Gerald Wright's Movie Coverage
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Running time: 130 min.
Release date: October 28, 2011
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13
To be or not to be? That is the question when it comes to who actually created the body of work credited to William Shakespeare.
The setting for Anonymous is the 16th century during the reigning of Queen Elizabeth I. Anonymous, is filmed in the languages of English, French, Italian and Greek (ancient yr. 1 - 1453), and speculates on an issue that has for centuries intrigued academics and brilliant minds such as Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Sigmund Freud. This issue is who really wrote the works we come acknowledge as the William Shakespeare writings?
The interest generated by the plot varies for different stories involved. One of the stories involved is about the great monarch Queen Elizabeth I, brilliant portrayed by Joely Richardson as the young Tudor and legendary actress Vanessa Redgrave as the older version, with her infamous "virgin status", her political adeptness, her fearsome temper, her penchant for swearing oaths that made one's blood freeze, and her ability to command deep love and adoration from her subjects.
I got a real sense from Joely Richardson's performance of the terror and uncertainty of Elizabeth's youth, when she lived in fear of death at the hands of her unstable Catholic sister along with the scandalous political intrigue and illicit romances in the Royal Court. One of the beloved subjects of the young Queen is the Earl of Oxford (played by Jamie Campbell Bower and Rhys Ifans as the older version). Both actors give confident performances as they command their character's life. The combination of these fine actor's performance on screen reinforces the emphasis on action derived from their characters. The schemes of greedy nobles lusting for the power of the throne is brought to light, which explains the psychological and moral interest of much this great drama. However, the most unlikely place of this so-call secretive lifestyle of the Royal Court is exposed on the London stage.
This dramatic irony of this film comes into play when William Shakespeare, played by Rafe Spall, is given credit for stage plays. I personally think that William Shakespeare, a man who was educated at the King's New School in Stratford, a free grammar school, only received an intensive education in Latin grammar and classics should not be credited. The film portrays his character as an adversary of the university educated writers (wits), who are above his rank. Yet, the question of him producing such great work brings to mind that "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exists and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts...".
I was fortunate to interview some of the cast. Director Roland Emmerich (known as the German Little Spielberg), of Independence Day (1996), The Patriot (2000), The Day After Tomorrow (2004), and 2012 (2009) told me that, "This is the longest casting I ever did in getting the actors set for the film." He mentioned that he doesn't like to rehearse.
The writer of this film John Orloff, of Legend of the Guardians:The Owls of Ga'Hoole and of two episodes of HBO's Band of Brothers (TV mini-series) has questions concerning the creative credit of William Shakespeare, as I do. He told me that he wrote a book on this subject, and stated; "I did years of research on this to write this script".
Rhys Ifan who plays the older Earl of Oxford once played in another "Virgin Queen" movie in 2007 called Elizabeth: The Golden Age. He explained to me why he considers himself a 'factory-floor actor'. He states,"I learn my lines, I get there on time, I don't sit around with other actors and talk about the pain and the magic of acting. I'd rather just go down to the pub. That's where the real magic happens. That's often where the ideas take flight. Very underrated, the pub, in terms of the history of creativity". Lead actress Joely Richardson who shines on screen as young Queen Elizabeth I, is the sister of the late Natasha Richardson and a very talented member of the Redgrave/Richardson theatrical and film dynasty. I asked her if she considers herself a product of the legendary family? With tears in her eyes, she reflected about her past and replied, "No! In my early years, I found myself working hard to find myself, because I've been rejected many times for parts in this business....My mother squandered money and we lived like Gypsies." I congratulated on her body of work she now is credited for. I also told her how much I loved her character Julia McNamara of the FX-cable TV series Nip/Tuck.
Anonymous creates a panoramic and colossal setting. The exposition of the film falls on the dialogue of the characters, as it establishes the relationships, tensions and conflicts from which the later plot development derives so well. This is a plot-driven presentation hidden in an epic costume drama covering a large expanse of time set against a vast panoramic backdrop. It also takes a historical and an imagined event, mythic, legendary and heroic figures, and adds a lavish and extravagant setting.
In my opinion, Anonymous will be an Academy Award consideration.
FILM RATING (A+)