In my first review of the film, I explained that what I find so brilliant about The Imitation Game is Tyldum’s strategy in how and when he reveals certain information about Alan Turing’s character. His use of metaphor functions to reflect the underlying truth and overall theme that the narrative explores. In this part of the review, I’m going to go in much greater depth and use examples from the film so that what I’ve been ranting on about makes more sense. I did not want to reveal any of this in my first review because in case there was someone who hadn’t seen it, I didn’t want to take away the chance for them to experience the film how I did the first time I watched it. Who am I to ruin such a thing for a person?
From the very beginning of the film when we meet Alan Turing, we can immediately acknowledge the fact that he is a bit of an outcast due to a lack of social skills, inconveniently paired with his advanced intelligence as a brilliant Mathematician. Throughout the film this becomes an even more prevalent issue as Turing works to design and build a machine in order to achieve the ultimate task of breaking the German Enigma code. Breaking this code will allow them to deconstruct Nazi war plans and in turn, save an unbelievable number of lives and end the war sooner. As Turing works, he is continuously looked down on by his peers who do not believe that a machine could break Enigma if their human minds could not. They stick to using ordinary methods and ordinary mathematics that they knew would not even get them close to being able to break Enigma. However, Turing does eventually gain some support from them, once he puts some effort into being more friendly towards them. The theme that we see through Turing’s character as an outcast is obvious and quoted to us as Turing tries to convince the first woman to join their efforts, which was a big deal because woman were still seen as lesser by some people. The quote is, “Sometimes it’s the very people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.”
The underlying fact that Tyldum chose to keep from us until a certain point fairly late in the film is that Turing is a homosexual. I find that the lack of deliberate and obvious reference to his homosexuality is crucial for two major reasons. The first is that this film was made very recently, in a time where homosexuality has never been so openly accepted by it’s society not only in Britain, but in many other countries around the world. This is why Tyldum could have freely and openly depicted Turing’s sexuality from the very beginning and it would not have mattered to the majority of us. But this is what makes his decision to keep it beneath the surface even more inspiring and progressive. In doing this, the film is telling us that: yes, Alan Turing is gay. So, what? That’s not what’s important here. This aspect of the film serves the purpose of reminding us that one’s sexuality does not define who they are, it is a mere fraction of that person which does not effect the other aspects of who they are or who they will become. By keeping the focus away from Turing’s homosexuality, the audience is encouraged to judge his character based on the things that actually matter, and without any bias or prejudice that may have come in to play otherwise. This whole underlying theme at play is foreshadowed from the opening monologue from Turing, “Are you paying attention? Good. If you are not listening carefully, you will miss things. Important things. I will not pause, I will not repeat myself, and you will not interrupt me. You think that because you’re sitting where you are, and I am sitting where I am, that you are in control of what is about to happen. You’re mistaken. I am in control, because I know things that you do not know. [pause] What I will need from you now is a commitment. You will listen closely, and you will not judge me until I am finished. If you cannot commit to this, then please leave the room. But if you choose to stay, remember you chose to be here. What happens from this moment forward is not my responsibility. It’s yours. Pay attention.” It’s as if Tyldum begins the film with the 4th wall (camera lens) as a non existent barrier in order to speak directly to each and every one of its viewers. Once this short monologue is over, the wall is restored and we must proceed to follow Alan’s instructions in order to break Tyldum’s code.
Tyldum was still able to present the important underlying issues about the ignorance of society by using metaphors and codes that directed our minds closer to these issues in relation to Turing and his homosexuality even though it was not mentioned deliberately. Every time Alan’s machine came into question, it was a perfect reflection of how the world at the time treated homosexuality. Alan’s machine and homosexuality were two things that society seemed unable to understand and therefore, their response to both is to assume it needs fixing. Alan’s machine became a metaphor for his sexuality. The Commander Chief who was skeptical of Alan’s character from the beginning was constantly seeking ways to prevent Alan from building his machine and once it was built and did not work, he tried to have it destroyed. In his eyes, getting rid of the machine was the solution. Getting rid of the thing he didn’t understand, was the right thing to do. Tragically, that is exactly how society viewed homosexuality. Despite the doubts of others, Alan is able to get his machine to work and he breaks the Enigma code, reinforcing the main theme by having Alan, an outcast and a homosexual, do something that no one could have imagined.
