Movie Review: Anonymous
If you’re a fan of CBC’s The Tudors (if you’re not, Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays a deliciously malevolent King Henry VIII) you’ll be jumping out of your seat at the sexy, scandalous secrets in Roland Emmerich’s Anonymous. From the man that brought you Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012, you know you’re about to see some brilliant sets and costumes that could bring tears to Elizabethan scholars.
Of course, the story begins on a stage as we walk back in time to question whether or not William Shakespeare really was the author to ‘the ultimate expressions of humanity of the English language.’ We quickly jump to a dreary, dark scene where – yes, of course, the famous Stratford theatre burns in flames. Emmerich, you’ve done it again! You sure know how to excite me with beautiful explosions.
The most delirious scenes are played within the theatre. You can literally feel the energy of the audience in the pits and you can’t deny the authenticity of the performers on stage. Although I’m sure some academics wouldn’t be too pleased about the idea that all of Shakespeare’s plays revolved around a silly drama between the assumed ghost-writer Edward De Vere (Rhys Ifans) and his childhood enemy Robert Cecil (Edward Hogg), there are so many other elements within this family feud that brings Shakespeare’s noted tragedies to life.
In this version, William Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) is depicted as an illiterate actor with an over-inflated ego that dares to threaten Edward for sponsorship on his new theatre. The struggling writer Ben Johnson (Sebastian Armesto) is stuck in the middle between his own desires to become an established playwright and his jealousy towards Edward’s talent and Will’s backstabbing. As Edward De Vere said, “You have no voice, this is why I chose you.”
Don’t worry, this isn’t just a movie for English lit students. Based on the Puritan premise that theatre is the work of the Devil, we witness a lot more behind the influential words of Shakespeare. Whether it’s a bloody battle to the end or a dangerous love affair, this movie will affect you one way or another. After all, “All art is political, or else it’s just decoration.”