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The Imitation Game

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I saw The Imitation Game yesterday. It's about (as anyone venturing into this thread probably knows) Alan Turing, the English mathematician who invented a machine which decoded the most significant German messages, thereby saving millions of lives and probably shortening World War II by a couple of years. And then -- in the early 1950s -- he was arrested for homosexual acts and ordered by the court to serve two years in prison or undergo "chemical castration." He chose the latter, under the strain of which he committed suicide (although later evidence questions that verdict).  

 

It's a tremendously sad, moving film, at times almost unbearably so. Benedict Cumberbatch is brilliant in the role of Alan Turing (I saw Derek Jacobi play Turing on stage many years ago, in the play Breaking the Code). There are problems with the film, which diminish the impact, though -- an exaggerated (platonic) relationship with a woman, portrayed by Keira Knightley, who is made up as a woman from the present. Her hairstyle and look just don't work for me. I wonder whether that character is the result of Harvey Weinstein's influence.

 

But in the end, when you realize that a national hero (or any other gay man for that matter) was treated that way, you almost wonder how they had the nerve to call it the "Land of Hope and Glory."

 

The cast -- apart from Ms. Knightley -- is great; the actor -- Alex Lawther -- who plays Turing as a boy is particularly good. I saw him in a gay-themed play in London a few months ago, and he was equally touching in that.  But Cumberbatch was brilliant.

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But in the end, when you realize that a national hero (or any other gay man for that matter) was treated that way, you almost wonder how they had the nerve to call it the "Land of Hope and Glory."

I'm reading this on the morning of the reenactment of the Selma march and I can't help thinking of Bayard Rustin. He was one of the chief organizers of the 1963 March on Washington but was ultimately denied the opportunity to be part of the public face of the Selma march because of a gay-related arrest 10+ years earlier. He never really got the credit he deserved and isn't as well remembered today as he deserves to be.

 

That's nothing compared to the "chemical castration" you mentioned; I can't bear to think what the specifics of that would be. I'm looking forward to seeing the film, but wasn't particularly surprised by what you've said about the exaggerated role of the woman. I'd wondered about that, seeing Keira Knightley so heavily featured in the publicity. There is still that idea in the back of filmmakers' minds that a story like this needs to be made "palatable" to the general public. Another thing I'm curious about now after reading your post is the idea of seeing Turing as a boy. Gayness in youth seems to be something which is particularly difficult to capture, though I'm assuming that the actor you mentioned is a young adult, not a child. I know I'm focusing on this one aspect of the man, his gayness, but I also look forward to finding out more about his accomplishments. Anyway, I've always been impressed by Benedict Cumberbatch and expect to be again.

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Alex Lawther, who plays the young Turing, is actually 20 but can play younger. The Brits generally capture schoolboy prep school "romances" pretty well -- nothing overt, though it is obvious. Turing's best friend was named "Christopher," a name which Turing later gave to his code-breaking invention.

 

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I finally saw this. It was interesting seeing it after the Call the Midwife episode, since the arrests and treatments were somewhat the same, though CTM was clearly a case of entrapment. Given what an odd duck Turing seems to have been, it would have been nice to see more of how he actually functioned as a gay man, since he was such a bust (at least initially) as a coworker and collaborator, but the movie didn't seem to want to go there. But, as you said, Benedict Cumberbatch was brilliant and the story is an important one.

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Haven't seen Codebreaker, although I would like to see it. Two good actors in it -- Ed Stoppard (son of Tom); and Henry Goodman, the best Shylock I've ever seen. I did see the play Breaking the Code (1987), starring Derek Jacobi and Michael Gough, many years ago. I remember liking it but not much else about it. 

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Haven't seen Codebreaker, although I would like to see it. Two good actors in it -- Ed Stoppard (son of Tom); and Henry Goodman, the best Shylock I've ever seen. I did see the play Breaking the Code (1987), starring Derek Jacobi and Michael Gough, many years ago. I remember liking it but not much else about it. 

PBS broadcast Breaking the Code, though it's gone the way of the rest of my VHS tapes. I don't have a good memory of it either.

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One of the other bad flavors that GAME left was the realization that two Soviet spies could use another chap's homosexuality to threaten him and his galfriend, forcing their breakup to possibly save her life.  "Spies" and murderous threats obviously weren't 'bad enough' compared to the fate of being a known homosexual. 

 

That's a most discomforting realization but this has been an oft-exploited point, we're told, in recent human history. 

 

Turing's engineering work was cited as the basis for England's great-leap-forward in engineering development for a while.  This was a contribution into the early '60s when the Integrated Chip and Electrical Engineering Departments took over in colleges. 

 

As Victor Spinetti once said, "We just can't good electronics over here!"

victorspinetti.jpg

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It's a powerful, tragic film.

I'll probably never get over it.

I was surprised by the depiction of Keira Knightley's character,  Alan Turing's fiancee.

She knew that he was a homosexual, but she didn't really care that much.

Because they were not ordinary people. 

If they had married, would Alan Turing have had a happier end?

Possibly, because she would have allowed him, I think, his other life, too.

The Enigma Team -

141125_MOV_THEIMITATIONGAME.jpg.CROP.pro

Graham Moore won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

benedict-cumberbatch-portrays-genius-sci

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Extraordinary people, like Oscar Wilde, Alan Turing and Luchino Viscounti, are rarely straight.

And, let's face it, besides being gay, many of them are bisexual, too.

 

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On 4/26/2015 at 2:46 PM, DougieB said:

I finally saw this. It was interesting seeing it after the Call the Midwife episode, since the arrests and treatments were somewhat the same, though CTM was clearly a case of entrapment. Given what an odd duck Turing seems to have been, it would have been nice to see more of how he actually functioned as a gay man, since he was such a bust (at least initially) as a coworker and collaborator, but the movie didn't seem to want to go there. But, as you said, Benedict Cumberbatch was brilliant and the story is an important one.

Are you saying that the movie was, basically, a whitewash of Alan Turing's character?

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The film does not whitewash Turing but it does not deal directly with his sexuality. I would have at least would have had some romantic dream scene with Allen Leech 😉

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