CONCEIVING ADA BY LYNN HERSHMAN LEESON [Import]
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This unusual, thought-provoking film, part science fiction, part magical realism, introduces us to the fascinating historical figure of Ada Byron King, daughter of the famous (some would say infamous) British poet, Lord Byron. Ada, brought to wondrous life here by Tilda Swinton (Orlando), was a mathematical genius far ahead of her time, who developed the world's first computer language in the mid-19th century. She was precocious in other ways as well: her father's daughter, Ada was sexually promiscuous, a gambler, and an opium addict. In the film, modern-day genius Emmy Coer (Francesca Faridany), working on creating artificial life via the computer, becomes obsessed with Ada. Using her own DNA, Emmy is somehow able to channel Ada's memories and play them back on her computer screen. The two women leading parallel lives eventually become inextricably tied for all time. The movie may sound rather arcane, but its vibrantly female point of view renders it anything but dry. It actually makes mathematics seem marvelously sexy. The supporting cast adds to the film's distinctiveness: Timothy Leary (yes, the Timothy Leary, the LSD guru), is Sims, Emmy's spectral cybervision of a mentor, and the inimitable Karen Black appears as the mother of both Emmy and Ada. --Laura Mirsky --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The reality, though, is what struck me. First, there is Ada herself. Yes, she was brilliant. She made a place for herself when all the places were reserved for men. We've heard that part. She was also a real, flawed human being, with a destructive gambling habit. Much of her interest in math and algorithms was centered on finding "the system" for beating the odds in horse races. Her creation of programming was driven by an urge that she could not control - like a flower that blooms because it grows in manure.
Emmy seems real, too, a fully mature "geek girl," but drawn with respect. She's intelligent, wholly wrapped up in her work, and also driven by a vision of her own. Best, she is completely a woman - not pretty, but beautiful, and not just a male role with a female actor. Emmy represents a character that I know and admire in real life. This is the first time I've seen it portrayed on screen, or at least portrayed so strongly.
Finally, the ethical question of Emmy's daughter is very real. The exact circumstance, as I said, is fiction. The issue is not: We have unprecedented control over what a baby, a new human being, can become. What kinds of control are morally acceptable? To tell the truth, I think Emmy took "what we can do" well past "what we should do."
"Conceiving Ada" has, however, a little confusing structure. It starts with Emmy, a woman living in the 20th century, so inmmersed in the possibility of re-creating the thoughts and images of the past events, using the special computer techiniques and the DNA patterns inherited from Ada Lovelace, the pioneer of the computer languages. One of her mentors, Sims (Timothy Leary, who died 9 days after the shooting of the picture), helps her, giving vital information, but with some warnings.
Emmy succeeds in going "interactive" with the real Ada (Tilda Swinton) living in the early Victorian era. From then, the film traces the eventful life of Ada, who was leading unconventional life, going out with several males, or being addicted to gambling, in spite of her strictly conservative mother's adomoniton. (Her/ Emmy's mother is played by Karen Black). Ada's lifestyle, on the other hand, influences that of Emmy, who is living with her boyfriend, and is going to have a baby (meaning "conceiving Ada").
The central idea is that of sci-fi films, but "Conceiving Ada" looks more like intent on championing this unique female nearly forgotten in the history. Though the idea is a worthy one, the film lacks decent budget to realize the well-intentioned purpose.Read more ›
While the decision to weave Ada's plotline into a second one is bad enough, the film is done infinitely more harm by the wretched dialogue and casting for the modern-day characters. Taking nothing away from Keanu Reeves, I think J.D. Wolfe has presented a strong case for worst performance by a human actor in the 20th Century - assuming that this aptly named lycanthrope is, indeed, human. Hairy, dim-witted and slow, this heavy-lidded beast displays no energy, no comic timing, no anything! Francesca Fardinay is not nearly as bad in the lead role, but her performance is crippled by (a) laughable dialogue - "I've paid my dues!" she retorts as her justification to warp her own unborn child's DNA structure - and (b) the most unflattering wig known to man. The storyline is impossibly convoluted, the science absurd, and the biography lost in the shuffle.
If you're looking for an unusual film which straddles centuries and stars Tilda Swinton, ORLANDO is your only hope. View this film only if it becomes necessary to induce an epileptic fit - it serves no other purpose. Hisssss!
Most recent customer reviews
Quite interesting take on a great pioneer of planned action. Too bad the execution is amateurish, like a student project; the only decent acting is from the title character.Published 4 months ago by Moon Steer
This is one of those rare movies that is intelligent and thought provoking...The actors are wonderful and the story brings together the classical and post modern themes into a... Read morePublished on Aug. 10 2003
this film was very thought provoking and interesting. the struggle between emmy and her work and her life is wonderfully juxtaposed with the past of ada. Read morePublished on Jan. 16 2003 by film lover
It's therapeutic to watch films that portray women as they really are: strong, intelligent, sexually free and central actors in history! Read morePublished on Dec 17 2000 by Sarah H.