61 of 74 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The truth about Shakespeare lies elsewhere
I always accepted the idea that Shakespeare wrote his own plays, and considered anything to the contrary to be merely speculation not fact. So, the premise-what if Shakespeare never wrote a word, I found not to be appealing.
Upon reading some good reviews, I decided to see it, and found it to be a high quality production and a wonderful experience. Director...
Published on 9 Dec 2011 by L. Power
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars "There won't be puppets, will there?"
It barely takes a couple of minutes of screen time before it becomes obvious that Roland Emmerich's much-mocked Anonymous is going to be a feast of bad acting. Long before the astonishingly inept Rafe Spall turns up doing another of his patented whiney silly singsong voices as Will Shakespeare we're treated to the sight of Ben Johnson being arrested by guards straight out...
Published 12 months ago by Trevor Willsmer
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61 of 74 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The truth about Shakespeare lies elsewhere,
This review is from: Anonymous [DVD]  (DVD)I always accepted the idea that Shakespeare wrote his own plays, and considered anything to the contrary to be merely speculation not fact. So, the premise-what if Shakespeare never wrote a word, I found not to be appealing.
Upon reading some good reviews, I decided to see it, and found it to be a high quality production and a wonderful experience. Director Roland Emmerich previously directed 2012, and Independence Day, and writer John Orloff previously wrote some episodes of Band of Brothers, and as you watch this movie you will realise this term BoB originated with Shakespeare.
Anonymous proposes the Earl of Oxford wrote all the plays, anonymously donated them to Ben Johnson, a well known writer of the time for him to take credit. Then an uncouth illiterate actor, named Shakespeare steps in to claim the credit. The peer remained anonymous for reasons of social acceptability.
Another reason he may have remained anonymous which I totally loved was the parallel structure between what happened in the plays, and the real life events of the courtiers and Queen Elizabeth. Cecil, the courtier villain in this movie is a hunchback (historical fact), and brother in law of the Earl of Oxford. Richard 3 in Shakespeare's play is a hunchback, so the play becomes a social satire.
A scene where a man is stabbed through a curtain mirrors a scene in Hamlet. A usurped heir is sent to Ireland, and there is a plot to kill him, similar to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in Hamlet.
Emmerich's direction gives Anonymous a much grander scope. We have big set pieces, such as a rebel attack on a bridge leading to the tower of London, rowing a boat in the Thames with the London skyline looming behind, an aerial shot of a huge crowd in the snow, and visual scenes of quite unsanitary London of the time, and he evokes the period very well. For example it rains on the actor in the theater, as he recites his lines. Certain scenes play out in ways we have not scene before, particularly Hamlet's soliloquy where he holds a knife, Richard 3 as caricature, crowd interaction and participation, sweet talking bawdy ladies with Shakespeare's words. I loved this. Visually outstanding, with exquisite and intricate costumes.
I liked the lead actors charisma and presence. He was so in character and looked older for the part that I did not recognise him till the credits. Rhys Ifans starred in Notting Hill, and Pirate Radio. He does a terrific job, perhaps his best work, as does the actor who plays Johnson. There is a particular scene between the two of them at the end that makes me tear up even as I write. Derek Jacobi, begins and ends the movie opening and closing the premise.
Vanessa Redgrave plays the doddering confused queen, and her daughter Joely Richardson plays her younger self, who has a torrid affair with the Earl of Oxford when she was young, producing an illicit heir. The queen has several torrid affairs which become part of the plot of succession. Shakespeare was played by Rafe Spall, son of Timothy Spall, who you have probably seen in several movies.
If the screenwriter was hoping to persuade me, he certainly made me think. Perhaps he goes too overboard with Shakespeare having a unique form of illiteracy, he can read words and memorise them but he can't write, and yet he is a scheming manipulative lout, a criminal, a drunkard, a successful entrepreneur, and a sociopath. Asked to speak to a crowd he stumbles inarticulately over his words. If Shakespeare was as inarticulate, and uneducated as portrayed, how could he have convinced anyone of his genius when he lacked the most basic skills of expression.
If not Shakespeare, then who?
