Reincarnation is hard

Cloud Atlas 
directed by the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer

Having suffered through two movies that deal with the subject of reincarnation ( “Cloud Atlas” directly, “The Master” through one of its characters) I can’t restrain myself any longer. The hubris of some storytellers!

If there is something complex and mysterious going on in our world most of us flatten and vulgarize it by subscribing to a reductionist, comic view of the migration of consciousness. The reductionist reincarnation theory (a soul gets plopped into a body after body) becomes particularly ridiculous when portrayed in a film like “Cloud Atlas”.

Due to the limitations of the film medium the concept of the migration has to be illustrated either by the same actor playing various host-bodies or by displaying telling, particular mannerisms with different actors playing the same soul. While the latter seems more sophisticated, the former is just painful to watch, regardless of the quality of acting.

The meaning of life, universe and it all most of the time kicks hard in their butts those who dare to uncover it on film. Even very good filmmakers like Terrence Malick (“The Three of Life”) or Darren Aranofsky (“The Fountain”) got strong bruises from the encounters with the number 44. Both however have under their belts other films that I consider perfect.

The same goes for Paul Thomas Anderson who on my best films ever list has two (“Magnolia”, “There will be blood”.) Not so with “The Master”. Although PTA does not talk about reincarnation there and only uses it as a suspicious obsession of the titled hero I suspect that the mess that the film is in could be the revenge of the number 44.   The revenge of reincarnation called in vein, if you will.

Who does it right than?  For sure Kubrick in “2001”, Kieslowski in “Red” and perhaps in “Double life of Veronique”.

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