On October 8th, the London Film Festival opened at the Odeon Leicester Square Cinema in London. Many were not lucky enough to get their hands on Gala Screening tickets, rumoured to admit entry to an after show party with the cast and crew, which may explain the Willy Wonka Hunt for tickets. In light of this, the British Film Institute (BFI) therefore arranged Cine Screenings for the rest of the country. So it was then that I found myself in Cheltenham on a rainy day, tea in hand, anxiously waiting for the screening of the sleeper for this year’s Oscar season: The Imitation Game.
The film is officially out in theatres on November 14th, but the BFI seems keen to get it out to the public sooner than that, with further screenings being shown in London.
Now, what makes a good film? Firstly, you need to have a powerful story; a story that will keep your audience highly entertained – or possibly utterly disturbed. Secondly, you’ll be looking for good performers as the epitome for the message you are keen on delivering. The Imitation Game ticks both these boxes: Written by Graham Moore and based on credible source material from Andrew Hodges’ book on Alan Turing, this realistic storyline will have the audience’s attention for the entire journey of the film. As well as this, Benedict Cumberbatch, who has been nominated for numerous awards and was also the star of Sherlock, proudly took on the role of Turing’s character, describing Turing as ‘a man who has to be celebrated for his differences’.
It is Alan Turing’s biopic. A man who was, and still is quite a hero for the most of us. And if you haven’t heard of him until now, he will be a hero to you by the time you finish watching this film. It was him who broke Enigma, the unbreakable NAZI-Code; it was him who saved millions of lives and helped Britain win the war.; it was him who became the victim of his own country’s ridiculous regulations; and it was him who we now have to thank for our Laptops, Smartphones, Computers and other wonders of computer science. To say he was a genious mathematician would not do him justice.
Whilst being a biopic, Alan’s story has been dramatised to fit the conventions of modern filmmaking in Hollywood – The Imitation Game is a Weinstein production after all. There are side-plots that may not be entirely true to the reality of the 1930s and some parts could well be the spring of the writer’s imagination. However, Alan’s family, also present at the premiere, are convincted that the film does him justice.
So who was Alan then, what was he like?
Alan was known for desire to make something work with his own hands. From early school days, he was keen to explore any kind of science. He gained scholarships for his studies, attended King’s college and achieved a Doctorate at Princeton. Throughout his life, the formal logic of mathematics filled his mind, heart and soul. It was his favourite subject. His mother described him as an ‘odd duck’, which through the film you will see, is an accurate description of him. Alan enjoyed formal patterns and simply did not have the time to deal with people who could potentially slow his ideas down. Alan’s main curiosity was to find a machine that would think for you and would know what you wanted before you knew it yourself. This lead to the invention of the Turing Machine, and later the computer. Alan Turing was the pioneer of computer science. It is due to his ‘odd duck’ nature and dedication to science and maths that we have computers now.
The film focuses on Alan’s time at Bletchley Park, where he was employed by Her Majesty to break Enigma. It tells the story of Alan’s ground breaking idea that would surely break Enigma. Finding a suitable team to help him was a challenge – after all, he did not want anyone to slow him down. It channels into the friendship that blossoms between him and Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) who soon became an ancher in his life. But above all, The Imitation Game highlights the foolishness and injustice of the government. During his time at Bletchley Park, Turing underwent investigations that exposed him as a homosexual. At the time homosexuality was illegal and he was therefore faced with the choice of prison or a course of oestrogen injections, thought to ‘cure’ him. Out of these barbaric choices, he went with the latter; that way he could stay with his machine which he worked on until the moment of his last breath. He was found dead in 1954 at the age of 41. The official version is that he died from cyanide poisoning, but his death has an undertone of suicide.
A half eaten apple is said to have been found next to him.
Does that remind you of something?
Reflecting on his tragic story and the fact that Hollywood really did not have to add any drama, Alan might not like the idea of being famous. He just really liked riddles. And he might have been the biggest of them all.
By Jana Zacharias