I did some online research. Apparently, almost two centuries passed before anyone seriously questioned Shakespeare's authorship. It has been suggested that Sir Francis Bacon wrote these plays, but why would an already famous writer give credit to someone else. DeVere appears to be the current favorite among conspiracy theorists. If DeVere was excluded from the court, as he is in the movie then he would not be in a position to satirise the court, or include such pointed commentary in his plays. DeVere as a child in the movie performs a piece from Midsummer nights dream for the queen. He could hardly have written it as an adult then, could he?Curiously, at times the movie appears to undermine its own premise.
It has been suggested that Sir Thomas North, North of Shakespeare: The True Story of the Secret Genius Who Wrote the World's Greatest Body of Literature, wrote the materials on which some of Shakespeare's plays were based.
He did translate Plutarch which Shakespeare used as a source in several plays such as Julius Caesar, Troilus and Cressida, Coriolanus, and Anthony and Cleopatra, adapting them for the stage, converting the words from prose to verse. According to this book, Shakespeare purchased North's works, and then adapted them from the page to the stage. In some cases the corresponding passages in Shakespeare are word for word what was written by North. Somehow North did not get credit. Rosalinde from As You Like It apparently is Elisa Nord, (north)North's daughter.
Hamlet was adapted from a centuries old story called Amleth, and had several iterations, including Dial of Princes by North. Shakespeare made numerous changes to the original story Amleth, making it way darker according to a book I read Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories.
In the movie Ben Johnson proclaims sincere affection for DeVere's language skills.
In reality, Ben Johnson famously said of Shakespeare: "he would... buy the reversion of old plays,"but then mark not whose 'twas first: and after-times may judge it to be his..."Epigram no.56.
The movie claims no manuscript written by Shakespeare survives. If you don't have evidence that Shakespeare wrote something, does that mean you have evidence someone else wrote it? You cannot infer alternative authorship from a negation, only from evidence. If you have evidence that these plays were previously written, and performed or were adapted from books, then you can verify that Shakespeare was not the originator, merely wrote a version, and credit the original source. It seems that with some of these plays, they were circulating already, and then Shakespeare wrote a version, or made his own adaptation, which then became the definitive version.
Undoubtedly, this movie will stimulate debate and controversy. The idea that he didn't write a single word goes too far in my opinion, it would be interesting to know for sure what he did and did not write. I do think this is one of the best movies I have seen all year.
Wherever you stand on this, I highly recommend you see it, consider it, and form your own opinion. For me, it's too tabloidy to be taken seriously, the once virgin queen now a nympho, having an illegitimate son with the real Shakespeare, and so on.
Even if like me you do not agree with the premise, you might be surprised to discover you still love the movie.
I think you will enjoy it, and I hope this was helpful.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars "There won't be puppets, will there?",
This review is from: Anonymous (2011) [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)It barely takes a couple of minutes of screen time before it becomes obvious that Roland Emmerich's much-mocked Anonymous is going to be a feast of bad acting. Long before the astonishingly inept Rafe Spall turns up doing another of his patented whiney silly singsong voices as Will Shakespeare we're treated to the sight of Ben Johnson being arrested by guards straight out of Monty Python and taken to a dungeon where a Montgomery Burns lookalike is waiting with an EX-cellent red hot poker. It doesn't get much better. As if Spall playing Shakespeare like a bad and very drunk Frankie Howard impersonator wasn't bad enough (he even dives into the mosh pit at one point), Trystan Gravelle's Christopher Marlowe (looking surprisingly healthy for someone who had been dead for five years at the time his scenes are set) is an "Ooh, get her dearie" queen with a nasal twang who makes Kenneth Williams sound butch, Jamie Campbell Bower plays the young Oxford like a sulky boy band pinup without the depth while Joely Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave play Elizabeth I as an incestuous girly flirt dropping illegitimate sprogs all over the kingdom and a batty old broad respectively. Rhys Ifans' Oxford and Sebastian Armesto's Ben Jonson come off the best, but even they have their Monty Python moments.
