Continuing on with the theme of ambitious movies similar to Cloud Atlas that have worked well, I’d like to draw your attention to a little-known film from Canada in the mid-90s which is well worth a look.
Francois Girard directed this film which tells the tale of a famous violin (think Stradivarius in all but name) which travels through many different hands and countries before it ends up on the auction block in Montreal. The film focuses on five of these stories, starting with its creation by a famous violin maker in Italy.
Then the violin moves into the hands of a young but ill-fated child virtuoso in Vienna, then to a rakish violin superstar in 19th century England, to China at the height of the cultural revolution, before finally making its way to Canada, where – get this – Samuel L Jackson is brought in as a violin expert. (Just goes to show how versatile the man really is.)
What was really great about these stories was that they were nicely linked by an opening scene of the violin-maker’s wife getting her fortune told on tarot cards by an old woman. We keep returning to this scene throughout the film, and lo and behold, it seems like the fate of the violin was predicted by the cards. It is a bit silly, but it provides a great connection to the stories.
But what was most impressive about this film was every story was in its own language with subtitles, thus making it a fairly universal film for everyone.
As a way of linking separate storylines, I’ve always loved this movie. The way it’s constructed is elegant (kind of like a red violin, really) and smooth. Cloud Atlas is dealing with a much bigger canvas and much bigger themes, but if the Wachowski / Tykwer trio can make it all as seamless as this film, it will definitely be worth a couple of viewings.