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Characters / Cloud Atlas Letters From Zedelghem

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Letters From Zedelghem (1936)


Robert Frobisher
"At this point in my life all I know, Sixsmith, is that this world spins from the same unseen forces that twist our hearts."
Played By: Ben Whishaw

An English musician who seeks work at the home of a famed composer.

  • Adaptational Heroism: The film omits most of his Manipulative Bastard characteristics while highlighting those of Vyvyan's, effectively making Robert out to be more sympathetic.
  • Ate His Gun: His suicide.
  • Birthmark of Destiny: Shares the comet-shaped birthmark, on his lower back.
  • Bi the Way: More interested in men than women, he still won't turn down the company of one.
  • A Bloody Mess: Despite his attempts to avert this, it happens anyway when Sixsmith cradles his dead body.
  • Driven to Suicide: The film opens with him announcing his suicide, although the audience doesn't know whether or not he's serious about it.
  • Foregone Conclusion: In the film, it opens with him saying he'll kill himself. It's not apparent whether he actually will until he goes through with it, however.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Manipulative, grandiose, feels superior to everyone, classist, generally inconsiderate about people's feelings - but also somewhat sympathetic to the lower classes, loves his brother who was killed in the war, and was horrified and Mercy Killed a pheasant that was badly injured when the car he was in struck it. In the closing of his final letter he notes his efforts to not traumatize the people who will have to find and deal with his body.
  • Ladykiller in Love: (Although he is a man killer as well.) He genuinely loves Sixsmith and Eve, although her rejection of him is not the reason why he killed himself.
  • Loveable Rogue: He's very selfish and manipulative, but is genuinely charming.
  • May–December Romance: One-sided with Vyvyan. Played for laughs as well.
  • Starving Artist: Near-penniless after being disinherited. When the hotel manager demands a bribe, he has nothing to offer but a few coins and Sixsmith's waistcoat.
  • Title Drop: "I call it The Cloud Atlas Sextet."
  • The Un-Favourite: His parents preferred his brother who died in the war.
  • Waistcoat of Style: Its stylishness is continuously noted. It originally belonged to Sixsmith.


Rufus Sixsmith
Played By: James D'Arcy

Frobisher's lover, to whom he writes the letters that retell his story. He also appears much older in Luisa Rey's story, having become a respected nuclear physicist.

  • Ate His Gun: Like Frobisher, although his was a murder.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Courtesy of Bill Smoke.
  • Cool Old Guy: In Luisa's story.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold
  • He Knows Too Much: In "The First Luisa Rey Mystery", he is murdered for fear of his report on the plant getting out.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: In "The First Luisa Rey Mystery". Bill Smoke shoots him in his mouth and puts a gun in his hand to make it look like a suicide.
  • The Mourning After: It's implied that he never loved again after Frobisher.
  • Nice Guy: He cares very deeply for Frobisher and is very polite, kind, and trusting to Luisa.
  • Nice Hat: Lampshaded by Frobisher.
    Robert Frobisher: Didn't think the view could be anymore perfect, until I saw that beat-up trilby. Honestly, Sixsmith, as ridiculous as that thing makes you look, I don't believe I've ever seen anything more beautiful.
  • Straight Gay: Has no stereotypically camp mannerisms.
  • Together in Death: "I believe there is another world waiting for us, Sixsmith. And I'll be waiting for you there." In the book, Frobisher meets him again as Luisa, but in the film, Ben Whishaw and James D'Arcy only play characters who either never meet or aren't in one story together, so Frobisher and Sixsmith never meet again.


Vyvyan Ayrs
"Composing is a crusade. Sometimes you slay the dragon. Sometime it slays you."
Played By: Jim Broadbent

An elderly, famous composer.

  • Adaptational Villainy: The film Vyvyan is considerably nastier than his book counterpart, largely thanks to Robert's Adaptational Heroism. While in the book, Vyvyan can at least be nice from time to time (though not without his motives}, the film's version of Vyvyan never bothers to hide his Jerkass tendencies.
  • Big Bad: The villain of Robert's story. Granted, Robert himself is hardly a hero.
  • Broken Pedestal: For Robert, who initially reveres Vyvyan as a musical genius. This goes out the window when the latter turns out to be a cruel, manipulative man intent on taking credit for the former's work.
  • Evil Brit: He's a jerkass who attempts to steal Frobisher's work.
  • Evil Old Folks: He's also old and infirm.
  • Jerkass: Insults and hurts the feelings of his guest Frobisher multiple times and then tries to take credit for his sextet.
    • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: When he first hears Frobisher's composition, he's deeply moved, and there is a touching scene of them rejoicing in its beauty and you think the two will actually make a good partnership. He then indicates his intention to take full credit for the piece and blackmail Frobisher if he tries to protest.
  • Karma Houdini: Averted. Despite his treatment of Robert never becoming public knowledge, and the fact that he survives his bullet wound., Vyvyan remains a decrepit old man dying of illness. This is especially apparent in the novel, which describes how Vyvyan is being ravaged by his syphilis.
  • Malicious Slander: To Frobisher, after the latter quits.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Despite knowing all along that Frobisher had a scandalous background, he let him work for him anyway in order for Frobisher to come up with something brilliant that he could steal.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: His Jewish wife Jocasta clearly has a few more year left on the clock.
  • Stealing the Credit: Attempts this for Frobisher's Cloud Atlas sextet.
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me: Pulls this one on Frobisher. It doesn't work.


Jocasta Ayrs
Played By: Halle Berry

Ayrs' wife, who becomes Frobisher's lover during his stay.

  • Brownface: Played with. The African-American Halle Berry plays the Jewish Jocasta.
  • Informed Judaism: Her being Jewish only pops up once, during which Frobisher asks if Kesselring could have been in love with her (as he'd introduced Vyvyan and Jocasta).
  • May–December Romance: She's clearly much younger than Ayrs.
  • Meaningful Name: In Greek mythology, Jocasta was the wife of Laius and mother to Oedipus (Frobisher), who has an affair with her.
  • The One That Got Away: Implied to be this for Kesselring, due to her being a Jew and him being a Nazi.
  • Toplessness from the Back: In the film.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Certainly played as this, with Vyvyan appearing much older and her short appearances involve her being sensual and alluring.
  • Your Cheating Heart: She has an affair with Frobisher during his stay.


Tadeusz Kesselring
"At our time of life, Ayrs, a man has no right to such daring ideas.."
Played By: Hugo Weaving

A German who visits Ayrs to listen to one of his melodies. Apparently has a history with Jocasta.

    Hotel Manager 

The Hotel Manager
Played By: Tom Hanks

A sleazy, greedy hotel manager. Helps Sixsmith figure out that Frobisher is staying at his hotel by wearing the waistcoast he made Frobisher pay with.

  • Blackmail: He tells the police there's no one on the third floor so Frobisher (who is on the run) can work on his piece — but Frobisher has to pay up.
  • Greed: Frobisher has to bribe him in order to be finished with his sextet.
  • Jerkass: He's... not a very nice person.
  • Mustache Of Evil: Has one.

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