Holywood Today: Report from an Ideological Frontline

by Slavoj Žižek

Ideology in Hollywood? Let’s begin, quite arbitrarily, with Michael Apted’s Enigma (2001, scenario by Tom Stoppard, based on the novel by Robert Harris), which takes place in 1943, among the cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park working day and night to crack the German “Enigma” code. They are rejoined by Tom Jericho, a troubled working class mathematical genius who is back after a period of recuperation brought on by overwork and an unhappy love affair with Claire, the easygoing fatal beauty, which led to his psychic breakdown. Jericho immediately tries to see Claire again and finds she has mysteriously disappeared. He enlists the help of Claire’s housemate Hester to follow the trail of clues and learn what has happened to her; the two repeatedly break the rules of the Bletchley Park establishment and the law as their hunt gets more intense. Jericho is closely watched by Wigram, an upper class MI5 agent, who plays cat and mouse with him throughout the film. Jericho is tolerated at the Park, despite his transgressions, because of the brilliant plan he invents for uncovering the new key. Tom and Hester at the same time uncover a British government plot to bury the intelligence information of the Katyn massacre for fear it might weaken American willingness to remain in the war on the same side as the Soviet Union. This in turn leads to their discovery that a Polish cryptanalyst Jozef Pukowski was so incensed by his own learning of the massacre that he is prepared to betray Bletchley’s secrets to the Nazis in order to take revenge on Stalin. The fate of Clair remains unclear to the end: was she killed or just disappeared? All we learn is that she was in reality also a MI5 agent under Wigram’s control. more

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