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Conceiving Ada (1999)

John Perry Barlow , Karen Black  |  NR |  DVD
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: John Perry Barlow, Karen Black, David Brooks, Mark Capri, David Eppel
  • Format: Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Fox Lorber
  • DVD Release Date: February 1, 2000
  • Run Time: 85 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00003O030
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #308,519 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Conceiving Ada" on IMDb

Special Features

  • 1st film ever to be produced on virtual sets!
  • Includes Technical Notes
  • Weblinks

Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly Unusual And Original September 1, 2000
I wasn't expecting much from this film since I'd never heard of it. It had been released back in 1997 and I couldn't have missed something this good, could I? Not this movie-hound! It pains me to admit it but I indeed let this one slip by. The totally inventive idea is to have a woman genius of today's world, working on her computer to finish her research project, meet Ada Byron. This genius conceives a child with her lover while doing this work and shortly thereafter discovers she is able to communicate with Ada Byron, Lord Byron's daughter and the inventor of the computer, through her computer screen. We thereafter flip back and forth to the two worlds, learning more and more about Ada and even a bit about the woman carrying the baby and running the computer. There is even a visit to the OB-GYN with today's woman that shows something unusual is developing with the baby.

Timothy Leary puts in what was probably a final screen appearance before his death as, what else, a guru for the woman genius. She consults him periodically and they discuss abstractions together. There are some highly original camera techniques used here that either required fairly new equipment/technology, a lot of imagination or both. IMDB lists this as a German production but it is performed in the English language and seems set in America and England. The reason I give it a 4 instead of a 5 is that at times the film got confusing. I think this was because the script was rough around the edges. If the writer had smoothed out the script and eliminated any potential confusion, this could have been a perfect 5. I'm going to watch it again and it may move up to that 5 if my confusion clears a second time through it.
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Conceiving nothing! June 18, 2005
I am a true Ada Lovelace fan, I have books about her, books about Babbage, and her picture in my office, but this film is not about Ada. From the first moment the dialog began I cringed inside and any sliver of hope I had (even at this point), I knew was extremely wishful. The script was dreadful, it was reminiscent of someone you meet who upon trying to impress you, tries too hard, is a name dropper and talks incessantly about subjects you are informed of in a way that is immature and simply uncomfortable. If you are someone who understands the historical importance of Ada, this plot will be nothing but torture to you, and feel strikingly sacrilegious. This movie is not intelligent, but rather, it is insulting, has it's own agenda, takes credit for ideas that have been established by others, marries multiple plots into an annoying and badly acted overkill and is mostly disrespectful, as Ada's name has been used and defamed.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well-measured dose of reality. January 27, 2004
First, the fiction: Perhaps the premise is a little contrived. Channeling the spirit of a famous Victorian woman into a PC (and more than the PC) is a bit improbable. Fine. Once that premise is in place, the plot stays within its own inner logic and moves forward quite well.

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."

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Movie!! August 10, 2003
By A Customer
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 mystical woven movie...This movie should not be missed and a fitting tribute to Ada Byron, who was so far ahead of her time....
A brilliant movie one of the best....a treasure!!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tilda Swinton Is Byron's Daughter, a Mathematical Genius December 13, 2003
Format:VHS Tape|Verified Purchase
This unusual film is about Ada Augusta Byron King Lovelace, a daughter of the poet Byron. Her name is overshadowed by this famous father, but Ada is, the film informs you, actually a genius on her own, a kind of 'mother' of modern computer system. If my source is to be relied on, Pentagon of the US government in fact adapted the name od ADA for its computer language program.
"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.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting dvd
great dvd,,,the film was excellent...It is worth the car ride is now very delightful. great dvd. It is the best.
Published 8 months ago by Maurice Moore
2.0 out of 5 stars Re-released
The following refers to both this and the re-released version. First of all the dates for both releases are puzzling. Read more
Published on April 2, 2012 by G. Teslovich
4.0 out of 5 stars unusual, pleasing
Admittedly, there were a few places where I had to briefly rewind and thought "whaaaat?" But once I accepted the quirky premise of the film, it was entertaining. Read more
Published on December 18, 2004 by Mourning Light
5.0 out of 5 stars best movie ever
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 more
Published on January 16, 2003 by film lover
5.0 out of 5 stars An exciting postmodern woman-centered film
It's therapeutic to watch films that portray women as they really are: strong, intelligent, sexually free and central actors in history! Read more
Published on December 17, 2000 by Sarah H.
1.0 out of 5 stars Tedious and Pointless
The idea seems promising enough: a magical realist meditation on Ada Byron King, a fascinating historical figure who, among other things, wrote in the mid-19th century what is... Read more
Published on December 9, 2000 by Daniel Murphy
2.0 out of 5 stars Conceiving Ritalin
Weeell, it all started innocently enough - the VHS box said it was a film where Tilda Swinton portrayed Ada Augusta Byron King, the intriguing daughter of the equally intriguing... Read more
Published on October 15, 2000 by DAVID SIMONS
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