Last weekend I watched Cloud Atlas. It was one of the most impressive movies I have ever seen. But it wasn’t the stunning scenes or special effects that amazed me (although they are deserving of an Oscar). Nor was it the varied and brilliant performances of the actors (also Oscar worthy.) No, what impressed me the most was that this challenging story got made into a film at all. I won’t summarize it, my skill is simply insufficient, but thinking about the story I keep asking myself, “How does one pitch such a complex idea?” (I still haven’t figured it out. I bet Tom Hanks just read the book and loved it.)
Recently most of the movies I’ve seen seem to send me the message “Just sit there and be entertained.” Cloud Atlas shouts “Don’t just sit there, follow me!” It challenges the viewer to follow characters into their world. It challenges us to listen and invest. Cloud Atlas delivers messages on race, gender and shared reality with such depth and using such great imagery that I will be talking about it for years. It makes me really think about divisions between people and cultures. It opened a mind that I thought was already pretty open.
I want to take a film appreciation course on this movie just to hear how it effected others and the things that I missed while I was busy investing in the story. I anticipate many enjoyable hours re-watching and thinking about the movie, seeking out images and themes. I totally can’t wait for the DVD release.
NB. This review is a total spoiler for the movie, but I enjoyed watching it after watching the move. If you’re tempted to watch it early, don’t do it!
Symbols used correctly can guide a reader consciously and unconsciously. They connect people events and ideas in your world. In my novel I use pools of liquid, connected to threat and risk, to keep the reader reminded of threat. They also help the reader look back, at a very critical point in the novel, and recall other moments of threat and loss. I also use buttons in a similar way, to get the readers thinking about connections between people.
Think of a piece you are writing and identify the theme. Then try to think of a ‘thing’ that could represent that theme. You may want to try a mindmap to get you started. Once you have your physical item, brainstorm ways you could incorporate that into a scene where you want to reinforce your theme. Spend ten minutes brainstorming, then another ten minutes finding places to incorporate the image into your work. You may even find examples already in your text. Happy writing.
NB Button Example – Buttons = connections between people. A button undone on a shirt or fly. Putting on a necklace with a loop and button clasp. Seeing a sewing box. Dressing. A child playing with a button on a string. A stretched shirt revealing bosom.