Queering the historic universe

Oscars 2015 rush started with this film for me. So here are a few thoughts. Queers, listen up!

imitation gameTHE IMITATION GAME

d. Morten Tyldum

s. Graham Moore from the book by Andrew Hodges

c. Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley

Pitch: A glimpse into the life of Alan Turing whom we might be neglecting as the dude who is credited for the creation of the basis of our modern-day computers. And yes, he is gay. 

Catch: You see the strengths and the weaknesses as you watch the film unfold. But you tend to overlook this unevenness because it has an engaging story.

As I wait for the actual Oscars 2015 live telecast as I write this, thought I’d jot down a few notes here about the films that I was actually catch and somehow moved me, in a way. This is one of them.

I know of Alan Turing from a few years back when I was searching for queer-identified people in history. Glad to learn that the modern day computer is somehow directly due to his work. But he is more known for being the genius code-breaker during the war against the Nazis, and he was a great asset of the UK during that time because of decoding how the Nazi communication machine worked. Until, of course, they slapped him with an indecency case, all because he was gay.

Yes, folks, in a first-world country such as the UK, abominations such as this happened. Gays were persecuted, and in Alan’s case, he was made to choose between serving time in prison, and taking hormonal therapy drugs to “alleviate his homosexual disease.” This was, of course, the 1950s, and no civil rights movements connected to sexuality was happening yet. Too bad Alan didn’t live to see this happen during the next decade, as he took his own life before the 1960s happened.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, sorry.  On to the film muna. Yes, this was indeed a moving film, queerness aside. The film chronicles Alan’s life during the time his neighbor reported a robbery in his home. Turns out to be a “booking gone wrong pala.” Yes, my dears, dahil kloseta nga ang lola mo, may-I-booking siya ng boys sa balur niya, or else tegi nga siya. But this one booking stole from his house kaya doon nagsimula ang gulo for him. When he didn’t want to press charges, a police dude got suspicious and decided to dig deeper, even searching for Alan’s wartime records na classified or absent for public consumption. So of course they picked him up and it was during the interrogation scene where the police learned of Alan’s great contribution to humanity. So the film used this sandwich-type of narrative wherein you split the present and they flashback to the past to tell the meaty palaman of the film, and then go back to the present to wrap up the sandwich.

The palaman is, of course, the meatier side of the story. This is where we learn of Alan’s journey from being a Cambridge professor up until his wartime recruitment nga. He belonged to an elite handful of cryptologists with just one job: to decode the Nazi Enigma machine so the allied forces could read the encrypted messages/communication of the Nazis. What a job eh?

As is the case with uber-brilliant people, they are, of course, anti-social. This didn’t bode well for our no-nonsense hero, who had to be tutored to have social graces by another genius woman — Joan Clarke, played brilliantly by Keira Knightley. It was surprisingly refreshing, finally, to have a woman acknowledged for her brains and not merely her beauty or her reproductive system. I like the character of this Ms. Clarke girl who became an unofficial but crucial part of Alan’s team later on. Of course we see the gender bias at the beginning, when Alan wanted to recruit more people and tested them via a timed crossword puzzle. That was really intellectually cute. And the men in charge couldn’t believe that a woman could have done such a feat. Kainis lang of course. Pero mas kainis yung muntik na niyang talikuran ang job just because as a woman, she is expected to stay home with her parents, find a husband, and have a baby. Hay, reproductive system function, oo. But it’s also so cute how Alan was able to “persuade” her to join the team. Ewan ko ba, basta ang daming intellectually cute moments ng film na ito hehe watch it to understand what I mean.

imitation keira

I am woman, hear me code! Sabi ni lola Keira hehe. Talagang behind a great queer man is a het girl. Historical fag hag lang ang peg lolz. I kid, I kid! Love you Keira!

