Anonymous (2011)

Curiously Shakespeare himself (Rafe Spall) is portrayed as an oafish thug, sounding not unlike Russell Brand

This film assumes the theory that William Shakespeare’s plays were written by The Earl of Oxford, Edward De Vere (Rhys Ifans) is true. De Vere chooses the poet and playright Ben Johnson (Sebastian Armesto) to stage his plays but Johnson gets cold-feet and gives credit for the works to William Shakespeare (an actor in his company). The film is a little disorientating at first, with so many theatrical types, aesthetes, and people with titles to get to know. As well as being confusing it also initially comes across as an unfunny Monty Python film. Get into the meat of the film however and you’ll find it tells a good story, full of betrayal, intrigue and tragedy (much like one of Shakespeare’s plays). As a drama, the pay-off here, instead of action sequences, is seeing De Vere’s plays being performed and the rowsing audience-reaction to them.

De Vere uses his plays as political tools to manipulate the ‘mob’, and this does not go unnoticed by William Cecil (David Thewlis), Queen Elizabeth’s longtime adviser, who moves to put a stop to them. As a result, the film gets some action sequences of its own, and builds to an exciting conclusion. I thought Ifans was surprisingly good as De Vere, but then this might be because I am more used to seeing him portray idiots. A slighty negative point is that the film jumps betweens time periods almost at will and with no warning and there were times when this did catch me out. Overall a good film. 6/10

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