By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Two Beers) –
The Oxfordian Theory of Shakespeare Authorship is given the big-budget treatment in this political period piece by filmmaker Roland Emmerich.
In Anonymous Rhys Ifans is the 17th Earl of Oxford Edward de Vere, and the true author of all plays attributed to William Shakespeare. He longs to have his plays heard, but fears that his words would compromise his position of nobility, and entrusts his work to Playwright Ben Jonson. Jonson does not wish himself involved and gives the play to Shakespeare, who has no moral qualms.
There are a lot of things to admire about Anonymous.
Aside from raiding government websites for shits and giggles
Particularly outstanding are the performances from Ifans, and Rafe Spall as William Shakespeare. In their opposing roles, Ifans plays a quiet and studious intellectual, one tortured his political allegiances and romantic entanglements. Spall’s Shakespeare on the other hand is the polar opposite, an ignorant braggart who cares only for personal glory.
The sets and special effects that give the film its late 1500s setting are well used, and thankfully the CGI portions are only utilized to a significant extent to create a shot that would be prohibitively expensive otherwise. The restraint alone is commendable for Emmerich, who is second only to Michael Bay in his obsession with ‘splosions.
The film is presented in a nonlinear fashion that is refreshing for a costume drama, it breaks up the action evenly and opens up opportunities to heighten suspense and keep things interesting. Certainly there is doubt to the veracity of the Oxfordian Theory, but it admittedly makes for an interesting movie. The cinematography is strong as well, highlighting the emotion of every moment, the director certainly knows how to get the best of every shot. This is without a doubt Emmerich’s strongest film, and I hope he makes more with this level of care and attention to detail, because a day may come where people forget that every other movie he does is a shitty disaster movie.
Coming soon, to a dung heap near you…
I won’t waste your time by criticizing the historical inaccuracies contained within a movie by the director of Godzilla. Many excellent films have been made whose claims to history are apocryphal at best. As an avid reader of history I find it incredibly obnoxious, however, when a filmmaker such as Emmerich goes out of his way to promote a dramatized film as gospel truth. The fact of the matter is the claims made in the film are so outlandish as to lower the overall impact it ultimately has on the audience. While well made, Anonymous will always feel crippled by this fact.
Taken as a piece of drama Anonymous is spectacularly staged, brilliantly acted, and a clear labor of love for filmmaker Emmerich. It is fairly insulting that we’re supposed to actually believe this though.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever there’s a flashback
Take a Drink: any time a Shakespeare play is name-dropped
Take a Drink: whenever Shakespeare’s name is mentioned (probably not the smartest idea if you value your own life)
Down a Shot: anytime Queen Elizabeth changes her dress to be even gaudier. (Two drinks when the puffy dress shows up)