After the war had ended and Alan had saved millions of lives and ended the war much sooner than it would have without Alan’s machine, his life went back to normal and no one knew of his efforts accept for members of the most central British government intelligence. Soon, Alan is under investigation for indecency and is forced to either go to prison, or undergo government mandated hormonal therapy for the rest of his life. What makes this act of prejudice even more disturbing is that so recently this country had come together and survived and witnessed the most heinous displays of hate and violence throughout the war yet when peace is restored, something as harmless and insignificant as male homosexuality, is viewed and treated as a threat to society, a chemical imbalance, a sickness to be cured. My favourite quote from the film takes place during the scene where Turing is being questioned for his charges by the police officer and he is asked about his research. The police officer asks Turing if machines could ever think as human beings do, to which Alan’s response contains the underlying message that the film had been hinting at up until this point in that society will always judge people unfairly for the most minor differences between human beings simply because they refuse to accept the things they do not understand. His response is as follows, “Of course machines can’t think as people do. A machine is different from a person. Hence, they think differently. The interesting question is, just because something, uh… thinks differently from you, does that mean it’s not thinking? Well, we allow for humans to have such divergences from one another. You like strawberries, I hate ice-skating, you cry at sad films, I am allergic to pollen. What is the point of… different tastes, different… preferences, if not, to say that our brains work differently, that we think differently? And if we can say that about one another, then why can’t we say the same thing for brains… built of copper and wire, steel?” Once again, the metaphor for machine vs. the human mind is at play. Turing is being judged and mistreated simply for his sexuality which is not a preference, but simply, a part of who he is and will always be, and for that, society punishes him.
At the end of the film, after watching a very emotional scene of Alan reunite with Joan, we see that the hormones are destroying him. He is so weak that he is unable to do the only thing left for him to enjoy doing which is solve crossword puzzles. To see a person forced into enduring this way of life is tragic and I’m certain that a film has never made me feel so angry and sad about the world or made me cry that hard. The film ends with captions appearing on the screen explaining the following historical events. Alan Turing was pushed to the point of ending his own life after a year of hormonal therapy in 1954 and not until 2013 was he pardoned by the Queen for his “indecency”. As these captions appear on screen explaining the effects of his war efforts and the estimated number of lives he saved (14 million), in the background we see Alan and the others who worked with him to break the code, burning all of the evidence of their work during the war. Despite bawling my eyes out and being busy hating the world, I also couldn’t help but find this sequence interesting. By juxtaposing this sequence with these closing historical statements dramatically fading on and off the screen, it goes to show that while Turing was busy secretly saving a world that had always mistreated him and then proceeding to cover it up as if it never happened, the people whom he was trying to save were preoccupied by prejudice as males who were homosexual were being outright exposed and convicted for indecency, robbed of their freedom and dignity.
So not only does this film include some great feminist themes through the character of Joan and not only does it remind us that being different is okay and that war is, of course, bad. The Imitation Game says much more than that. I don’t know how much of the narrative portrays events as they actually happened in relation to Alan Turing’s life but what I do know is that the Sodomy laws of Britain existed during this time and it was common that Male homosexuals would commit suicide after being convicted and forced into such an unnatural and inhumane way of life. So, while some characters may have been portrayed in a way that would make it seem more dramatic for the audience which is manipulative and false, the aspects of the film that were absolutely true are what makes this film speak such volumes. Tyldum had a story in mind that he wanted to tell and by choosing to tell it the way he did, made him able to create an incredibly inspiring and tragic experience which would encourage the audience to reflect back on the past in a way that they perhaps never had before. By placing issues of homosexuality in this particular historical context of World War II and mainly exploring them through metaphor, the idea that homosexuality is such a ridiculously insignificant and harmless detail about a person is enhanced to profoundly unmeasurable proportions and I truly feel that if more people could see this film as it should be seen, the world would be a much better, safer place. War and prejudice, and ignorance are true evils in the world which goes to show that the most imposing threat to a human being is another human being.