Film News: Tom Tykwer, Wachowskis Attend ‘Cloud Atlas’ at Chicago International Film Festival

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CHICAGO – On October 17th, the 48th Annual Chicago International Film Festival welcomed three of the most adventurous directors in modern cinema. The celebrated German auteur Tom Tykwer was joined on the red carpet by his co-directors, Chicago natives Andy and Lana Wachowski, prior to the 7pm screening of their hugely anticipated sci-fi spectacular, “Cloud Atlas.”

Based on the acclaimed novel by David Mitchell, the film intertwines parallel tales that unfold in separate times and places, while juxtaposing them a la Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Magnolia.” As the past impacts the present and the future in striking and unexpected ways, the filmmakers paint a thrilling portrait of small yet pivotal moments that lead to a seismic shift in human evolution. Liberated from their stereotypical screen personas, actors Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw and Hugh Grant deliver performances far outside their comfort zones.

Directors Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer at the Chicago premiere of Cloud Atlas.
Directors Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer at the Chicago premiere of Cloud Atlas.
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for

Newcity critic Ray Pride hosted a post-film Q&A with the directing trio, who spoke at length about their process of adaptation. Whereas Mitchell’s book broke each plot thread into standalone chapters, the film aimed to highlight connections within each story while allowing the various narrative arcs to progress simultaneously. Since the entire film was very much a group effort, the filmmaking team was quick to criticize the title card specifying which segments were directed by which directors. According to Tykwer, the card was merely a requirement ordered by the DGA. He later explained that he enjoys working in groups of three, since the third person often ends up intervening whenever a conflict erupts between the other two (it’s worth mentioning that the film’s score was composed by Tykwer, Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek).

Directors Andy and Lana Wachowski at the Chicago premiere of Cloud Atlas.
Directors Andy and Lana Wachowski at the Chicago premiere of Cloud Atlas.
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for

Lana noted some “Cloud Atlas”-type parallels between her and Tykwer, including the fact that they were both born in 1965. They also both had major successes in 1999, which was the year Tykwer released “Run Lola Run,” while the Wachowskis dominated the box office with their hit thriller, “The Matrix.” As with that film, Lana said that it was her and Andy’s intention to make “Cloud Atlas” appeal to two different audiences: those seeking a heady philosophical think piece and those seeking a mindlessly entertaining action-packed joyride. Asked whether the film’s themes regarding identity and the transcendence of boundaries held a special meaning and significance for her in light of her recent sex change, Lana delivered an extended, heartfelt answer that received applause from the audience, a large portion of which consisted of the Wachowski’s friends and family (including their parents).

The director reflected on how David Mitchell’s book left an impression on her, and how the book’s messages regarding the subversion of societal norms had a personal resonance. Lana admitted that she may have been the first person to suggest that the male actors in “Cloud Atlas” could play against their gender—perhaps the most memorable example is Hugo Weaving’s portrayal of a wicked female nurse (the audience greeted each of his appearances with giddy laughter). Transcending boundaries and redefining the norm has always been a goal of the Wachowskis throughout their career, as witnessed in their 1996 thriller, “Bound,” which Lana cited as a key example (the film starred Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon as a pair of lesbian cons). Thematically and tonally, “Cloud Atlas” also shares striking similarities with Tykwer’s 2010 film, “Three,” about a middle-aged couple who fall into a mutually beneficial relationship with an equally smitten man. Upon finishing the Q&A, the three filmmakers chatted with fans, posed for pictures and signed autographs before heading off to a post-screening reception.

’Cloud Atlas’ is set to open in theaters on October 26th. staff writer Matt Fagerholm

Staff Writer

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