 

The strength of the film is its pulse: the way it ticked and took us rhythmically from scene to scene, which is the good work of an alert director and a good editor making a tight script come to life. I just wished the cinematography was at par with these other aspects, but you can’t win ’em all, I guess. But this is a good enough combo for me: script-directing-editing. This film pulsed these so well, kaya feel mo yung edge-of-the-seat excitement as to how they’re scrambling for time and going against odds to have Alan’s decoding machine — nicknamed Christopher — work in time before snooty authorities pulled the plug. Of course the excellent acting of the cast worked well with these aspects of filmmaking kaya more edge sa seat ang peg teh! Lalo na when Christopher finally worked. And then another dilemma begins. Kaya tiri-tirintas na ang development ng drama na talagang hihilahin ang interes mo until it ended.

And then, within the flashback, we have another set of flashbacks concerning Alan’s childhood, especially his boarding school days where he was bullied in an all-boys school. And we see his only friend there named Christopher, who introduced him to a book of cryptology of sorts. Siyempre doon na-formulate ang queerness ni koya and we see that, but we also see his heart being broken there, because of what happened to Christopher. Kaya ang love of his life ay ginawa na lang niyang prototype ng modern-day computer natin. Kalerks, this.

This film will really break your heart several times, especially if you’re queer and you see all this happening just because he’s queer. But I didn’t like the way his queerness was inserted here in the beginning. Like we didn’t really see any hint of it except when he confessed later on that he is homosexual — first to his co-worker who turned out to be a double-agent/spy (so of course his homosexuality was used against him by this dude as blackmail material) and second to Ms. Clarke whom he was trying to “save” (i.e. pinapauwi ng parentals dahil single pa siya at malayo ang work daw) by offering her marriage. Nagtapatan naman sila na bekiloublanco si koya at tanggap ni ati yun, at hanggang fiance mode lang naman sila para lang manatili sa work si ati. Kaya lang, yun nga, this was all in talk. Walang masyadong scenes to show this, na sana they humanized Alan more in a way. But I guess they didn’t want to show that, or they didn’t find enough historical evidence to portray him as such. But this is also where you’ll see why Keira was nominated for a best supporting actress award: that turning point of confrontation nila ni Alan, when he was saying na he didn’t care for her at all, basta kasama lang siya sa work and all. That sampal and that pagpipigil ng another sampal and that look and that body language ni Keira at that moment, galing! It reminded me actually of another turning point scene ng isang Academy Award winner: si lola Kate Winslet during her courtroom scene sa THE READER when she was being questioned for her role during the Nazi occupation. Yung moment na hinampas niya yung mesa sa frustration in defending herself, galing!!! parang similar in effect sa aking yung two scenes na ito ng mga aleng ito na kras ko hehe. Winner kayo mga darling, ever.

Tapos nung bumalik na nga ang film sa present ulit, to wrap it up, we see Alan being slapped nga with the indecency case, turning into a recluse while on therapy drugs, and being visited  by Ms. Clarke. Good to see they remained friends naman pala, and that’s where they concluded the film, with notes saying na Alan took his own life chenes nga, but never forget that your computers today are the result of Turing Machines before. So there.

Yes, homophobes, a gay man's invention led to your modern day computer. Kung wala siya, wala 'yan.

Yes, homophobes, a gay man’s invention led to your modern day computer. Kung wala siya, wala ‘yan.

Hay, lungkot.  Nakakatuwa na finally, lumabas din ang buhay niya sa film nang ganito. Maganda naman ang portrayal and all. It’s another good notch to add to queer history, cinematic or not, basta history natin. We need to see more of our lives out there, see how we were treated, and see what we contributed to the world anyway even if we were being (mis)judged. Maybe this is indeed a reminder nga for us to not take our “queer freedoms” for granted today, but it’s also a reminder to celebrate them because somehow, we have (some of) them freedoms nga, in a way, which Alan never did.

Anyway watch watch watch. Happy siya, in a sad sorta way. Basta! Sana manalo ito ng award later. Fingers crossed.

 

[All photos swiped from the internet. Thanks to those who uploaded them.]

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One Response to “Queering the historic universe”

  1. […] [To know more about the film, read my review of The Imitation Game here.] […]

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