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Conceiving Ada (1997)

Not Rated | | Drama, Fantasy, Sci-Fi | 19 February 1999 (USA)
Emmy Coer, a computer genius, devises a method of communicating with the past by tapping into undying information waves. She manages to reach the world of Ada Lovelace, founder of the idea ... See full summary »
1 nomination. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Emmy Coer
Lady Byron / Mother Coer
John O'Keefe ...
John Perry Barlow ...
John Crosse
J.D. Wolfe ...
Nicholas Clayton
Owen Murphy ...
William Lovelace
David Brooks ...
Children's Tutor (David)
Esther Mulligan ...
Ellen Sebastian ...
Dr. Fury
Mark Capri ...
Joe Wemple ...
Priest / Talk Show Host
Chris von Sneidern ...
Musician In Elevator
David Eppel ...


Emmy Coer, a computer genius, devises a method of communicating with the past by tapping into undying information waves. She manages to reach the world of Ada Lovelace, founder of the idea of a computer language and proponent of the possibilities of the "difference engine." Ada's ideas were stifled and unfulfilled because of the reality of life as a woman in the nineteenth century. Emmy has a plan to defeat death and the past using her own DNA as a communicative agent to the past, bringing Ada to the present. But what are the possible ramifications? Written by James Callan <james@oz.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Fantasy | Sci-Fi


Not Rated | See all certifications »





Release Date:

19 February 1999 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Clone of Ada  »

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


A director's statement in the film's production notes says that the film was "structured around the idea of a double helix". "Every scene," the notes say, "was structured and shot using a DNA image as a model for actors' placement and camera movement." See more »


Doctor: The uterus is completely destroyed. All that mathematics was too much for your body.
See more »


References The Piano (1993) See more »

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User Reviews

Leisurely-paced journal of a woman computer enthusiast "weaving" computer magic -- capturing historical moments in "real" time
14 March 1999 | by (sf, usa) – See all my reviews

Sounds like an oxymoron right there. Contradictory as it may seem, it's literally that: Travels back in time, capturing a moment in history in "real" time -- "Mo-memory" captured and SAVE'd. Computer enthusiasts, come ye one and all -- this includes computer graphic artists, programming experts. Mind you, leisurely-paced is truly so -- nothing's really hurried. If you want action -- it's very much simply intellectual intercourse. It's not Hollywood intrigue -- it's mind game -- not tour de force like "Brainstorm" -- yes, L-E-I-S-U-R-E-L-Y-paced -- nothing really hits you over the head.

It's intriguing -- but NFE (Not For Everyone). Some might think it's too slow or seemingly just chatters and undramatic -- 'less you're a computer literate, -enthusiast, ever-fascinated by Tilda Swinton (no matter how long or short her appearance is), or simply love a film however it may be delivered. See it with an open mind (Empty your cache before you go).

There are nuances of little indications: a computer-minded person could very well be, at times, lacking in "real" emotions and feelings -- the human touches. E.g., Ada Byron King (Tilda Swinton) said to the main character Emmy, "Can you save me?" and Emmy (Francesca Faridany) said, "yes" and hit SAVE. Or, to take this further, one might see it as a comparison of then and now: what may seem difficult and impossible for a woman to break through barriers to be recognized (as the mathematical genius that Ada was) then, is fairly easy and accessible now, as Emmy hits a key and it's done -- she will be recognized for what she has researched, programmed and discovered!

Ah, there's some insights into the life of a computer couple -- some diet suggestions: they're presented as a certain COLOR day of the week, e.g., bananas are included on Yellow day, then there's BLUE day menu, WHITE day entree. (Are you curious?)

Written and directed by Lynn Hershmann-Leeson, it does feel like a story told from a woman's perspective. Definitely showed the "obsessive" pursuit of what the main character (perhaps autobiographical?) is after in her participation and wanting to succeed in this M.I.T. "ALIVE project".

You may say this is a love story -- love in different angles juxtaposed on the computer grids. There's also a dog of an interest called Charlene. Its ultimate gist of the whole event could be summed up in what Ada said -- that we should not be hung up in what she, the past, thinks and tried to immortalize her memory -- we need to move beyond and be in touch with the present and feel ALIVE and continue to discover things…

When Emmy was talking with her mentor (Timothy Leary portrays) who appeared on the wall size screen, it brought to mind Dennis Potter's "Cold Lazarus" -- a stylish scientific tale with also an advance techno challenge theme of capturing a specific person's memory and "SAVE" -- keeping the memory ALIVE and recallable. The specific person is namely Albert Finney's character in the prequel "KARAOKE". If you enjoy Albert Finney and relish Dennis Potter's amazing storytelling, you must not miss "KARAOKE" nor "Cold Lazarus".

This film also reminds me of Douglas R. Hofstadter's books -- 1) "Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of the Mind and Pattern (An Interlocked Collection of Literary, Scientific, and Artistic Studies)", and 2) his Pulitzer Prize winner "Godel, Escher, Bach: An eternal Golden Braid (A Metaphorical Fugue on Minds and Machines in the Spirit of Lewis Carroll)". There's also 3) Rudy Rucker's "The Fourth dimension -- A Guided Tour of the Higher Universes". All three are worthwhile books -- fun and intrigue -- if you're so like-mindedly disposed.

A caveat: If you're tired -- unless you're a computer "nerd" -- you probably don't want to view this movie yet, as the seemingly flat tone and leisurely pace until Tilda appears may not pick you up. If you're curious and patient, and you love the idea of what computers can do, go for it, this can be enjoyable and insightful for you.

Other Tilda Swinton gems that has more of her: "Orlando" 1992 written and directed by Sally Potter, and "Female Perversions" 1996 written and directed by Susan Streitfeld, both for mature audiences.

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