Sunday, November 23, 2014

Enigma (film)

Enigma is a film by Michael Apted that was released in 2001, based on the 1995 novel by Robert Harris. Both are fictionalized accounts of the British code-breaking efforts at Bletchley Park in 1943.  Tom Jericho (Dougray Scott) played a big part in breaking an important code earlier; now he is returning to Bletchley Park after a nervous breakdown to take part in a new effort, although there are indications that he is just there for show. His girlfriend Claire (Saffron Burrows) is missing, and he and Claire's roommate Hester (Kate Winslet) try to solve the mystery of her disappearance.


I recently read the book and enjoyed it very much; my review is here.

Did I enjoy the film?

This was my second viewing of the film. I don't remember that much from the first viewing and I suspect I might have enjoyed it more if I had read the book first. This time around I did enjoy it very much. I liked the acting. In addition to the main actors mentioned above, I enjoyed the acting of Jeremy Northam as an intelligence agent, Tom Hollander as another member of the code-breaking team, and Matthew Macfadyen as a naval officer who had been badly burned.

One negative aspect of a book to film review is that I usually read the book and watch the film back to back. In that situation, I tend to nitpick at details while watching the film. This second viewing may have been one of those times when I was watching too much for discrepancies and not immersing myself in the film enough. Regardless, overall I liked a lot about the film and we will be watching it again.

Did the film represent the book fairly or well?

Some reviewers noted places where the film was not true to historical facts. Both the book and the film were supposed to be fiction, so that was not a problem for me. I don't know much of the real history of Bletchley or the code breaking effort, so I wasn't looking for errors, nor was I expecting to learn the strict facts of what happened from either the book or the film.

I was disappointed that the character of Hester Wallace was so changed in the film. Both versions show the discrepancy between the roles of women and men in work like this, and emphasize Hester's frustration at doing more clerical work, and not having the opportunity to work on code breaking. However, the nature of Hester's and Tom's relationship is very different in the book. I prefer not to go into more detail about that for the benefit of those who have not seen the book or the film. Overall, I did not feel that this change marred the film.

While a film usually cannot get into the characters and their relationships (and thoughts) as well as a book does, a film can portray action in a clearer and more effective way. The war scenes that can only be imagined while reading the book are given more reality in the film version.

Given that changes are always necessary to make a novel conform to the needs of film, I found the changes made for this film acceptable. The film focused much more on the espionage subplot, and spent less time portraying actual conditions at Bletchley. I like the portrayal of characters and relationships better in the book. The film had more to offer in action and pacing. I felt that both stood well on their own.

This film review is submitted for the 2014 Book to Movie Challenge at Doing Dewey.

19 comments:

  1. I'll have to read the book before watching this, judging by your reaction......and also set aside my Kate Winslet aversion!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What do you have against Kate Winslet? I am neutral, I really have not seen her in many movies. I thought she was fine in this one.

      Delete
    2. Probably totally unreasonable and irrational on my part, I'm just irritated by her - possibly a hangover from being forced to watch Titanic once too often by my daughter. Give her her due I didn't mind her in The Holiday. Some people I just don't warm to I'm afraid.

      Delete
    3. We have never watched Titanic and probably never will. I was just curious. I saw her in Contagion and wasn't that impressed with the movie.

      Delete
  2. Tracy - I'm glad you enjoyed the film even if the characters weren't all depicted as they are in the novel. To be honest, that's something I often notice when I see filmed adaptations of books I've read. Still, it sounds as though this one's worth seeing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did enjoy the film, Margot. I love the time period and the physical setting. The first time around I didn't notice a lot of the actors in smaller parts.

      Delete
  3. Great review TracyK - one of the oddities of the new real-life biopic, THE IMITATION GAME with Benedict Cumberbatch, is that to spice it up they seem to have borrowed quite a lot from ENIGMA! The Jeremy Northam character is essentially the same one as played by Mark Strong! Still worth seeing though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting information about THE IMITATION GAME, Sergio. I hope to see that movie sometime soon.

      Delete
  4. Nicely reviewed, Tracy. I have not seen this film or read the original novel by Robert Harris. I'd like to see the film on account of two actors whose films I like—Matthew Macfayden and Kate Winslet. As you know, I recently saw Winslet in THE READER and I recommend DEATH AT A FUNERAL (2007), a British comedy, for Macfayden. It's a very good film.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for that movie recommendation, Prashant. I looked up the movie and it sounds very good. While looking it up I discovered that I had been mispelling his name all this time. Macfadyen not Macfayden. Oh well.

      Delete
  5. I liked the structure of your film review vs the book.
    I haven't dared do a review of this sort due to my thought: Where do you start?
    You have helped me in the right direction! I've seen this film but not read the book.
    I just finished Romeo and Juliet ( ...and I read every single word!) and would like to watch the 1969 version with Olivia Hussey. The play was one of Shakespeare's bawdiest and I wonder how the film wil incorporate Mercutio's 'low brow' humor!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Nancy. I struggle with film reviews. But I love to watch films based on books. I admire you for reading Shakespeare; I am intimidated by Shakespeare. I did see Romeo + Juliet with Claire Danes but I don't think I have seen the version with Hussey. My husband and son both love Shakespeare's plays and movie adaptations, so I see a lot of them.

      Delete
    2. I saw the Zefirelli Romeo and Juliet film as a teenager and it entranced me, partly because the actors were so young, I felt they made it very real and relevant to people my age. They were teenagers too - it was the first time I'd really understood the point of Shakespeare. I don't know how it would stand up now, but I will always be grateful to that film...

      Delete
    3. Now I want to watch that version too. We have a similar problem in our household to the huge TBR piles of books. We have many, many unwatched discs (movies and TV shows), so hard to add another to the list ... even if we can stream it or get a copy from Netflix.

      Delete
    4. I agree with Clothes in Books....the movie Romeo and Juliet 1969 still gives me chills and warm feelings at the same time! As Shakespeare woulld say: "Would blow me to an auge...." = induce shivering
      (Merchant of Venice Act 1, scene 1) Perhaps I was very impressionable and probably in love at the time! Don't forget to enjoy the soundtrack by Nino Rota, mesmerizing!

      Delete
  6. This is a case where I loved both book and film, and the differences didn't bother me, I just saw them as different entities. You did a very good and fair review, and now I really want to see the film again, I have seen it a few times and always really enjoy it. I like details of the costumes and settings as well as the plot, and there are a few scenes that really live in my memory.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Moira, my general approach is that book and adaptation don't need to agree and I like to view them as separate entities. I am most successful at that when I have some distance between viewings. I am a nitpicker at heart, but I forget very quickly. Overall, I liked both, and I look forward to future viewings.

      Delete
  7. I didn't know about this book or movie. I'll put the movie on my list.

    I loved the TV series The Bletchley Circle with Anna Maxwell Martin, a brilliant actor, and the others. So good.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I hope you like the movie, Kathy. We have only watched the first season of The Bletchley Circle. Enjoyed it very much.

    ReplyDelete