Bard boy for love

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Movies - Stage­craft or stooge­craft? LEIGH PAATSCH

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).

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