With its many twists and turns through the sex life of queens and nobles and the uncivilized escapades of nitwitted peasants, Anonymous brings the age-old argument of who is the true writer of Shakespeare’s plays to a confusing and paradoxical hypothesis. This is a film that is not for the weak at heart; i.e. the avid disciples of the image of Shakespeare. It was created, instead, for those who appreciate Hollywood’s license to reconstruct history for its entertainment. For us, it is a movie to see!
The film begins with the first meeting of Ifans’ Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, as a youth. He is an orphan, though still a noble, and is sent to live with a bishop who seeks to correct his blasphemous habit of writing poetry. In addition to being a sinful lover of art and beauty, he is also a man who takes a liking to sleeping with the future queen. One may get confused during the beginning, as the story line switches back and forth between the aging queen and the young queen, but towards the end, the plot comes in order.
Edward, in his old age, after being restrained from his two true loves for many decades, takes up writing the timeless works of genius that would be disguised as the craft of an illiterate actor named William Shakespeare. He decides to publish his work through these means in order to spread his political agenda without risking his status as a noble by directly criticizing of royal scandals and weaknesses. Scenes of Hamlet and Richard III are performed from the perspective of one who is observing the audience and display the riotous reactions of the audience to these themes of royal conspiracy. Heirs surface out of the blue; rebellions are passed from the stage unto the audience, which then pour out into the streets; French fencers die in labyrinths; the story is a “royal mess” (which is not to be taken negatively).
My criticism lays more with the bulk of film critics themselves rather than the farfetched formations in the movie. The majority of the reviews of Anonymous throughout the “high-brow” world of newsprint take on bitter resentment towards the writers who commit a crime against historical accuracy. Yet, if we want to view a film that strictly follows history, then should we not turn on a PBS documentary? My true critique is of those individuals who are so purist in their belief that films based on historical periods of time must be 100% accurate. Why do we need to remain fanatics over the individual writer? Does our love of the plays get lost if the true writer becomes obscure? I always thought this controversy shrouded Shakespeare’s works in an air of mystery, but, then again, I like to question the truths fed to me since childhood. Overall, I stand true to my conviction that it is the job of films, as works of art, to cause us to fantasize about whether or not our “concrete” conceptions of history are the absolute truth. I pay money only to have my world turned upside down, not to be bombarded with the same old pretentious and bygone remittances.