Saturday, 13 April 2013

Truth is singular. Its versions are mistruths.

The above words are spoken by the character Sonmi-451, played by Bae Doo-na (a.k.a. Doona Bae), in the film Cloud Atlas which I went to see at the Odeon on Lothian Road last night (after another excellent meal at
El Quijote).  I have to say I find those words a challenge to those of us whose hobby it is to write versions of the truth.  What, for example, should I do if I want to use a photograph to illustrate something I write and the scene depicted could be taken as the inspiration for the for the piece, but wasn't?  Am I being dishonest?  At the very least, it will make me try to remember to tag posts "fiction" and "non-fiction" where there might be any doubt.

Cloud Atlas is directed by Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis, best known for, respectively: Run Lola Run and: The Matrix trilogy, so I suppose I should have been forewarned, but, not having read the book - or much about the film - initially I found the structure puzzling.

All soon became apparent however, and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the film.  Okay, it wasn't the greatest thing I've ever seen, but I'm still surprised we didn't see more of it during the awards season.

I didn't think there were any weaknesses amongst the ensemble cast, with Tom Hanks and Halle Berry especially showing why they are paid the big bucks.  The stand-out performance for me though was that of Jim Broadbent; from Percy the Park Keeper, through WS Gilbert, Harold Zidler, and John Bayley, to his multiple roles in Cloud Atlas, he is always such good value!

As well as spotting the Edinburgh locations (such as the Scott Monument - a.k.a. Thunderbird 3 - pictured above), it was amusing to see the Clackmannanshire Bridge featuring as the Swannekke Bridge, and the mean streets of Glasgow standing in for the mean streets of Buenas Yerbas.  It was also interesting to see the Serra de Tramuntana doubling for Big I' and Port de Sóller transformed into 19th century San Francisco.  More versions of the truth: such is the magic of film.

Regular readers will know that I like to pair everything I write with something I would like to recommend to others, so, as you ponder the words of Sonmi-451, it might interest you to read a 1966 poem by Alastair Reid called: Where Truth Lies.

This poem is reflective of Reid's long interest in what is true, what isn't true, and whether there is a larger truth, and it is eerily prescient: in 1984, Reid was accused, in an article in The Wall Street Journal, of fabricating many details of his reporting from Spain for The New Yorker, including inventing places and ascribing statements to composite characters.

Whilst Reid freely admits seeking to portray a larger truth by ascribing composite statements to real people, he also maintains that the village in Spain which he described living in for part of each year, was, like the people he wrote about, real; so, were the claims in The Wall Street Journal themselves also versions of the truth?

If you are interested in hearing about it from Reid himself, here is a recording of him talking to Richard Heffner on Open Mind in 1985 (there is also a transcript).

Where Truth Lies is from Inside Out: Selected Poetry and Translations (Polygon, 2008)

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Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.