[identity profile] cabaretlights.livejournal.com


All Boundaries Are Conventions
Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek & Reinhold Heil
Cloud Atlas Soundtrack
2012

: Crafting a movie from a book -- especially a post-modernist one -- is a tricky thing. Set aside the obvious issues like length, imagination, narrative structure -- will the characters seem the same? Will the themes shift off course? Will the core message be lost? Will the movie still feel the way the book did?
The answers are: No, yes, maybe, and probably not.

But for all my literary prostration: one thing a book doesn't have is a soundtrack.



Cloud Atlas will be, almost certainly, my last truly intense book experience of 2012. A book like that shreds your heart and nestles under your skin, somewhere close to your stomach, not because it's especially original or exceptionally brilliant (though it's undoubtedly smart and cool) but because you get so involved with it that it begins to feel like home. Like leaving it -- leaving the words and the characters behind, in all their flawed and heartbreaking and passionate, desperate glory -- is somehow wrong. I miss that book, having it with me, shifting between characters, lives, stories, trying to figure out their connections but somewhere, deep down, knowing that it's not really relevant -- that the experience itself is what matters with this one. And I so wanted, when I closed the book one last time, that experience to continue.

Nestled -- alone, with a scarf over my head to create a kind of blinder effect (some movies, you just have to see in private) -- in the back row of AMC on a Saturday afternoon, familiar characters flashed across the screen. Luisa Rey, driving to Swanneke B; Sonmi-451 waking up to yet another cycle of a day; Robert Frobisher scribbling compositions. I saw lines run through my head in Requiem font as they were spoken. I saw six stories I knew, some more changed than others, some boring and some powerful, and all structured differently -- pastiched together instead of (as David Mitchell calls his little pseudo-masterpiece) matryoshka dolls. Some characters spoke to me more than they had in the book -- when Rufus Sixsmith appeared onscreen in Luisa Rey's story, early on in the movie, tears sprang to my eyes instantly. To know where this was going, to be seeing these stories unfold and knowing their ultimate destinations -----

This particular song played later in the movie, as a character takes a stand against a racist, sexist 19th-century authority figure. "All boundaries are conventions," Jim Sturgess proclaims as this music begins to play, "waiting to be transcended -- if only one can conceive of doing so." Flashes of these characters I had come to feel so much for, in their various situations -- some more mundane than others -- pressed up against each other. With the overlay of wrenching dialogue, this beautiful composition, and these heartbreaking characters in their heartbreaking lives ---- hiding behind my scarf, the lump in my throat turned liquid. A movie experience, sometimes, is inimitable.

It can be hard for me to find a specific song after I've heard it only once, but there was no question about this one. This is the song I heard; this is the song that encapsulates Cloud Atlas in a 2 minute-39 second nutshell -- not just the movie, but the book. It is  gorgeous, transcending its own boundaries, a single piece but equally fitting for each story -- from the 19th century to the post-apocalyptic future. It builds and it ends, abruptly, shifting away from an expected conclusion, breaking another boundary and reflective of that visceral, twisting narrative. This song could break or mend a heart.

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