Anonymous (2011)

Reviewer: Scott Nehring

Anonymous Movie PosterShould I see it?

Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Written by: John Orloff
Starring: Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave and David Thewlis

Rated PG-13 for mild violence and sexual content.

Rent or Buy This Movie Here

Roland Emmerich, the wildly successful director and producer of such masterworks as Eight Legged Freaks, Independence Day, Universal Solider and 2012 takes time out from being a über-liberal version of Michael Bay to showcase a thin conspiracy tale that Shakespeare is not the author of his own works. 

The anti-Shakespeare argument is known as the Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship. A watered down version of the argument is presented by Derek Jacobi at the opening of the film. My version of his version of the argument is this: William Shakespeare was far too uneducated and unsophisticated to create the works assigned to his name. Billy S. was a commoner and such genius would have to come from the mind of an elite like Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford. 

So says the elites.

Hey, isn't Emmerich the same guy who gave us Stargate; a film that essentially promotes the notion that aliens created the pyramids and Egyptian culture (because those dumb Africans were too simple to come up with all of that on their own)?

The theory isn't nonsensical but this film certainly doesn't do anything to produce any evidence or thought other than the snobbish conjecture that someone of low means isn’t capable of genius. 

The film is a well-written and acted dramatization of the Oxdordian theory.  Edward De Vere, (Rhys Ifans) due to his station and the political and religious restrictions on his life, secretly hires playwright Ben Johnson (Sebastian Armesto) to put his name to De Vere’s plays. Johnson, a real life and influential playwright in his own right, dislikes the idea of subordinating his own work to another man's plays. This leads him to permit Globe Theater actor William Shakespeare take credit for the plays. Although Shakespeare is a belligerent and notably stupid man, everyone blindly accepts his claim of authorship. By the time the genius of De Vere’s work is apparent it is too late for Johnson to regain the credit he hastily gave away. 

De Vere uses the stage to undermine his political enemies and influence matters of state. While he applies cultural pressure through the stage, he also fights political battles in Queen Elizabeth’s court. If all of this wasn't enough, De Vere beds the queen, a union from which they sire a bastard son. Yes, the Duke is busy bedding the queen, working through the issues of state and of his station but yet has time and inclination to pen the masterworks of Western Civilization. This makes more sense in the eyes of the filmmakers than believing in the silly notion that an actor, with all the time in the world, who was living and breathing theater in an age of explosive culture and art would be able to write brilliantly. 

As long as you can ignore the film undermining the very theory it proposes, you may find the real treats of the film are screenwriter John Orloff’s rich dialog and Emmerich’s loving presentation of the Globe performances of Shakespeare’s work. Emmerich has risen to become one of the most profitable film directors in history for a reason. He has a talent for glossing over broken logic to present idiocy as feasible.  His face-palm inducing global-warming screed The Day After Tomorrow is a tribute to this specific talent. Despite this part of his track record, Anonymous is engaging and often smartly presented. While he fails at providing a film which will change many minds, he does give us an interesting alternative-fiction look at the workings of the Elizabethan Court and the Globe Theater.


One exchange of dialog I found to be particularly compelling.  While pressuring Johnson to accept credit for his work, De Vere points out something every audience member should have at the forefront of their minds at all times:

De Vere
…All art is political, Jonson, 
otherwise it would just be decoration. 
And all artists have something to say, 
otherwise they'd make shoes. 
And you are not a cobbler, 
are you Jonson?

What is interesting about this quote is that it comes in the middle of a film proposing a conspiracy which serves to undermine common thinking.  A film created by Emmerich, an aggressive global warming advocate who has made films specifically to advance his agendas.  It is rare for a movie to acknowledge the conspiracy of influence the film industry knowingly conducts on its patrons.

Click on fake Shake to view the trailer
Rafe Spall Shakespeare Anonymous

Scott Nehring Christian Movie Reviews

Scott Nehring Christian Movie Reviews
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