On Tuesday 4th November 2014, I wondered around the Bletchley Park Mansion with a clear picture in my head of Alan Turing in the ballroom with a bombe machine.
Although I would like to see a Bletchley Park Cluedo game (it’s my favourite board game), I am actually talking about the beautifully arranged Imitation Game Film Exhibition in Bletchley Park’s ballroom.
The exhibition opened after the special preview of The Imitation Game. The guests, wearing evening dresses and black ties strolled over to the Teleprinter Room for the special screening of this highly praised and much-anticipated film. I was very excited to get an invitation to the event (I may even have squealed when I pulled the invitation from its gold envelope).
I have to admit that I was apprehensive about my reaction to the film. The trailers look fabulous and I adore the warm colour and tone, but I worried that I would not like Keira Knightley’s portrayal of Joan Clarke or that the stretch historical facts to create a dramatic film would leave me cold.
Turns out, I loved the film. I think Joan’s character has less social awkwardness than is true and Alan’s quirks are downplayed, but it doesn’t matter, the actors capture an endearing warmth of both characters. It makes you care about them and their battle to break the code.
My favourite part is when Alan gives each of his Hut 8 colleagues an apple because Joan said it was a good idea. It’s an awkward but sweet moment, superbly acted by Benedict Cumberbatch.
The film also made me reflect on the overriding essence of the relationship played on screen by the two main characters – a closeness that stems from intellectual companionship. Alan and Joan bond over picnics, codebreaking problems and botany in an atmosphere fizzing with intellectual chemistry. I like the interpretation.
When Joan did marry in 1952, she married John Murray, a retired Army Officer who had trained as a Russian interpreter and worked in military intelligence for the War Office during World War 2. They met at GCHQ after the war and moved to Scotland and worked together in companionable and highly respected scholarly study of old coins. So, it seems that Joan relished working alongside a partner in the pursuit of similar interests and as intellectual equals. Suddenly, the reasons for the relationship portrayed in The Imitation Game seem credible.
The story of the nearly 9,000 people who worked at Bletchley Park and contributed to its success during World War 2 is squeezed into a story of a handful of people in The Imitation Game. I am in no doubt that it will inspire people to learn more about the characters and discover the full and rich history of Bletchley Park. A film that is both entertaining and creates historical interest gets the thumbs up from me.
My favourite line in the film goes something like this:
‘Some people think we were at war with the Germans. We weren’t, we were at war with the clock.’
The Imitation Game is on at UK cinemas from today. The Imitation Game Exhibition displaying props from the movie is open daily at Bletchley Park.
I will be going to see The Imitation Game again, this time with popcorn.