The Imitation Game Has Keira Knightley Pondering Feminism

The Imitation Game may focus on Benedict Cumberbatch’s Alan Turing but another important piece of the plot puzzle is Keira Knightley’s Joan Clarke, who as well as providing some needed lighter moments in the film, represents another big story strand – inequality for women in war-torn Britain.

The movie shines a light on Turing’s incredible life for the first time, bringing his story to the masses through Benedict’s Oscar-tipped performance. A maths genius, Turing was recruited to work at Britain’s top secret code-breaking centre Bletchley Park during the darkest days of WW2, leading a team which worked to crack the German’s elusive Enigma code. It’s no big spoiler to reveal that Turing’s work saved millions of lives and shortened the war by years. The film also examines the man’s personal life, with his hidden homosexuality and social awkwardness making him an outsider.

Keira’s character Joan Clarke is also a real life hero that like Turing experienced her own exclusions. Clarke worked with Turing at Bletchely but as the film shows, she was forced to masquerade as a secretary as women weren’t deemed fit to take on such important work as code breaking, that’s despite Clarke acing Turing’s test in one of the highlight scenes of the film.

At the London Film Festival press conference for The Imitation Game this week, Keira agreed that there are clear points of Joan’s story that still ring true today. “The actual Joan Clarke, what she was fighting for was a place at the table and equal pay and I think those are still the two main things that feminists today are fighting for and there’s still inequality in that,” says the actress. “I definitely got that from the script and from researching her, I thought the similarities were quite extraordinary.”

Clarke’s quiet way of fighting against her boundaries also appealed to Keria. “I like the idea that she was absolutely someone who was breaking the boundaries in their own right but didn’t go about it like a bull in a china shop, you didn’t see her coming.”

Keira as Joan Clarke (Studio Canal)

Revealing she watched a rare interview with Clarke for research for her role, Keira gushed that her fight for feminism, but also her great connection with Turing, was clear. “I got that from the interviews she gave, but also that great friendship and love that existed between her and Alan, you could really feel that in the interview I saw, you could really feel that she was so protective of him. Relatively speaking, given how important she was, there’s very little information to go on.”

The Imitation Game opens nationwide in the UK this November.