Based on the controversial theory on “who was the hidden genius?” behind the works of William Shakespeare, the film Anonymous deals on centuries old intrigue whether Edward de Vere (17th Earl of Oxford) is actually the bard of Avon.
Set in Elizabethan London, Anonymous is a political drama film by German director Roland Emmerich, following 17th Earl of Oxford’s incestuous affair with Queen Elizabeth 1, as well as the idea that Oxford was the true author of the works of Shakespeare. The movie stars Vanessa Redgrave as England’s Queen Elizabeth 1 and Rhys Ifans as Oxford/Shake-speare.
Director Roland Emmerich shows the political thriller in a spectacular fashion, focusing on two of Elizabethan age’s most important events -- Essex Rebellion and Queen Elizabeth 1’s succession to the throne -- with the relationships between the protagonists and the authorship debate taken at the side.
For an average moviegoer, who have not read Shakespeare's works or watch his plays, it might be difficult to grasp the time periods and the characters. But surely, majority of the public's preconceived notion that Shakespeare is a real person would be put into a test -- that Shakespeare was just a pseudonym -- like what Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud or other scholars like James Shapiro have thought.
German director Emmerich made a helluva job to show the authorship controversy at the mainstream. The film will open the minds of people into a possibility that there's another person involved in those plays and it was not written by Shakespeare of Stratford. The movie makes compelling arguments, all the while raising the curiosity of the movie going public. Emmerich carefully crafts the events surrounding the authorship controversy, even to the point of a scrupulous affection. The German director particularly have not been taken seriously by critics for his past films, notably Godzilla, Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012. In Anonymous, Emmerich was more than determined to show that he is a serious film maker, which becomes a problem since he would be walking on a literary and historical tight rope.
Those who have been firm believers that the bard of Avon lived the life as depicted on the biographies, would find the movie shocking, though in a way that it will make them think -- "Is it true?". Emmerich pushes down the exposition without much of the Hollywood style he has long employed on his "alien/natural disaster" films.
Considered as one of the best films of the year, Anonymous is as interesting and entertaining as the cast and the characters they portray. The movie has a huge cast led by Vanessa Redgrave. When asked about the idea of the authorship debate, she quoted to describe the famous playwright, "It’s very interesting, the fractures, in this extraordinary creature..." For those who have watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, it would be hard to recognize Rhys Ifans from his Xeno Lovegood character on Harry Potter. Other notable actors on the film that puts color in the complex maze of Tudor history are Sebastian Armesto as Ben Johnson (the messenger), Sam Reid as Earl of Essex, Joely Richardson as Young Elizabeth 1 and Rafe Spall as " William Shakespeare".
While working in Anonymous, Emmerich told one reporter "If this provokes, let's provoke all the way". The way the film would challenge people’s long held ideas of Shakespeare and change their perspective of English literature and history, Emmerich may have succeeded in his provocation, until the Shakespeare author debate would be resolved. Just for this movie, critics should find Emmerich as pleasing, a serious film maker that meticulously crafts a movie without the CGI effects of destroying buildings, structures and cities.
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