The man behind the Bard
Duration: 130 minutes
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Starring: Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, Joely Richardson, David Thewlis, Xavier Samuel, Sebastian Amesto, Rafe Spall, Edward Hogg, Helen Boxdale, Jamie Campbell Bower, Sir Derek Jacobi
Anonymous is a delightful conspiracy-fuelled film about the great Bard himself. This is a Shakespeare film unlike any other.
It is quite a surprise that such a film emerged from under the hands of the director who delivered Independence Day and Godzilla to spectators.
Endowed with a terrific cast, a scintillating script and a sense of melodrama, Anonymous certainly looks, feels and walks the swagger it is selling.
Anonymous is set in the 16th century. Edward, Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans) is a very frustrated writer. His father-in-law is none other than William Cecil (David Thewlis). Due to his position in the royal family and the public view that writing was not worthy of a nobleman, Edward decides to get his writing published under a pseudonym.
His choice is publisher Ben Jonson (Sebastian Armesto), a playwright. Working with Ben is Christopher Marlowe (Trystan Gravelle) and William Shakespeare (Rafe Spall), an aspiring actor.
Enter into the equation Cecil’s son: Robert Cecil (Edward Hogg) who knows Edward from the time they were young. In those times, Edward had been one of Queen Elizabeth’s (Joely Richardson) lovers. Meanwhile, Edward looks at Shakespeare’s rise in power and grows even more envious.
After a slow start where the film builds up the premise, settings and characters we are pitted into an environment where everyone is either a schemer with an agenda or an easily manipulated fool.
All set in England’s capital, London was, however at this time, a veritable cesspit. Mr Emmerich has loads of fun with this portrayal of London; almost wishing he could dip his audience in its muck to give us a true feel and sense of the city. The sense of time and place is very well evoked. Mr Emmerich’s use of costume, set construction and opulence nails the story down to a reality that we can easily understand and connect with.
The film comes alive through its characters as they connive and plot their way through. Joely Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave play Queen Elizabeth at various stages in life and the result at both times is the same; a warm beacon of light in her youth and a sense of fatigue yet endearing stiffness in her older years. Rhys Ifans seems to be enjoying overplaying his every move as he glares at Shakespeare at every chance he gets.
This is one film that has a mix of cinematic and theatrical sensibilities. Rafe Spall from Shaun of the Dead presents one of the most unique of Shakespeares to ever be projected onto the big screen.
Mr Emmerich this time round does not have alien spaceships or the end of the world to depend on to wow his audience. So he does this by providing a story that has a sense of melodrama that will inevitably grasp the spectator’s attention.
The dialogue is sharp, elaborate at times and certainly juicy enough to provide the film with an element of zest. Even the most non-Shakespearian of audiences will be curious to see the how and the why of this particular theory concerning Shakespeare.
Anonymous is a melodrama opera-styled conspiracy theory picture that has a very watchable slant to it. Intriguing and provocative, Anonymous deserves to be anything but anonymous.