In fact, the performances are so universally dire that it's impossible not to conclude that the British cast are simply taking the piss out of Emmerich and his hapless writer John Orloff, for truly this is a tale told by idiots, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing so much as the conspiracy theorists' ability to conjure an unlikely alternate reality by citing the lack of physical evidence for one thing as conclusive proof of its polar opposite for which no physical proof exists either, no matter how fragile and unlikely the hypothesis. That it was first mooted by a man called - and I'm not making this up - J. Thomas Looney, author of Shakespeare Identified, should tell you all you need to know...
Yet the idea that Shakespeare never wrote a word of the plays that bear his name and was a minor cog in a major political conspiracy could, in a capable writer's hands, have made for a ripping yarn. Certainly dafter takes on history have provided plenty of entertainment in the past, while even The Da Vinci Code managed to wrap up its long-debunked conspiracy in a successful chase-cum-puzzle-solving format that had appeal to an audience way beyond the tinfoil hat brigade. Yet Anonymous' biggest problem isn't the central conceit which lumps in two unlikely Tudor conspiracies for the price of one or even that it doesn't make a convincing case, it's that it's poor drama and an even poorer historical thriller that constantly veers into outrageous camp comedy as if even the writer doesn't really believe any of it himself and is just having a bit of a lark between the chunks of clumsy historical exposition.
There's also an unfortunate undercurrent of snobbery behind its thesis that one of the common rabble could not possibly have written such plays and that only a rich noble of breeding - an heir to the very throne itself, no less - could show such insight into the human condition that might be vaguely offensive if the film weren't so clumsily executed. (J. Thomas Looney's politics were decidedly neo-fascist, with a belief in the inherent superiority of the nobility, a longing for a return of feudal rule by one's `betters' and a hatred of the democracy that gave the common man a say in his fate.) Much is made of Shakespeare's supposed illiteracy, though bad spelling is fairly common among major writers (some, like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gustav Flaubert, Leonardo Da Vinci and Hans Christian Andersen, even suffered from dyslexia) while the most successful composer of the 20th Century, Irving Berlin, never learned to read or write music but hired arrangers to do it for him. Yet while it tears Shakespeare down and turns him into a drunken buffoon and murderer, it never builds Oxford up into a credible alternative.
It's a conspiracy that makes no sense. If the absence of any manuscripts in Shakespeare's handwriting rules him out of being their author, why doesn't the absence of any manuscripts in Oxford's rule him out as well? Similarly the film never addresses the question of why a man who was a popular playwright and poet as well as a major patron of the theatre would need to hire a front for his works when his plays were publicly performed under his own name in his lifetime or even why his surviving mature poetry is so stylistically different from Shakespeare's. The idea that it was to hide a political subtext in his plays, some of which the film implies were written years before the historical events they're supposedly commenting on, doesn't hold much water since most of the examples given don't really have any hidden political agenda - they're just the famous bits everyone knows. The only tangible one comes from Richard III, despite the inconvenient fact that the play that actually was performed prior to the events in the film's climax being, er, Richard II. But then, why let the facts get in the way of a half-baked secret history some imaginary `they' want to suppress?
Emmerich has certainly made films with premises just as silly, yet in the past he's been able to make them play as engaging adventures or entertainingly jaw-dropping displays of special effects spectacle as he alternately destroys or saves the world while ensuring that cute kids and cuddly dogs survive unscathed. Some of that technical proficiency seeps through in the impressive production design and special effects recreating a spectacular Tudor London, even cheekily copying the opening shot from Olivier's Henry V along the way. Emmerich and his team may have managed to make a $30m film look like a $100m epic, but they're still working with a tuppence ha'penny script that's watchable if you're in a tolerant mood but dramatically flat as it veers all over the place, rarely focussing on anyone long enough for us to care whether they live or die, let alone what they wrote. The dreary digital photography that drowns everything in a flat fog of grey and beige as if under the delusion that it adds a sense of dramatic gravitas to the proceedings simply saps what little life is left out of it all. Forget the historical inaccuracies or the nonsensical conspiracies piled on conspiracies, it's the deadly dullness of it all that deals the fatal blow to this Fakespeare. As two minor characters note, "How will it end?" "Tragically, I should suppose."
Not much to get excited about in the way of extras, either - some redundant deleted scenes, self-serving featurettes and directors commentary on the DVD with the odd additional featurette on the Blu-ray.
