I watched Cloud Atlas last night, and I can’t recommend it enough, it’s a fantastic film all about kindness and reincarnation and revolution. It’s about three hours long and you’ve gotta focus a bit but it’s wonderful. I’m rewatching it already.
“Cloud Atlas” is probably the most unusual book in this Inktober series, and it’s also the one I read most recently.
I’d never heard of it until I read about the film coming to cinemas in 2012, and the outset - a story spanning several centuries from 1850 to the ?24th century, with a nested plot of six protagonists that are connected by these stories (the 1850 journal is read by a young musician in 1930, whose music is heard by a reporter in the 1970, whose story is adapted into a novel and reaches a 2000s publisher, whose absurd escape from a senior home is made into a film that is watched by a dystopian future clone waitress, who rises to god status to a postapocalyptic society living on Hawaii). I was totally blown away by the idea alone, and read the book, avoiding the movie for several years.
Of those stories, which are told in very different forms and even very different narrative voices, that of Sonmi~451 touched me the most. She is a fabricant, a clone born to serve in a fast food restaurant that blurs the line between corporate culture and religion. Raised believing she isn’t human, her dispassionate nature never truly changes even as she realises that everything she once believed was a lie, and even when she is executed by the corporate state, she firmly believes that the truths she uncovered with survive, and inspire those who come after her.
The major themes of the entire book deeply resonated with me - from human nature and changing social structures to the futility of life, and paradoxically, the striving to make your life meaningful in the face of futility. (It helps that the nested structure lets the book finish with the hopeful young abolitionist in 1850, rather than with the old and disillusioned postapocalyptic survivor in the future facing the end of civilisation).
The movie, when I finally watched it, was a vast disappointment. In true Hollywood fashion, it plastered in the most cheesy happy ending imaginable, ruining everything for me. I have reread the book several times since, but completely avoid the film.
Introverted Intuition (Ni): After her ascension, Sonmi-451 constantly devours knowledge in order to build her own understanding and philosophy of the world. Her main belief stems from her understanding of freedom as a basic and fundamental right to humans and fabricants. It is very singular and this thought process makes her a revolutionary as it challenges the conventions of her society. Sonmi also very clearly demonstrates her magnificent understanding of the world — within a very short time frame — that she was able to deduce the rebel group, Union, was constructed by the Unanimity and using her as a figurehead to maintain their suppression of fabricants. Not only does she realize this, but she takes advantage of her position in order to voice her message in condemning the practices of the Corpocracy. Sonmi-451 admits that she played into the Unanimity scheme, but she did so willingly to propagate her Declaration and seed it into many people who have heard it. Her idea of what society should be is so singular and so willful that she knowingly sacrifices herself to make it a reality.
Extroverted Feeling (Fe): Sonmi demonstrates her extroverted feeling in an ambitious way. For most of her story, Sonmi-451 is placed in precarious situations, leading her to be untrusting, cautious, and closed off. Also, due to her short time after ascending from her fabricant origins, she has not had enough time to develop her Fe to directly affect people around her. She did form a close bond towards Yoona-939 and expressed sadness after her execution. Her feelings and consideration for the fabricant population as a whole is apparent throughout the story and the many events in which she witnesses abuse to fabricants. This culminates when she realizes the fate of all fabricants on Exultation, and her extroverted feeling for her kind push her to form a vision in which fabricants are free and can coexist with humans as equals.
Introverted Thinking (Ti): Sonmi-451 uses introverted thinking as a way to rationalize her world. It becomes the function she sues when she has to discern connections and relationships between fabricants and humans and helps her construct an ideology. She also uses this to understand her role in the world, by reconciling what she is versus what society thinks she is on an objective level, which helps her deconstruct the hypocritical treatment of fabricants. Introverted thinking becomes the supporting function for her Declaration as it outlines the many details and harms that fabricants suffer and rationalizes that their treatment unreasonable because it harms them. It also is how she creates a repository of knowledge and ideals, for her major functions to draw upon and use.
Extroverted Sensing (Se): Sonmi-451 before her ascendence shows extroverted sensing in spades. Every day was a routine that was the same for her working at Papa Song. She literally lived in the moment, with no ambitions, goals, or desire to change, especially because she did not know any better. After her ascendence, Sonmi-451’s extroverted sensing takes a back seat. She is aware of her environment and recounts her experiences in detail to the archivist, however this is only used as a way to collect data to support her central ideas and drive. There is also an instance in which Sonmi-451 indulges in what she calls “joyless sex” with Hae-Joo Im. She also enjoys the experience of watching a film, which engages this sensation, and her rewatching of “The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish” feed into our central ideas of freedom and subjugation.
“To be is to be perceived. And so to know thyself is only possible through the eyes of the other. The nature of our immortal lives is in the consequences of our words and deeds that go on apportioning themselves throughout all time. Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb we are bound to others past and present… and by each crime and every kindness we birth our future.”