#301/ 365 – ‘Anonymous ‘ – 130 mins
Cinema Challenge #119 / 115
Edward de Vere (Rhys Ifans) is an aristocrat who yearns to write poetry and plays, but due to social and political constraints, he is forced to use a front for his political-minded works because they subtly encourage Queen Elizabeth to alter her plan for succession in a way that is in direct opposition to her most-trusted political advisers. When drunken, illiterate, fame-hungry actor William Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) passes off the plays as his own, de Vere finds his man, but eventually he is blackmailed when the morally dubious thespian wants more and more
Was Shakespeare a fraud? This is the brief, thought-provoking question director Ronald Emmerich will pose to you. But there’s an even bigger question that you will ask yourself after watching, Anonymous, and the one I found to be its biggest flaw – how much do we care?. Personally, I don’t. The man we call Shakespeare could be Charles Dickens, Phil Mitchell, or quite frankly my next door neighbour or as Anonymous suggests Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. We have the beautiful plays right? So does it matter who wrote them? You’d happily palm these unforgettable sonnets off to some lesser bard.
The other quibble occurs at the beginning of the film, where the huge time jumps are confusing to the point of chaotic, I found myself getting lost down this convoluted path.
This dubious history aside, what you will find in Anonymous is a good period drama yarn, that is well-acted, has some beautifully crafted production values, and that shows the master of disaster (‘Independence Day’, ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ and ‘2012’) in Emmerich isn’t a one trick pony.