Dear makers of Cloud Atlas,
Last weekend, my partner and I saw Cloud Atlas – well, most of it. We watched for about two hours and then couldn’t stomach the violence anymore. We chose to leave instead of finding out what happened at the end.
I would’ve walked out sooner, but I was intrigued by the interwoven plot lines and parallel characters. Fascinated by the fragmented, echoing narratives. And impressed by the story’s moral: the film tells us that our choices reverberate to create our past and future, and that our survival depends on living from a sense of oneness.
In some ways, Cloud Atlas is revolutionary. But it isn’t visionary. In spite of its attempt to convey interdependence and inspire compassion, it achieves the exact opposite because of its violence. The purity and beauty of the message are undercut by the hatred shown in scene after scene of graphic fighting and killing.
These times of violence, isolationism, and fear need media that embody an antidote – not a mirror. We need to realize what the character Sonmi 451 supposedly realized in this film: from womb to tomb, we not only rely on each other; we are each other. Sadly, the movie doesn’t let us feel her realization for ourselves or show us a path toward it. Instead, it batters us with the divisiveness and suffering we’re already steeped in.
To be a visionary filmmaker or artist in these times, to really bring home the concept of oneness, requires radical nonviolence. It requires resisting our collective addiction to fear. It calls for extreme integrity and a mind/heart that can imagine a world free of enemies.
Film has the power to ignite our collective imagination, to plant seeds of what we might become. It is a magical medium – its images become our dreams, and then our dreams become our reality. We’re drowning in films that horrifically reflect our suffering. We urgently need films that show us ways out of suffering, ways to heal, ways to nurture our budding understanding of oneness. When we understand our interconnectedness, we’ll do everything possible to cherish life and keep from hurting anyone.
I challenge the makers of Cloud Atlas – and all filmmakers and artists – to call forth your imagination and skill to create media that show humanity our highest potential. Devote your brilliance to showing us the harmlessness and love that blossom when we know we are each other.