Several years ago I was lucky enough to spend two very lazy weeks on the Caribbean island of Martinique. It was hot and sunny and the air smelled of rum. And bananas. The island is fringed by the kind of beaches you see only in Bond films: a thick stripe of white sand caressed by a tideless sea as blue as if painted by a child. In short, pretty bloody lovely.
The point of this story, aside from being a welcome distraction from the endless rain of our climate-changed winter, is the fact that I had the time to lie in a hammock (which I can heartily recommend as long as you never need to leave it in a hurry – don’t drink too much rum whilst wrapped in one for example) and read an entire novel in luxurious three or four hour sessions. Oh the joy. It had been many years since my undergraduate days in which entire afternoons could justifiably be spent reading (or sleeping, or drinking, or smoking or making love to exotic women – not that this ever happened) and I lost myself in the pages of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas.
And what a novel it is. “Epic” is an overused word – “Epic savings on sofas this Boxing Day“, “Epic range of buttons and thread available at Alan’s Haberdashery” – but when discussing the multi-threaded (a word that must be in my head for some reason) narrative of Cloud Atlas then “epic” is indeed appropriate. The time I invested was gloriously rewarded as Mitchell jumps in time and style whilst at no point making the linking device seem anything like a, er, device. Or worse, a “concept”; a word so damned hideous that I used it myself in a previous post.
Thank god the novel is so immense, its scope so broad, that no one would ever attempt to make it into a film.
Seems like someone has. And gosh, it looks suitably EPIC. The trailer is so epic it lasts about a day and THAT IS JUST THE TRAILER. My computer has just exploded when playing it because it is just so damn huge. Tom Hanks is in it. And he has a false nose. Ben Whishaw is in it and I like Ben Whishaw. And, oh shit, Hugh Grant is in it.
It is directed by the Wachowskis whose decision to build a multi-million dollar film trilogy around the acting talent of Keanu Reeves shows either a seer-like determination to see the truth lurking behind screes of small-minded misconception or that they just really really like Keanu Reeves. (Presumably they hadn’t seen his performance in Much Ado about Nothing). Either way, this pair do EPIC. They do EPIC really damn well.
Oh by the way, don’t think that the novel’s subtle exploration of human immutability has been diluted by its transfer to the screen. No, the trailer is reassuring in this respect, telling us only about sixty times that WE ARE ALL CONNECTED. And then printing this legend across the screen for all those who are watching youtube with no sound.
And Hugh Grant is in it.
Anyway, it might be great. It really might. I will definitely see it.
How did I get here? Ah yes, I was actually going to quote from David Mitchell’s follow-up to Cloud Atlas – the altogether less epic but equally impressive Black Swan Green. In it the young narrator writes poetry and has this to say about the creative act:
“If you show someone something you’ve written, you give them a sharpened stake, lie down in your coffin, and say, ‘When you’re ready’.”
As I contemplate an evening at my desk working on the screenplay for our forthcoming project these are words that rattle around my head. I am lying down. So give me your best shot. I can take it.