I think that there will always be films based around codes because they give screenwriters such an “easy in”. Just saying “code” conjures up…

  • Dark secrets (e.g. heresy undermining The Church, free energy undermining The Market, occult powers, any old stuff really)
  • Powerful interests (usually multiple conspiracies fighting each other behind the scenes for control of ‘The Secret’)
  • A central McGuffin that is small enough to be concealed, smuggled and fought over in hand-to-hand combat in an implausible (often underground) location
  • Highly motivated central character(s) who, though technically prepared for the challenge, rapidly find themselves out of their depth in every other sense
  • (and so on)

Do you need to know much more than the title to construct the film poster? No wonder film companies like codes so much! I’m immediately reminded of Mercury Rising (which I saw again recently, and sort-of enjoyed), but also the 2010’s The 7th Dimension which is just being premiered. Personally, I tend to avoid films where any of the main characters are billed as “hackers” like the plague, but then again that might be because I’m a computer programmer by trade – if I was a dentist, perhaps I’d have done the same for Marathon Man, who knows? 🙂

Anyhow… an historical cipher-themed film I’m genuinely looking forward to is The Thomas Beale Cipher, a short animated film by Andrew S. Allen that has already premiered and should be out on the international festival circuit during the rest of 2010. Details are (probably deliberately) sketchy right now (for example, the YouTube sampler video for the film has been withdrawn), but there is a Facebook page to whet your appetite a little – I’ll let you know of any screening dates.

Not quite so high on my list of upcoming historical code films to look for is The Ancient Code, to be distributed by Warner Brothers. This has apparently been in production for a couple of years, and gives every impression – from the fairly PR-centric set of materials on the website – of being a set of talking heads talking their heads off about different aspects of holism, surrounded by faux-psychedelic video editing effects. It’s true that the film-makers have  assembled a fairly, well, eclectic set of heads to do their talking thang: but it’s hard to see how Nick Pope, Tim Wallace-Murphy, Philip Gardiner, and even Johnny Ball (the former children’s TV presenter who you may recall attracting some criticism in late 2009 for his particularly colourful denial of climate change) amount to a gigantic hill of gravitas re ancient wisdom and codes concealed through the ages. But all the same, I’ll continue to try hard to swim against the tide of unconvincingness the film seems to be sweating from every pore, so wish me luck in that endeavour. 🙂

And finally… clicking onwards from The Ancient Code’s not-so-ancient website leads us neatly to Philip Gardiner’s upcoming The James Bond Code, which struggles valiantly to connect Ian Fleming’s (anti)hero James Bond with alchemy and gnosis (apparently via voodoo and numerology). There’s even a fan music video based on the book, which frankly even I’m struggling to grasp any kind of rationale for. Doubtless there’s some kind of film optioning angle going on here too. Honestly, would anyone apart from a rather fevered PR hack call this “The Thinking Man’s Da Vinci Code“? [Nope, not a hope, sorry.] But all the same, there you have it, so feel free to add it (or not) to your own personal list of, errm, ‘hysterical historical hypotheses’, along with Gavin Menzies’ 1421 & 1434, Edith Sherwood’s “Leonardo da Vinci wrote the Voynich Manuscript” theory, etc.

2 thoughts on “Codes on film!

  1. Ernest Lillie on July 12, 2010 at 10:24 pm said:

    Hello Nick.

    When it comes to historical cipher-based novels being turned into film — I’m holding out for the completion of Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason’s “The Rule of Four”. I’ve begun to see more credible mention of it lately as being in development by Warner Brothers.

    As this is one of my favorite novels ( I believe you once also echoed this sentiment ), we can only hope that being run through the “Butcher’s Brigade” that is the Hollywood Novel-into-Film machine results in a watchable version.



  2. Ernest: certainly, imdb now lists it as “Rule of Four (2011)” which is quite promising. Perhaps as the film approaches I’ll reveal the secret nobody else knows about its cipher… 🙂

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