It’s fairly well-known that China does not like when it’s being shown in a negative light, whether in news stories or in a more fictionalized capacity. If this story appeared on Chinese news site, that first sentence would probably be edited out, as would this one, to avoid confusion. Just this week, scenes were snipped out of Skyfall‘s Chinese release, including dialogue discussing Chinese intelligence being involved in torturing, as well as the death of a Chinese doorman. Now we can add Cloud Atlas to the list of films edited by the government before arriving in Chinese theaters.
The Chinese release of Cloud Atlas has had around 40 minutes of footage cut from the film’s January 31st release, in an effort to keep with the censorship regulations of the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television. While the film’s directors, Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski Starship, were not involved in the edits, they knew the differences in Chinese cinema and trusted the editing capabilities of Dreams of the Dragon, the film’s Chinese production company.
The company’s CEO, Qiu Huashun, said, “Chinese audiences might want to see more of a popcorn movie, and considerations for the Chinese market were made in the making of the Chinese version of the film.” Considering how expansive the storytelling universe of Cloud Atlas is, removing some of its parts would seem to work against that popcorn movie viewpoint. Though I’ve seemingly equated the words here, there is a big difference between “editing” a movie for aesthetic reasons and “censoring” it due to government sanctioning. What is art, anyway?
So what got cut? Exposition, gay sex, and straight sex, mostly. It’s believed that much of the lovey relationship between Ben Whishaw and James D’Arcy’s school-chum characters was removed, due to the taboo status of homosexual relationships in Chinese society. Boy, I wonder what that’s like. A Korean-set scene involving a human-replicant having sex with her foreman also got the axe. The problem here is that the replicant is played by Chinese actress Zhou Xun, and the foreman is played by the United States of America. Well, not really.
The rather violent scenes of gunshots and slit throats? They’re still in the movie untouched. I guess as long as nobody’s trying to stick anything into the bullet hole…