Bard boy for love
Director: Roland Emmerich ( Independence Day) Stars: Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, Joely Richardson, Rafe Spall, David Thewlis, Jamie Campbell Bower, Xavier Samuel
THIS pulpy period piece goes postal on the reputation of the most influential playwright of them all, Mr William Shakespeare.
The Bard’s good name has long been potshotted by accusations he could not have written so many classics in so short a time.
Dudes such as Christopher Marlowe and Sir Francis Bacon supposedly left their signature off many a manuscript because they, umm, just plain felt like it.
Now we have Anonymous, which by comparison gets out a machine gun and sprays Shakespeare ( and indeed, the whole of Elizabethan England) to kingdom come.
You can put away your posh literary textbooks. They won’t be needed here. Instead, all you need to do is believe
Macbeth, Hamlet and all those other famed plays were penned by Edward de Vere ( Rhys Ifans, pictured), an aristocrat with any number of tawdry ties to the court ( and bedchamber) of Queen Elizabeth I ( a role shared by Joely Richardson and her mother Vanessa Redgrave).
Shakespeare ( played with louche loserness by Rafe Spall) himself will be but a bit player in the scurrilous romp that follows. But first, there must be flashbacks.
Here we will learn of de Vere’s prodigious talents from an early age ( he wrote and performed
A Midsummer Night’s Dream before hitting puberty).
After the Queen’s puritanical adviser Robert Cecil ( David Thewlis) becomes his guardian, Edward ( played in his younger guise by Jamie Campbell Bower) accidentally murders a manservant ( as you do) and is blackmailed into an early marriage to Cecil’s daughter. Edward is forced to abandon his pursuit of the writerly arts, only to be pursued by the man- eating Elizabeth ( Richardson).
No Virgin Queen, Elizabeth makes Edward her toyboy until pregnancy and politics get in the way.
Intrigued? Well, Anonymous is only getting started. The real guts of the film are spilled years later, where the middle- aged Edward plots a secret return to the theatre.
Recognising the power of the stage play as a way to communicate political propaganda and stir up the public, Edward picks up his quill and begins scribbling down surefire hits such as Richard III at blinding speed.
Each of Edward’s works trumps the previous one for rousing an audience into a rabble. And with a deluded drunkard like William Shakespeare serving as a fake frontman for the operation, Edward’s meddling in matters royal becomes all the more potent.
Though Anonymous is historical hogwash of the highest order – the film’s audacious claims have already bunched the undies of many Shakespeare buffs overseas – it is nevertheless highly entertaining.
The ensemble cast has a field day, revelling in the contentiously camp spirit of the production, as does director Roland Emmerich ( a name usually associated with lowbrow world- ending epics such as 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow).