Tuesday, October 25, 2011
The creditability of William Shakespeare as the author of the plays and sonnets that he authored has been an interesting topic amongst scholars, but rarely discussed in popular culture. "Anonymous" tackles the controversial topic in a way that " Shakespeare in Love" (1998) hinted at. The theory with the most weight is The Oxfordian theory, which is the foundation for "Anonymous". The film is directed by Roland Emmerich who uses a political thriller model to cast doubt on William Shakespeare being the author of his plays.
The story jumps from the present day as depicted in the trailer with a scholar on stage discussing Shakespeare. Then the story picks up during the Elizabethan years leading to the reign of King James (of Scotland). The focus is on the Earl of Oxford and his relationship with Queen Elizabeth I while he was married to another woman and was a mockery within the Court for his passion for the written word. The performances by Rhys Ifans (Earl of Oxford) and Vanessa Redgrave (Queen Elizabeth I) are stunning as the older versions of their characters. Jamie Campbell Bower as the young Earl of Oxford doesn't provide a believable partner for Joely Richardson as the young Queen. The performance that stands out the most is Sebastian Armesto (Ben Jonson). I was fine with the jumps from the time periods and the use of different actors, however what will cause confusion for people is that the actor for Ben Jonson most notably is the same. Why have a younger and older Earl of Oxford and Queen Elizabeth, but only one actor assigned to Ben Jonson?
Other theories that have not been addressed by the film include the associations with Sir Francis Bacon, William Stanley the 6th Earl of Derby, and Christopher Marlowe. Turning Kit Marlowe into a backstabbing villain seemed a bit off for me especially with the allusion that he may have been killed by Shakespeare. While I can respect other theories from my own belief, the most glaring insult in the film is the depiction of William Shakespeare as an bumbling actor that cannot write, but is instead a blackmailing businessman. To make the character of Shakespeare so polarizing from the Earl of Oxford might be a stretch, and ultimately is what lost me. Albeit the portrayal is a small aspect to the romance and political intrigue that is the focus of the film.
Possibly the most confusing is the representation of the Earl of Southampton as the bastard son of Oxford and the Queen. Many scholars believe that this is the "fair youth" referenced in Shakespeare's sonnets and other theories even have suggested a more adult relationship between Southampton and Shakespeare.
I am not sure the performances, writing, directing, or the sort will earn the film any awards; however the cinematography, art direction and various technical nominations all seem plausible. I urge you not to go into this film to discover any truth about the authorship of the works of Shakespeare, but to view the history and romance of the film. The film is certainly something to see in the theater, and is a 4 quack film.