Cloud Atlas - epic film about karmic relationships and reincarnation spanning many lives
See the trailer of this promising new film made by the same directors as The Matrix which already had some Buddhist themes in it:
Cloud Atlas 'Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies ...' http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1371111/
An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution. It's a fantastic book. It tells six stories from six separate time-lines however, each story is mentioned in the story that follows it. Each story ends suddenly and then the author revisits each story to give us each it's closing.
http://cloudatlas.warnerbros.com http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/filmblog/2012/jul/27/cloudatlasnextinception http://www.youtube.com/user/cloudatlasmovie
Mitchell having expressed an interest in Buddhism, and having stated that the protagonists of Cloud Atlas were intended to be the same soul reincarnated, as signified by 'the motif of the cometshaped birthmark'. Mitchell has said of the book: "All of the [leading] characters are reincarnations of the same soul ... identified by a birthmark. ... The "cloud" refers to the ever-changing manifestations of the "atlas", which is the fixed human nature. ... The book's theme is predacity ... individuals prey on individuals, groups on groups, nations on nations." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_Atlas_(novel)
On its simplest level, Cloud Atlas is a set of six sharply contrasting stories, each one capable of standing alone as a complete tale, but only revealing its full resonance when viewed in the context of the total work. ... Yet the concept of a “cloud atlas” appears elsewhere—for example, as a symbolic representation of the transmigration of souls —or in a rare recording of Frobisher’s composition that figures as a plot elements in a separate story. The multivalent meaning of this one element is an example of the many prefigurings and reverberations that give depth and suchness to this ambitious novel.
As a result, the linkages between the six narratives are difficult, perhaps impossible, to summarize. But let me propose a (Philip K.) Dicksian way of approaching this interconnectivity. Imagine that the defining stories of our lives are not rooted in reality, as many critics assume, but in other stories. ... On top of this intriguing structure, Mitchell superimposes echoes of Nietzsche’s theory of eternal recurrence. You may recall that this odd and seemingly implausible philosophical concept proposes a universe that does not advance chronologically, but merely repeats itself, over and over again. This cyclical concept of history does not presuppose any theistic doctrines, but can be made congruent with a belief in reincarnation. Mitchell clearly draws on this metaphysical angle, and sets in motion story elements that imply that the characters in his six tales may be reincarnations of each other. Of course, none of this is presented in the blunt, point bypoint way that I have just outlined it. Mitchell works his changes subtly, and even at his most philosophical, he “clouds” his points in a fog of ambiguity. He is, after all, a storyteller and not a theoretician, and the narrative is never dislodged by the higher order meanings. They merely float above the action. http://www.conceptualfiction.com/cloud_atlas.html
What you can see when a reader is looking ahead like this is the appetite for a narrative structure: a plan. What the reader gets in Cloud Atlas are intimations of some large scheme of things. From cometshaped birthmarks that distinguish characters in the different stories, to accidents of recurring names and dates, connections keep being sensed even more on a second reading. But do the connections belong to the narrative structure? By his own account, Mitchell's method involved immersing himself in the different narratives one at a time, even keeping them in different "folders". He then dovetailed them together at a late stage in the novel's composition. He is not the only novelist to have worked like this. Most famously, Franz Kafka's The Trial is a novel put together, after the novelist's death, from chapters or episodes that were composed discretely and whose sequence is not selfevident. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2005/apr/09/fiction.davidmitchell
Drops in the ocean: Buddhist reflections on David Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas” Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell, is a ripping good read with plenty of action and suspense. It’s also a cautionary tale of karma-vipāka (how our actions set up complex results, short- and long-term) and how failing to choose is itself a choice just as much as a conscious decision is. ... Though Cloud Atlas is not a Buddhist book, I found certain Dharmic themes reflected in the prose. The strongest of these is the Three Characteristics of Conditioned Existence (impermanence, nonsubstantiality and unsatisfactoriness), which seem woven throughout the narratives. Or maybe, like when I first fell in love with old Volvos, I just see them everywhere. In one brief scene, from a time maybe 200 years from now, a humanoid fabricant being, somni-451, is being shuttled from safe-house to safe-house, avoiding the corporate/government authorities. She is being hunted down as the (reluctant) figure-head in an emerging revolution of the have-nots against their ‘beloved masters’. She is taken to what had been, centuries before, a monastic complex with many temples and shrines somewhere in Korea, perhaps. Visible across the river gorge is a carved, serene, seated, cross-legged figure, the worse for wear and tear, in huge bas-relief. Somni-451 comes out just before dawn, and sees the elderly headwoman who is sitting, contemplating this figure. She is the abbess, who, as a young girl, had trained briefly as a nun and is the only survivor from the time of rehabilitation (or death) of those who practiced the old, now-banned, religions. She tells somni-451 about this Siddhartha and how he taught freedom from suffering. But she can’t really tell her the stories, because they have all been lost. Nonetheless, she abides, and helps those who come to this place seeking freedom. http://www.wildmind.org/blogs/bookreviews/dropsintheocean