, these sort of connections can slowly, subtly get under your skin. That seems to be one of the reasons the fans of the novel Cloud Atlas are so intent, even evangelical about its excellence. Knowing that such an experience is waiting for me, I keep the book on my bedside table. And it’s also why I was disappointed with the film adaptation, a technically astonishing but falsely profound epic made by the people who brought you The Matrix and Run, Lola, Run. Continue…