Time Travel Movie Review

Conceiving Ada (1997)

Directed by Lynn Hershman-Leeson

The Basic Plot

An avant garde computer programmer/visual artist Emmy Coer (Francesca Faridany) develops a method of contacting the past using her computers where she peers into the life of Ada Augusta Byron King, Countess of Lovelace in the mid-1800s. Ada (Tilda Swinton) is fascinated with mathematics and science and wants little to do with traditional roles thrust upon here. Emmy is struggling with her own ambition and sees Ada as a kindered spirit.

The Analysis

Conceiving Ada provides an interesting look at historical figure Ada Lovelace, who is commonly considered the world’s first computer programmer after helping refine Charles Babbage’s notes on his analytical engine. Unfortunately, the film is marred by awkward pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo that would make your average Michael Crichton novel look like a doctoral thesis.

Personally, I thought the age when computers were portrayed of being capable of anything died out in the early 1980s with films like Weird Science (1985), Electric Dreams (1984) and of course let's not forget WarGames (1983) ~ "Want to Play a Game?". Yet, Conceiving Ada wastes too much screen time trying to convince us that just maybe Emmy Coer has turned her computer into a time machine. Word to the wise – pretty graphics does not a time machine make. The artifice is made even more painful because it’s delivered by Emmy (Francesca Faridany) who is a serious committed artist/programmer that is far too earnest for her own good. At least in Weird Science there was no pretense that two geeky teens who scanned a few pictures of models into their computer had actually made any scientific break throughs.

Tilda Swinton delivers a decent performance as Ada managing to immerse herself in the role. Aging 1970s screen legend Karen Black also turns in a halfway decent performance pulling double duty here as both Ada’s and Emmy’s mother. The film also features a surprisingly creepy performance by a ailing Timothy Leary, as Emmy’s mentor SIMS. The film was released in 1997 and Leary died in 1996 of cancer.

Not a particular rewarding time travel film, but an interesting look at a historical figure all the same.

©2006 Andy Taylor
Review Posted: 2006-01-12

R E L A T E D   L I N K S:

Conceiving Ada - By Lynn Hershman Leeson
The director's Concieving Ada movie site contains an overview of making and conceiving the film and some stills from the movie.


Internet Movie Database
This is the Internet Movie Database entry for oConceiving Ada includes cast list, filming info, trivia, release information.


Ada Lovelace ~ From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Contains historical information about Ada's life and time as well as links to other references.


Ada Lovelace, Countess of Controversy by Maria Godoy
An article originally written for TechTV News on Friday, March 09, 2001, the article looks at the controversy surronding Ada's role in Babbage's development and programming of the Analytical Engine and cites several other books and research written about Ada Lovelace.


Repurposing Ada by MICHAEL MATTIS at Salon.com
An article originally written for Salon.com on March 16, 1999. The discusses the historical revisionist take on Ada Lovelace and her symbolic rise as the first computer programmer. Including some discussion of the film "Conceiving Ada".


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