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Roland Emmerich’s Shakespeare drama Anonymous has no reason to exist

By in Culture

rating: ★★

Vanessa Redgrave looks horrifying as Emperor Palpatine... Er, Queen Elizabeth.

Was Shakespeare a fraud? No, but Anonymous, the latest film from ridiculous director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day) decided to explore the idea anyway.

After watching this film, it is puzzling to think about who exactly it was made for. The people who know the details of Shakespeare’s works are nothing but offended by the idea of this film, especially because the film’s marketing tried to sell this idea as true.

That leaves the “common” person who may have read a little bit of Shakespeare in high school and university and maybe even saw the importance and beauty of such works, but never really explored them. One cannot forget those who also attempted to read the plays in school, but found them impossible to understand and frustrating — thus generating a hatred for all things Shakespeare.

Anonymous does not play to any of these groups of people. The entire existence of the film is completely bewildering.

As for the quality of the movie itself, it is your standard Roland Emmerich affair — all style, no substance. However, it seems as though Emmerich lucked out on his cast since they make the film at least somewhat entertaining and watchable from start to finish. Notably, Rhys Ifans (who plays the Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere, who supposedly wrote Shakespeare’s works) plays the part so well that sometimes (only for a few seconds, mind you) you can believe that he did actually write Shakespeare’s plays.

The movie begins with a bizarre meta twist taking place in a theatre in the present day, then proceeds to a flashback depicting the historical events of Shakespeare’s time. This strange beginning shows what viewers are in store for. The movie is littered with flashbacks to early in de Vere’s life and the drama that ensues is unexpected.

The film does not just revolve around the writings of Shakespeare as it is also a political drama that uses the plays as a sort of political and revolutionary motivator. The best parts of the film are when they show Shakespeare’s plays being acted out on stage with the audience reactions.

What’s bizarre is how the film portrays Shakespeare himself. He comes off like a drunken, idiotic actor desperate for the spotlight. He is completely self-interested, only concerned with money and fame. He is also portrayed as illiterate (he can read, but does not know how to write).

This is a huge leap of faith to make considering how little is actually known about Shakespeare. However, everything about the character seems completely made up. In a lot of ways, the portrayal of Shakespeare ends up oddly comedic, as if he is somehow the comic relief as well as a bit of a villain.

Fans of Shakespeare are bound to be a bit offended by the character, for he is pretty much complete scum throughout the movie and has no redeeming features except for the odd comedic moment.

As one can expect with Emmerich, the movie has a certain visual flair. There is a distinct Elizabethan feel to the images, although it does give the impression that it is set in some alternate history. A lot of the flare doesn’t come from the camera work, but from the editing and the way in which they handle cutting to the flashbacks.

Anonymous was able to hold my attention and that’s really the only compliment I have for it.

There is absolutely no reason for this movie to exist. It is nothing more than a boring piece of hypothetical fiction based loosely on history. Although Anonymous is not nearly as embarrassing as it could have been, it is destined to be forgotten. And for the most part, it probably already has.

Photo: Supplied

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