THE IMITATION GAME (film 2014)

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THE IMITATION GAME (2014). Morten Tyldum, dir. Andrew Hodges, book; Graham Moore, script. UK/USA: Black Bear Pictures, Bristol Automotive (prod.) / Weinstein (US dist.), StudioCanal (UK dist.), 2014 for US/UK release.

Mainstream, "mundane" Biopic — taking the Biopic's standard liberties with facts — on the life of Alan Turning, centered on the cracking of the German Enigma code during World War II (necessarily imaging Turing's part in laying the groundwork for the development of computers) — with flashbacks to Turing's school days and his doomed love for a fellow student named "Christopher." Technically, the film starts in a 1950s present and Turning's arrest for "gross indecency" under UK law forbidding homosexual sex.[1] Of interest here, the film Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) nicknames his — and in the film, it's pretty definitely his (singular) — cryptologic "bombe" device "Christopher," and the closest emotional relationship the adult Turing develops during the film — or one of two — is with the device during the war, and possibly with a successor device he works on at home in the 1950s part of the film. The electro-mechanical "Christopher" is in competition with Keira Knightley's highly attractive Joan Clarke — a beautiful, brilliant, sensible, and sensitive woman — with whom Turing could have an intimate if asexual relationship, plus the male geniuses and others men at Bletchley Park with whom he could at least be friends. The film's Turing's obsession with his Christopher-device is of special interest since Andrew "Hodges’ biography is filled with instances in which Turing boldly made advances toward other men — mostly without success," but indicating a willingness to find relationships of at least a "quickie" variety with other humans.[2] Note that the film's afterword titles have Turing committing suicide after submitting to chemical castration to avoid jail for "indecency"; the film itself does not show his death but does show cyanide around his flat and a Turing with problems with fine-muscle control. While the film was in development, the coroner's verdict of "suicide 'while the balance of his mind was disturbed'" had been called into question[3], so the suicide mentioned in the post-film titles may be seen as artistic liberty or following what was still the majority view. As an ethical matter, it is irrelevant whether or not Turing committed suicide: in any case the government of the United Kingdom was guilty of gross cruelty and ingratitude toward a world-historical hero.

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See for a brief but powerful jail-cell dialog where the film's Turing deals with the question of whether machines can think: one issue in the film that could be put into instructive dialog with chapter 4, "On Computable Numbers," of George B. Dyson's Darwin Among the Machines: The Evolution of Global Intelligence. Note well the assertion by Turing that any machines that thinks would think differently from humans, and how this fits with the film's more general theme of difference.


RDE, 26/XII/14; finishing 18Feb22