26 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shakespearean Conspiracy Theory,
This review is from: Anonymous [DVD]  (DVD)"Anonymous" is an absorbing , intelligent film based on a conspiracy theory that argues that the real author of the William Shakespeare plays was really an aristocrat with close relations to Queen Elizabeth the First. The film tells the story of how the aristocrat,Edward De Vere ,Earl of Oxford used Shakespeare as a front man to stage the plays that he wrote,but which for various reasons he couldn't claim authorship of. Shakespeare is portrayed in the film as an unscrupulous buffoon,extortionist and murderer. "Anonymous" portrays this story against a background of intrigue and backbiting at the Elizabethan court as the race to succeed the childless Elizabeth hots up.Childless is perhaps not the word however ,as the aristocracy appears to be riddled with her bastard sons. The film intermingles the story of De Vere and his plays with court scheming very well although the use of flashbacks made the film a little hard to follow and ascertaining the lineage of some of the main characters was fraught with complexity. That said , "Anonymous" was an entertaining film ,but how much truth there is in the tale remains open to question.
4.0 out of 5 stars Will Never Believe It,
This review is from: Anonymous (2011) [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)I love history - and I love historical dramas that are well done. This proved to be a visually evocative film with an interesting slant to the commonly held belief that Shakespeare was a literary genius. Very thought provoking and well told but I find it really hard to shake off the conviction Shakespeare, whilst he probably was a bit of a rogue (I think you had to be to be able to survive in those times unless you were born with a silver spoon) was not the creator of some of the most wonderful prose and poetry in the English language. Just because a person is poor and marginally educated, it does not mean that they are not blessed with intelligence and wit. The film fell just short of the 'wow' factor - but only just.
3.0 out of 5 stars Bizarre,
This review is from: Anonymous [DVD]  (DVD)Arrived well in time. Sadly not quite the film I imagined full of historical inaccuracies. Vanessa Redgrave was very good though. Interestingly she has played both Mary Queen of Scots and now Elizabeth I,
5.0 out of 5 stars Anonymous is great!,
This review is from: Anonymous [DVD]  (DVD)This is a really good film! It does have some good points, and is very interesting to learn. Whether it be true or not.
I love the hunchback Robert! :)
1.0 out of 5 stars not as good as expected,
This review is from: Anonymous [DVD]  (DVD)I hate to say this but Anonymous is possibly the most boring film ever made. I thought I would enjoy it as I am a bit of an English Literature fan but have so far not seen the end as I keep falling asleep about a third of the way through. Sorry!
2.0 out of 5 stars Anonymous,
This review is from: Anonymous [DVD]  (DVD)I believe, that the movie is very good, but the same can't be said about the CD. It is too scratched. Therefore only two stars.
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent,
This review is from: Anonymous [DVD]  (DVD)very thought provoking and extremely likely story of how illiterate shakespear's name appeared on the plays, sonnets,poems etc.instead of the real author.
1.0 out of 5 stars The real Anonymous conspiracy: Uwe Boll really directed it,
This review is from: Anonymous [DVD]  (DVD)Forget all that Shakespeare didn't write Shakespeare rubbish, the real skinny is that Roland Emmeric did not direct Anonymous - Uwe Boll did. There isn't any proof, but the very fact that there isn't any proof is proof in itself. You have to open your mind and think for yourself outside the Emmerichian mindset. Is it logical that someone who insists on destroying the world in every movie would suddenly make a movie without an apocalypse? Is it logical that a scifi guy would make a period flick with men in tights? That's the sort of thing Uwe Boll does. Is it logical he would make an entire film without a dog outrunning a fireball? Uwe Boll is an animal rights campaigner and would never expose a dog to such cheap tricks. It all fits - Emmerich could not have made something this crap. Emmerich's crap is enjoyable crap, but Boll's is dreary boring crap, and Anonymouys is dreary boring crap. Boll's films are famous for getting bad performances out of good actors, just like Anonymous. Anonymous is all Bolls.
The evidence is overwhelming. Anonymous is just too bad to have been directed by Roland Emmerich. The conspiracy must be uncovered!
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Anonymous [DVD]  by Roland Emmerich (DVD - 2012)