The embattled “Cloud Atlas,” which opened to polarized audience reaction and commercial nonexistence in the US in October, faces a new challenge in China. The centuries-spanning ensemble saga from directors Tom Tykwer and Andy & Lana Wachowski has been trimmed by almost 40 minutes from its original length by Chinese censors.
The version American and European audiences saw was 169 minutes, but the edit of “Cloud Atlas,” which featured popular Chinese actress Zhou Xun in a small but memorable role, that played in Beijing was reportedly a mere 130. The new cut was prepared without the directors' participation by co-producers Dreams of the Dragon Pictures.
The deleted material, according to a Shanghai publication, consisted mostly of exposition and “passionate love scenes,” specifically any hint of the affair, implicit in the novel on which the film was based, between Ben Whishaw and James D'Arcy's characters, as gay material is strictly forbidden by Chinese censors. One, more explicit, heterosexual coupling was cut as well.
Although Tykwer and the Wachowskis were not involved in the editing process, they told Chinese media that they understood the reason for the changes, made to conform to the specifications of the Chinese government's State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television.
“Cloud Atlas” is not the only recent film to face cuts for Chinese release. “Skyfall” recently bowed in China with some material removed from the portion of the film set there, though nowhere near the 40 minutes removed from “Cloud Atlas.”