Monday, March 21, 2016

How do we treat people? . . . Lessons Learned from The Imitation Game (2014)

 Written for the Period Drama Challenge hosted by Laurie over at Old-Fashioned Charm. ❤

The Imitation Game (2014, PG13)
starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Allen Leech, Charles Dance and more

I just got back into town after a long and rather fun-filled visit with my friend, Charity. We share a lot in common moviewise and what we don't have in common we don't really mind because it's also good to be different. She makes me think and there are times when I make her think. This last visit we watched quite a few different films, some for silliness' sake and others because of moral ambiguity, something that intrigues us both. The latter type of film spawns all sorts of intellectual discussion which I don't get nearly enough of considering my 2nd strength on StrengthsFinder is Intellection.

So, we watched The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley.

Do you know anything about the 1940s and 1950s in England? Homosexual relationships, up until The Sexual Offences Act 1967 passed by Parliament, were illegal in England. If you were caught, you were arrested, put on trial, and imprisoned. I'm sure if you know anything about Oscar Wilde than you're aware of how England's laws worked.

This brings me back to The Imitation Game. Alan Turing was a genius mathematician in the UK during WWII. Thanks to him, England was able to crack the Enigma machine which the Nazis used to send instructions to their military units. Estimates are that because of his machine, which he named Christopher, the war was shortened by at least 2 years. In the film, he is socially awkward with a bit of Asperger's Syndrome keeping him from making very many emotional connections. He is also a homosexual.

Nothing is ever explicitly shown in this film because Alan is first and foremost the man who cracked Enigma and homosexuality is merely one facet of a very complex and brilliant man. The movie tells his complete story, not just one part of it, which is why it didn't need to engage in sexual scenes or anything remotely along those lines. But you know what he is, and you know that, while not ashamed of what he is, he still realizes that his sexual life is an abhorrence to the society he lives in. And not just an abhorrence, but highly illegal.

After the credits rolled, I sat in silence for a few moments, thoughts roiling around in my head, but the foremost thought I had was how sad Alan's life was. Not because he was homosexual, but because the treatment by other people left no room for love or compassion. Alan had no alternative, no place to go, no one to help him, and the law was against him when he was finally found out after the war. It didn't matter that he had served his country in such a monumental way. In fact, his role in WWII was classified for a very long time.

The government merely gave him a choice . . . imprisonment or hormone therapy to fix him. I know I'm giving you spoilers right now, so I hope you'll forgive me, but I can't not talk about this. His life's work was based on his intellect . . . his brilliant mind. He didn't want to lose all of his research on what would someday become the computer, and he would have had he gone to jail. So Alan accepted the hormone therapy. It did its work. His hands trembled, his mind blanked, and simple crossword puzzles were now beyond his capacity to solve. In 1954, he committed suicide by ingesting cyanide. His heart, his mind, and his will were broken.

How can this not break your heart? I'm not talking about what he was, but about humanity's treatment of him, the government's treatment of him. He became only one thing in their eyes . . . a homosexual. Never mind everything else he was, the complete man, he simply became a stereotype.

There is a scene in Risen where a leper is being beaten and chased away because of fear and hatred. Jesus sees this man being abused and when no one else moves to help him, Jesus picks up a newly cooked fish off the fire, and walks over to the man. He kneels down in the dirt beside him and wraps his arms around this man, holding him close to his breast, pressing a kiss to his forehead, all love and gentleness and compassion. Jesus brought healing and mercy and love and in this case, even sustenance. He saw the whole person . . . not a leper. That is who believers in Jesus are called to be and what we are called to do. Why then do we stone people like Alan Turing instead of showing them love? Because we are now filled with fear and hatred of anything different. We condemn instead of love.

Alan shouldn't have died . . . not that way. Not in a way that says he is devoid of hope and no one is willing to help him.

I apologize. Now you know the end of The Imitation Game, but perhaps it is an end you needed to know going in. Kind of like knowing the end of Valkyrie. It certainly is an end that I needed to tell you. I cry, right now, for Alan Turing. 61 years later, I cry for him. Please, I hope you will seek out The Imitation Game. Let it change your perception if you will. Let it uplift you and perhaps awaken something in you that needs awakening.

Kudos to Benedict Cumberbatch for a terrific performance. In fact, all of the cast was magnificent, from Ben to Keira Knightley to Charles Dance and Allen Leech (yes, Downton's own Tom Branson is in this film). I give highest praise to all of them, named and unnamed.

Parental Guidance: There is one scene where a man's sexual organ is mentioned in brief, and I think there may have been your odd swear word. There are a few religious references that I didn't find offensive and there are a couple of slang references for homosexuals. You briefly see men coming back from the front who are missing limbs. A boy is nailed alive under floorboards in his school (he is rescued). For a PG13 film, The Imitation Game is pretty clean, but with definite mature thematic elements. It's a movie that will, and should, make you think.

Rest in peace, Alan.


  1. Beautifully written, and something that very much needed said. :)

    1. Thank you. I'm just glad the right words came when I needed them.

  2. I love this movie so much! My sister and I were beyond impressed with the acting, storytelling, and how well the more mature subject matter was handled. The lack of any sort of compassion and love in how Turing was treated is heartbreaking. In our hurry to remind society that homosexuality is a sin, I fear some of us Christians lose sight of the facts that 1)we all commit sin of one kind or another and 2) those who sin sexually are still children of God who deserve our agape. Thank you for your article -- I really enjoyed reading it!

    1. This really is a remarkable movie and it promotes deep discussions and internal examinations of ourselves and how we view and treat others. I almost wish that it was required viewing!

  3. I reeeeeeeeeally want to watch this, and my library has it, but I haven't gotten around to it. Perhaps when I get home later next month!

    1. It'll be interesting to see what you think when you get a chance to watch it. It's quite brilliant. :)

  4. Beautiful post, Carissa. Absolutely beautiful.

    I want to watch this! My dad had watched it, and he did some research after he finished it. Apparently there is some debate over whether Alan's death was intentional or accidental. Some friends' and relatives' accounts seem to indicate that it was entirely possible that it was actually an accident. I don't know which is true, but the possibility of it's being a mishap gives me hope :)


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