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Saturday, November 19, 2011


... so long live Shakespeare's wonderful words ... whoever wrote them. After watching Roland Emmerich's intriguing Anonymous about the controversial question of the authorship behind Shakespeare's plays, I'm even more convinced of that. Whoever wrote them - as Ben Jonson (Sebastian Armesto) says at the end of the film - those words will live forever, and he and everybody else who lived in the same age as the bard who wrote them, even the Queen herself, will be remembered because they had the honour to live in the same age as that man. Isn't that true? 


OK, before you go on reading, I must remind you that when given anything Shakespearean I tend to be biased. 

Whatever YOU tend to believe, this film can't leave you indifferent. Though a historically accurate timeline is nowhere to be found, it instills doubt in the moviegoer. You can't avoid thinking, what if ... ? At least, while you are comfortably sitting in front of the huge screen and caught in the intriguing narration, lost in the unbeatable charm, the powerful atmosphere of  Elizabethan London recreated at Babelsberg Studios in Berlin. Emmerich doesn't want to convince the academics of the truth of his feeble theories,  but certainly he wants to entertain his audience with care and attention for the visual details of grimy Tudor London and a very special perspective on the world of the Elizabethan public  playhouses. 

Rhys Ifans
Jamie Campbell Bower

Since he was a child, Edward De Vere, the Earl of Oxford, (Rhys Ifans, in his mature life /Jamie Campbell Bower, as  a young  man ) was a literary genius, he was extraordinarily talented with words. However, his rank and the family he was brought up in after his parents' death, the powerful puritan Cecils, prevented him from accomplishing his ambition, that is,  to see his plays staged publicly with his name. He , who had meanwhile become Queen Elizabeth's (played in her different ages by Joely Richardson and her mother Vanessa Redgrave) lover, had to renounce all of his dreams and was forced to marry Anne Cecil (Helen Baxendale). 

Joely Richardson as Young Queen Elizabeth

Vanessa Redgrave - Elizabeth in her last years 
Later on he offered the authorship of his plays to young Ben Jonson who was beaten in the task by an unscrupled, vain, almost illitterate actor in his company, Will Shakespeare (Rafe Spall). 
In the last year of Elizabeth's reign,  theatre and politics mingled and plotted and burst into violence with a tragic sad epilogue. 

Rafe Spall as Will Shakespeare
Controversies apart,  the film is well constructed as a play within a play (it starts on a stage in contemporary New York with a monologue of Derek Jakobi) and has excellent cast and photography. I liked it, though I  can hardly be convinced Shakespeare was a fraud and even less can I believe that Shakespeare was the shallow, funny charlatan skillfully played by Rafe Spall. Neither as a dummy writer. 

Anecdotes:
1. The film was released yesterday , November 18, in Italy. I had to leave by bus early in the afternoon to get to Rome in time for the 5.40 p.m. show and I was back home late at night. Was it worth it? Yes, it was.
2. The reason why I went to Rome is that I wanted to see it in English. And...wow! I could do it! I could see this film in the original language thanks to Cinema Nuovo Olimpia in the city centre and to my friend K/V who discovered it!
3. I was actually rather distracted all through the movie by the impression of having already seen somewhere two of the actors without being able to recollect where and when. I now know, thanks to Imdb: ephebic but not effeminate young earl of Oxford (Jamie Campbell Bower) I had already seen as Arthur in Camelot  (2011) and fascinating Robert Deveraux, Earl of Essex, I had the pleasure of recently watch in the last series of Spooks (2011) as young Harry Pierce. In both roles, Sam Reid.

10 Reasons Why Shakespeare is a Fraud (video by Roland Emmerich) 

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