Anonymous (UK/ Germany, 2011)

anonymous-movie-poster-01Directed by: Roland Emmerich. Sometimes it’s fun to look at some other critical responses after I see a movie that I like, especially one like this that was pretty likely to ruffle some feathers. Anything that overtly challenges the standard hero-worshiping Great Man theory even in a relatively modest way like this film, especially for such a towering figure of Western culture as Shakespeare, was bound to piss some people off. But the movie wasn’t that outrageous, was it? Going by the reviews you’d think it was some egregiously insulting soap opera/ action movie/ historical porn trying to pass itself off as objective fact. The way it was received, you’d think it was, say, Braveheart. I didn’t find Anonymous to be that at all. I thought it was a really interesting story, a really funny take on Shakespeare as an historical figure, and a pretty beautiful little film. I’m a sucker for sleek cinematography, and I enjoyed how the blacks seemed very black, and the lines seemed very sharp. Besides that, I really liked the story itself, how it sort of balanced between protagonists, all of them pretty sympathetic but none of them focused on enough to be idolized to the point of saccharine emotion. Sebastian Armesto as Ben Jonson is a great humble anchor of the film, a worthy co-protagonist with the weighty doomed genius Edward De Vere, in an amazing turn by the underrated Rhys Ifans. One of the great strokes of genius in the making of this film is how Emmerich apparently sat on the project for almost a decade, slowly building up funding so that he could pick the cast he wanted, purely out of talent, instead of relying on major studio funding that only comes from signing “two big American names”. Every single person in this movie, perhaps because they’re largely unknown, gives a thoroughly enjoyable performance. Vanessa Redgrave, Edward Hogg, Joely Richardson, my man David Thewlis, all of them are amazing. It was probably half the movie in until I recognized Rafe Spall—the shitty, apathetic teenager idiot from Shaun of the Dead—playing Shakespeare like a British Van Wilder of some kind. I could watch that guy all day. I did re-watch Shakespeare in Love recently, and if that fucking thing (as endearing and enjoyable as it was) could pass by the critics’ wrath, there’s no reason not to give this movie a fair chance. As a film, it does its job—to present us with an interesting story and some food for thought on our culture. If a Branagh-endorsed Shakespearean like Derek Jacobi pops up, you know that this film isn’t being flippant with its premise. Ultimately, this is a film completely in love with, if not the name William Shakespeare, then certainly in love with the works attributed to him. And ultimately, who gives a shit? It’s a good movie—watch it.

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One response to “Anonymous (UK/ Germany, 2011)

  1. Pingback: Re-View: Amadeus (USA, 1984) | Offhand Reviews·

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