Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Case Study No. 1204: The Archivist (Cloud Atlas)

Archivist James D'Arcy
Archivist James D'Arcy from cloud atlas
Tags: James D'Arcy Archivist painting
Added: 1 year ago
From: jingjer
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The Archivist interrogates Sonmi-451 and records her statement on an "orison."

Archivist: On behalf of my Ministry and the future of Unanimity, I want to thank you for the final interview. Remember, this isn't an interrogation or trial. Your version of the truth is all that matters.
Sonmi-451: Truth is singular. Its "versions" are mistruths.

Archivist: [about Yoona taking Somni to the lost-and-found room] Why didn't you report Yoona-939 to Seer Rhee the next day?
Sonmi-451: I couldn't.
Archivist: Why?
Sonmi-451: Because she trusted me.
Archivist: But your actions violated the Fifth Catechism.
Sonmi-451: That's true.
Archivist: How did you justify this transgression?
Sonmi-451: She was my friend.

Archivist: The report said Commander Chang was killed in the assault.
Sonmi-451: That is correct.
Archivist: Would you say that you loved him?
Sonmi-451: Yes I do.
Archivist: Do you mean you are still in love with him?
Sonmi-451: I mean that I will always be.
Archivist: In your revelation you you spoke of the consequences of a individuals life rippling throughout eternity. Does this mean you believe in a afterlife? Of a heaven or hell?
Sonmi-451: I believe death is only a door, when it closes, another opens. If I care to imagine heaven. I would imagine a door opening. And behind it, I would find him there, waiting for me.
Guard: Thank you sir.
Archivist: If I may ask one last question. You had to know this union scheme was doomed to fail.
Sonmi-451: Yes.
Archivist: Then why did you agree to it?
Sonmi-451: This is what General Apis asked of me.
Archivist: What? To be executed?
Sonmi-451: If I had remained invisible, the truth would have stayed hidden. I couldn't allow that.
Archivist: And what if no one believes this truth?
Sonmi-451: Someone already does.



Who he plays: Ben Whishaw's lover in 1936 and recipient of his letters; an older version of his previous character Rufus Sixsmith, who gives Halle Berry damning evidence that his nuclear power plant is unsafe; an orderly at Jim Broadbent's nursing home in 2012; and finally, a patient Archivist in 2144 who interrogates clone Doona Bae.

His soul journey: A little muddled. He goes from being a passive listener to someone who takes a stand against a big wrong back to a passive listener of a tale of injustice.

Onscreen connections to other characters/story lines: The letters he receives from Ben Whishaw in 1936 are read by Halle Berry in 1973; Hugo Weaving's assassin shoots him in the mouth, which mirrors the suicide-by-gun death of his lover, Frobisher.



One nice thing about the film industry is the fact that, no matter how offensive any idea was the first time around, if you wait long enough, there's always someone willing to give it another shot. So imagine the delight around Yo, Is This Racist? headquarters this July when the trailer for Cloud Atlas dropped, featuring a bunch of characters played by actors in, let's call it, "racial makeup." That is, in this sprawling, postmodern collection of scenes jumping back and forth in time (roughly speaking, pirate ship times to rocket-ship times and more!), most of the principal actors reappear as multiple characters, often of different races. As a filmmaking technique, it was likely meant to evoke some kind of loose version of reincarnation that is one of the story's main themes, but in practice, it comes off more like the most expensively assembled improv troupe of all time. ("OK, now you're in ... postapocalyptic Hawaii!")

It should be said at this point that the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer's decision to use all of this race-bending makeup was clearly made with an awareness that this could be a sensitive issue. Thankfully, no one is made up in blackface, but there are no prizes for meeting the bottom-most rung of decency in Hollywood.

But did they do any better than not using blackface? Let's take a look at how they executed their potentially controversial tricks.

James D'Arcy as The Archivist
Transformation: White to Asian
What They Did: Slapped on an extremely odd eye prosthetic to give the character an exaggerated epicanthic fold and maybe fiddled with skin tone a little bit to make it more ... sallow.
Did It Even Work? Holy shit, no. The Archivist looks mostly like a white guy with something weird on his eyes. One odd thing that happened with this, and many of the other race-bending portrayals in Cloud Atlas, is that, in an effort to make the racial characteristics relatively subtle, they oddly concentrate on the exact same differences in appearance that have been the basis of racial stereotype since people learned how to hate. So, rather than address something like facial structure, or, god forbid, getting an Asian actor to play this role, they elect to concentrate on the most obvious and craven characteristics that they perceive in Asian people, their slanty eyes and their not-quite-white skin.
Verdict: Nope, kinda racist, you guys.

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