Now that I am back in the office post-hysterectomy, for my first blog of 2015 I wanted to talk about the film ‘The Imitation Game’ and why it has entered my top 20 film list of all time. It is an exceptional piece of cinematography.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect other than a bit of maths, a bit of history and a bit of code-breaking. For me personally, as my late father was a self-appointed code-breaker (sic The Holbein Conjecture), the theme of the story was fascinating. On the historical side, I had never heard of Alan Turing during my turgid history lessons, simply learning dates and battles off by heart.
What I didn’t realise was that Alan Turing’s ‘Christopher’ code breaker was the sole reason we won the War and the sole reason I am here writing this blog. Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance was so outstanding and believable, I didn’t know when to stop holding my breath for the duration of the film.
Alan Turing was a lauded mathematician and sufferer of Asperger’s Syndrome (unrecognised at the time), a loner, a gay man living in a homophobic world where being a homosexual was a crime and worthy of time in prison. His genius and unstoppable passion led him to break the German’s ‘Omega’ code during World War II, through the creation of a code-breaking machine called ‘Christopher’ – the first computer of all time (‘The Turing Machine’).
For 50 years, no one was allowed to speak of Turing’s mind blowing impact on the modern world as we know it and, after the War, in 1952, he was medically castrated (rather than serve time) when outed as a gay man living in the UK. In 2013, Queen Elizabeth II apologised to Turing, posthumously, for how he was treated, following on from an apology by PM Gordon Brown back in 2009. The same man who prevented 14 million deaths and reduced the duration of the War by two years. Alan Turing killed himself in 1954, during the 2nd year of his medical castration.
What I can’t get my head around is how the West and in particular the British powers that be could be so pig headed and arrogant to mislead us in relation to our heritage. I am sure many more children would favour history as a subject if they learnt about ‘Christopher’ and how he changed the world. You will note I refer to Christopher here as a ‘he’. I do so in respect of the late great Alan Turing who deemed Christopher his friend and someone who would not leave or hurt him.
Secondly, during the Second World War, the Nazis used chemical castration as a form of experimental torture on Jews and other people destined for the Concentration Camps. Yet in the 1950’s the UK used this as a way of ‘managing’ a gay population and as an approved alternative to prison for gay men. Someone please explain.
Approximately 49,000 people were sent to prison during this time for being gay yet homosexual activity has always been prolific within the Church, the Establishment and the notoriety of Public School. Bottom line, I am reeling from the hypocrisy, the insult and the ignorance of less than Great Britain. The one man who changed the face of the modern world, whose ground breaking invention, on a par with Alexander Graham Bell, Da Vinci, Steve Jobs and Einstein, killed himself with cyanide. He didn’t need the Nazis to kill him. The British did.
This film is so extraordinary, even Keira Knightley, most surprisingly, steps up in her role of Joan Clarke. I can’t stop thinking about what it must have been like living during WWII. I doubt anyone reading this blog can imagine either: the fear from ongoing air raids, the camaraderie, the lack of food, the loss and then the gain when the Germans surrendered.
My only critique of the film is that I would have liked to better understand Alan Turing’s childhood from a family perspective – perhaps his living relatives didn’t want this to form part of the historical legacy. And also the title. The Imitation Game – use of the word Enigma might have been appropriate, given the Enigma Code and the Enigma that was the one and only Alan Turing. May his soul rest in peace. Thank you Alan for the gift of peace you gave us. If only some of the world’s terrorists could learn one iota of your tenacity, passion and desire to make the world a better place. For future peace we will need far more than a code-breaking Christopher. And this breaks my little old heart.