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How They Did It: Breaking the Enigma Code in ‘The Imitation Game’ (Video)

How They Did It: Breaking the Enigma Code in 'The Imitation Game' (Video)

The best scene in “The Imitation Game” occurs when Alan Turing (played by Oscar-nominated Benedict Cumberbatch) finally gets his computer to work and breaks the Nazi Enigma code with his research team. Oscar contending editor Billy Goldenberg, production designer Maria Djurkovic and composer Alexandre Desplat discuss the making of this pivotal scene.

Editor Billy Goldenberg: “The fun part for me is you’re starting in the beer hut and you’ve got a lot of personal interaction going on. Alan and Joan [ Keira Knightley] are engaged and have a relationship and the guys are tired of trying to make this machine work and they’re running out of time. And I think it’s unexpected that we’re in the middle of a flirtation in the middle of the night in a beer hut. And one of my favorite moments is that some of the guys are betting on Alan to screw everything up. And then in the middle of that to have Alan take in this kernel of information and that leads to winning the war two years earlier ultimately.

“We’re dealing with comedic elements in a dramatic moment with Alan not understanding what’s really going on here in terms of the flirtation part of it, and Benedict’s skill as an actor in doing it in a way that’s 

completely organic to Alan,” the editor continues.”It was fun to cut and the actors gave me lots of these great looks. Hugh [Matthew William Goode ] being frustrated about, for want of a better term, Alan’s cock blocking.

“Then Alan’s slow realization that there might be something more here and leading him to realizing that this is the key to all of it. And then they run into the hut and frantically plug in all the settings and the machine for the first time stops and goes completely silent that’s maybe my favorite moment in the film. The machine has never stopped because it never worked fast enough. Then going back to the other hut and plugging Christopher into the Enigma box and having it work  — and the excitement and celebration of that.

“[Director] Morten [Tyldum] asked Benedict what he was thinking during that moment and Benedict said, ‘I’m hoping that Christopher would be proud of me.’ I don’t think any audience member will get that but what I hope they get is the different levels of meaning about the importance of this event. From the moment Joan puts her hand to her mouth, Morten shot the celebration at 32 frames-per-second. It’s not slow-motion that you would normally see but everything is slightly exaggerated. It’s like the slowing down of special moments in your life.”

Production Designer Maria Djurkovic: “The beer hall is the recreational space where this very, very young group of people go for fun. So it was important to have a complete change of atmosphere. However, it was equally important to have it be an integral part of Bletchley Park, and what is quite interesting is that this beer hall scene is one of the only scenes that we shot at the real Bletchley Park. There is a quite a bold use of color, red features. You can see it in bunting, it’s in the Union Jacks, and the beams and the shiny floor, and we turned the volume up on the red wires spitting into the machine, and the colors of the rotors are the exact colors of the real rotors. I’ve tweaked them all a little bit.

“So what I try to do is find a visual connection that runs throughout the film,” she continues. “And I have to make sure that my bits, if you overlap them, overlap effectively.You’re inside Hut 8 [where they’re trying to break the code] and it’s got an energy to it. And, of course, you’re thinking of exterior against interior and you’re thinking how it will look when you cut from beer hut to Hut 8. That’s when my color palette will come in, where my use of color blocking will come in.”

Composer Alexandre Desplat: “The weight has to be real and I fused computerized pianos with harps and celestes played by real musicians, but then we could have the algorithms of the program played with the arpeggios randomly. And that’s exactly what happened with this piece when Alan’s in the cafe and hears a conversation and the music starts with these twirling arpeggios and scales and then the strings come in from a darker and lower register and slowly raise as if he were unveiling some secret .

“And this eureka moment comes to him and he jumps out of the cafe with his friends, who are researching with him. They start running and the music accelerates with flutes and strings and it’s a very important moment in the film. There are big, wide percussions to start the machine and the music comes from inside his head and he slowly regroups the researchers and takes them together to run to the machine. I always wanted to write music for films because of how it can create something else and bring you into the world of the film.”

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