Thursday, January 22, 2015

Alan Turing film

I got round to seeing "The Imitation Game" yesterday. I found it to be more accurate than I had expected. Moreover, since it was not a documentary, one must allow for dramatic license - especially if it is in a good cause. Yet how much is this a good cause? Mainly it is I think, but still there are elisions and exaggerations that are misleading.
Here are three significant flaws.
1) As usual, the Polish contribution in the thirties is obscured. Polish mathematicians cracked the code and hit on the idea of a machine to keep up with the daily German changes. Turing's more elaborate machine was an extension of this principle. In the movie the Poles are only given fleeting credit for bringing the machine itself, not for their essential work in dealing with it.
2) Turing seems to have had no contact with the Soviet spy. That fictional relationship seems to be put in to suggest, falsely, that Bletchley Park had something to do with Stalingrad. It did not. It was the Red Army that won the war - not as bizarrely suggested here, Alan Turing. At the end of the film we are told that historians believe that Turing shortened the war by two years. What historians?
3) Turing's arrest and conviction for homosexual offenses were horrible. However, the chemical castration was temporary and he ended it about a year before his apparent suicide. There is no certainty that he did it with a poisoned apple.


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