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Letters to the Editor

The Times, 22nd August 2001

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Sir, Has The Times secretly declared war on the forthcoming film, Enigma? Not only did you print a hostile review (fair enough), but also a news story which appeared to imply that Saturday’s British premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival was troubled, and, most bizarrely of all, an editorial asserting that the movie is a failure, even though it is not due to open for more than a month, and the limited critical response so far has been overwhelmingly favourable.

I wrote the novel on which the film is based, and attended the Edinburgh screening, and if I thought it was a bad film, I would say so — or, at the very least, observe a discreet radio silence on the matter. But Enigma is a good film, and was enthusiastically received on Saturday. The three biggest movie industry newspapers — Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Screen International — have respectively described it as “intelligent, involving and intricately plotted”, “superbly crafted” and “compelling, sumptuously made”. Of course, not everyone is going to like it. Enigma is a romantic thriller, not a documentary, and codebreaking is uniquely difficult to convey on screen. But of the thousands of surviving veterans of Bletchley Park, I know of only one who has actually seen the movie: Sarah Baring, née Norton, a former translator in the naval section, who was shown it by the BBC last week, and who told the PM programme on Friday that it was “a lovely film” which “illustrates so well the aura of excitement when codes are broken and the deep depression when they temporarily cannot be cracked”.

In these circumstances, without wishing to be over-sensitive, your editorial dismissal of Enigma as having been “judged to fall flat” seems both premature and baffling — what they might have called at Bletchley “a garbled text”.

Yours faithfully,

ROBERT HARRIS,

The Old Vicarage, Church Street,

Kintbury, Berkshire RG17 9TR.

August 20.

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