Looking Through Glass Prisms
The Imitation Game
Composer: Alexandre Desplat
Artists: The London Symphony Orchestra
Sony Music Classics (2014)
Running Length: 53 minutes
Composer Alexandre Desplat had a banner year in 2014. Three of his movie soundtracks are outstanding, from “The Grand Budapest Hotel” in May, to “Unbroken” and “The Imitation Game” in December. Oscar nominations will have a difficult choice here. Each soundtrack has it's own set of specifics from comedy to war to computers.
“The Imitation Game” concerns the work of Alan Turing, who during WWII built the first computer to try to break the German Enigma Code Machine. Turing, a math genius, is played by Benedict Cumberbatch (television’s “Sherlock Holmes”), who lets us see the conflict within a man between the life he would like to have and the life he is forced to have. The love interest, Joan (Kiera Knightley) has her own theme music in the film, with flute and strings in a lighter mode to show her vivacity.
Desplat uses a background of “running strings” in a minor key, to imitate the wheels of the computer, that took up the first floor of a building. Throughout, this theme ("The Imitation Game") is in the background, with Turing’s theme done with flute atop the running strings, as man builds computer, gives it a name (“Christopher”) and they think as one. “Alan,” is Turning’s signature and the music is full of mystery, with the main theme, and flute riding lightly as though we were looking through the glass prisms of a chandelier.
An example of using more of the orchestra is in “Mission,” with full strings and a harp cadenza at the end. “Crosswords” is where Alan meets Joan, as she finishes an assignment ahead of time, and the flutes, piano and strings play hurriedly before their eyes meet. “Alone With Numbers” just about says it all, when a person who can only cope with the outside world in numbers, is along at last. Tranquility and the numbers are to them as words on a page are to anyone else. “The Machine Christopher” has his own theme, forceful, powerful and searching. “The Apple,” when two people speak to each other, has piano and oboe and is a simple melody as truth is sought. The end piece, “Alan Turing’s Legacy” is a summation of the foregoing music, tying it together, running strings, flute, piano and all.
From the time I first heard the soundtrack in the film, I knew the composer had richly captured the ambience of WWII Great Britain, the personality of the creator of the machine, and of the machine. One would wonder if the film were turned around and the Enigma Machine were the center of the film, what Alexandre Desplat would come up with. As it is, Enigma has its own selection, called “Enigma.” The music is done on keyboard, but on the higher register, a few notes at a time. It is eerie and secretive, hiding its mechanisms from prying eyes at a time of crisis in the world.
Copyright 2015 Marie Asner
For more movie soundtrack reviews, see the following:
Passion of the Christ Soundtrack Tenth Anniversary Edition
How To Train Your Dragon 2