I have a good rental for you.
I will admit I have a blind spot when it comes to the history of England and its Royal lineage. You could tell me that Henry V was the brother of Elizabeth II, and I’d say “Yeah, that sounds about right.” Or that the Earl of Essex was the illegitimate offspring of Richard III and the half-brother of Prince Horatio Fragbottom of Canterbury Lane, and I’d say “Yep. All true.” I might even add “And wasn’t he the Duke of Yorkshire’s racquetball partner?” Just so I would sound like I know my Royals. See me workin’?
So, when I dive into this genre – and there have been several films over the years that I have thoroughly enjoyed – I do so with a premeditated detachment.
In the case of Anonymous, we are not only dealing with all of these mental gymnastics, we are dealing with the long held rumor that William Shakespeare was nothing more than a front man. A patsy. A pseudonym, if you will.
Blaspheme? Maybe. But we have no Snopes or YouTube to confirm, so…
Produced for a modest budget of $30m, directed by Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, Godzilla), and shot by Anna J. Foerster (Independence Day, Godzilla), with production design by Sebastian Krawinkel (Inglourious Basterds, V for Vendetta, Bourne Supremacy), Anonymous is a very impressive visual film – much of it visual effects, but they are seamless. The script, by John Orloff (wrote two episodes of Band of Brothers), is also well-crafted and insightful.
Amazingly, neither Cate Blanchett nor Dame Judy Dench appear in this movie. But, what film about the Bard would be complete without Derek Jacobi, who bookends the narrative, non-linear structure of the story, by breaking the fourth wall and serving as tour guide for the scandalous shenanigans that may have taken place way back in the middle 1500s.
Rhys Ifans is excellent as ‘Edward de Vere, (a.k.a. the ‘Earl of Oxford’), apparently the man who should get credit for such hits as Romeo & Juliet, Twelfth Night, and Macbeth. But, to quote one of my favorite Monty Python moments. “Let’s not bicker and argue over who killed who.”
Bottom line, if you’re a fan of William Shakespeare, and I’m pretty sure there are a few of us left, this is a must see; if, for no other reason, than the film does transport you believably to the time and place – and the poetic words of the master are on display. Regardless of who may have written them.