Sunday, February 19, 2012


In response to numerous requests – well, two requests, actually . . . but two's a number, innit? – I'm going to start blogging again about some of the movies we watch. ANONYMOUS is probably the first movie I've seen about Shakespeare since, well, SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE. Not surprisingly, a lot of the sets from that movie are used in ANONYMOUS, as well, so it has a familiar look to it.

Shakespeare himself is only a supporting character in ANONYMOUS, since the movie is about the question of who really wrote the plays credited to him and it doesn't take long to make the script's position clear. In this story, the true author of the plays is Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, and the reason he wrote some of them is rooted in the political intrigue surrounding the question of who will succeed Queen Elizabeth on the English throne.

It's a complicated plot, and it's not made any easier to follow by the film's "flashback within a flashback within a flashback" structure.  (And I'm not even counting the modern-day framing sequence.) For a while I wasn't quite sure what was going on, but I stuck with it and think I finally figured out most of it, anyway. Along with the political intrigue you get a considerable amount of swordplay and soap opera, including murder, blackmail, and incest. It's all carried out in restrained British fashion, of course, but the plot itself is entertainingly over the top.

I enjoyed ANONYMOUS quite a bit, but I think you'd need to know a lot about Shakespeare and English history to get the full effect of it. Reading reviews of the film in various places, I see that it seems to be one of those "love it or hate it" movies, with a recurring theme among the haters being that it's not "historically accurate", their basis for this being their belief that Shakespeare actually wrote the plays. To which my response is: it's a movie. It's fiction. The framing sequence even makes it clear that this is a case of "What if this is what really happened?" I don't know or even really care who wrote the plays. I just enjoyed the story.

This is also a very good movie for writers, with some lines that made Livia and me laugh out loud even though they probably weren't written to be funny. And it was good to see Derek Jacobi, who's the centerpiece of the framing sequence, again. Jacobi played Claudius in the mini-series I, CLAUDIUS, one of our favorites from the early days of our marriage.  Overall, ANONYMOUS is an odd movie, but I liked it and think it's well worth watching.

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