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The Long View
"I think I have fallen in love with Luisa Rey. Is this possible? I just met her and yet I feel like something very important has happened to me." - Isaac Sachs, 1973

As the consequences of such choices play out through eternity, individual character arcs expand into the larger arcs that define a life.

"I start out as a native woman who has little power, then Jocasta, who is really a shell of a person, with no voice," says Berry. "Then there's Luisa Rey, who's struggling hard to find her voice and her strength. I have a moment in the Cavendish story as a mysterious party guest, and we don't know much about her other than her confident air, but in the next life I portray a doctor, Ovid, working on the right side of the moral balance, so that by the time we arrive at Meronym you see in her the culmination of this journey and why she's so strong."

Similarly, Keith David's characters run the gamut from slave to leader. And when Jim Sturgess appears as Ewing he makes his decisions instinctively as a man beginning to comprehend the meaning of justice, but those ideas are more precisely formed by the time that soul has evolved into the freedom fighter Chang, as "Cloud Atlas" acknowledges humanity's endless and universal yearning for self-determination.

"If all my roles were to have a theme, it would be about working within institutions they don't like and wish they could change," states James D'Arcy, whose characters include those employed by a corrupt power company, a horrible nursing home and a repressive government. "But my last incarnation is the Archivist, and even though he's technically part of the oppression he finally takes a stand, so there's hope for that soul."

Because of the way the filmmakers deconstructed the novel for the screen, Andy Wachowski says, "You see a moment where Autua is in danger of being shot as he hangs from the ship's rigging, and then a similar point where Sonmi is nearly killed while breaking out of prison. If you were to sandwich these moments on top of each other you see the similarities and the turning points."

"I lost count of the number of ways the directors made one scene fit with the next, a thousand miles or several centuries away," adds David Mitchell. "It may be a visual link, or a single word, or in the architecture, or an actor's face. But the effect is that of a single, ingenious mosaic, glinting across time." Offering another example where Chang fires a weapon at his pursuers during a chase with Sonmi above the Neo Seoul skyline, the author says, "The scene ends with a glass wall, cracking, and the next begins with a crack spreading across the windscreen of Luisa Rey's VW, as it plunges under the waters of San Francisco Bay."

Ricocheting through time also alters the concept of loss. When lovers are torn apart in one era, Tykwer notes, "We have the possibility of cutting to the same actors meeting again, bringing a happy ending to a moment that seemingly ended in heartbreak."

Meanwhile, running throughout the story is the idea of creative expression, and of leaving behind what Tykwer calls "a legacy, in the form of art that will then serve to influence someone else." The chronicle of Adam Ewing's 1849 sea voyage becomes a published journal that Frobisher reads in 1936. Frobisher's letters subsequently fall into the hands of Luisa Rey in 1973, and Luisa's story about the plot at the nuclear power plant then becomes the manuscript of a book, submitted to publisher Cavendish. Cavendish's modern-day adventure becomes the subject of a film that Sonmi watches in 2144, and Sonmi's declaration of freedom is repeated and remembered until, even in a society that has lost its books and technology, her catechism is revered by Zachry and his tribe into the 24th century.

Similarly, power and powerlessness recur as one of mankind's most persistent conflicts. Hanks' basest character, 1849's Dr. Goose, justifies his thievery and disregard for human life early on by declaring, "The weak are meat, the strong do eat," and, lifetimes later, his soul still grapples with that concept-as do others, from both sides of the equation.

But while some people never learn, others make huge strides, a joyful course perhaps most apparent in Hanks' full range of characterizations, from the vile Goose through to Zachry. Still, vestiges of the past remain.

"A moment arises where Zachry is forced into a situation where he can be violent again," Tykwer describes. "He has his knife at the throat of a Kona warrior, and Tom is such an amazing actor that you can see on his face those earlier characters overlaid in Zachry. It's the force of that old killer, Goose, somewhere deep in his genes. Although he's a different man now, Goose would not have hesitated."

In outlining this path for the Zachry soul, Lana says, "We were simultaneously drawn to this concept, which became one of the meta-narratives of the film: how a person can go from the worst of us to the best. All these people can remain in a narcissistic, exploitative, predaceous life, or they can change. So we wanted to start with a character that was a pure predator, Goose, and trace his progress upwards until he becomes potentially the comet hero."

Often that evolution is triggered by love, illustrated by the interlocking nature of Hanks' and Berry's roles. Lana continues, "When Luisa Rey meets Isaac Sachs at the power plant he's in the middle of his journey-not a bad guy, but still working for this evil organization. But he falls in love with her and that literally changes his direction."

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