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By MARK TURNER
It's amazing the stories that come up and even more so to think that they are all completely original. Some say there are truly only several different stories available to tell but that these three to fourare embellished enough to make them different.
Then there are the classics, the tales told for what seems like forever. Take for instance, Shakespeare. His plays and sonnets are considered the best ever written in the English language. But what if he wasn't the actual author?
There are historical discussions on just this topic and that's where the inspiration for the movie ANONYMOUS comes from. It takes the idea that Shakespeare was actually illiterate and that someone else wrote everything he is credited with.
Edward De Vere, the Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans) is an aristocrat dedicated to his queen, Elizabeth I (Vanessa Redgrave). But he sees those around her manipulating things to the way they wish them to be as opposed to what is best for England. It seems that the Queen takes the word and influence of William Cecil (David Thewliss) more than that of anyone and past history has yielded De Vere and Cecil as mortal enemies even though De Vere is married to Cecil's daughter.
De Vere is a man of words as well as action. It is through these words that he has always reached the Queen. The movie moves forward and back in time showing them as subject and royalty and also as lovers. But there are dark secrets looming which aren't revealed until much later. The movie is filled with secrets and plotting turning what would at first seem the tale of Shakespeare into a political thriller instead.
Watching the lowly crowds during performances of plays De Vere realizes the power one could have by controlling this crowd. They react to the words being performed but none is enough to spark them or inspire them. He has those words and the ability to write them but his position prevents him from doing so. Instead he hires playwright Ben Johnson (Sebastian Armento) to produce the plays he writes using his name instead. Johnson backs out on the deal though, releasing the play as written by Anonymous. When the crowd calls for the author actor William Shakespeare (Rafe Spall), who knows of the deal, steps forward to take credit where it isn't due.
The plays continue to be written and performed and the crowd can't get enough. And in various stories they can see that they relate to things happening in England, slightly camouflaged but not quite enough to hide their true meaning. At the same time the members of the Queen's court are made aware as well and manipulations are implemented to sway her majesty. The center of their disagreement lies in an heir to the throne. Elizabeth has no legitimate children to inherit the crown and Cecil wants to insert James, the son of Mary and a Scot. Those who believe that only a true Englishman should rule are seeking someone else.
The behind the scenes wheeling and dealing, the deceptions that come into play and the final twist in this story make for an interesting film. With so many characters with so many titles, it becomes slightly confusing at times but not enough to take away from the story going on. Instead it's like watching one of the classic BBC series that used the same subject matter just turning it into a 2 hour film rather than a month long series.
The acting is amazing. As always to me the sign of a fantastic actor is one who so immerses himself in the role that you never even consider that someone is acting but accept them as that person. Ifans does an amazing job setting so into the role that you would barely recognize him from previous films. The supporting cast does an extremely great job as well and casting Joely Richardson to play the young Queen while her mother portrays the aging Queen was a smart move.
The film may not be for everyone. It offers little to no action or true comedy. Instead it tells a possibility that may have existed in history, the true author of the plays of Shakespeare and their real reason for being written. It offers intrigue to the fullest extent making current spy movies seem rather cumbersome and this one more filled with finesse. It's an interesting movie that will entertain you if you give it a chance and perhaps influence you to look deeper. The question of who actually wrote the plays is still in doubt and argued by scholars around the world. Watching a movie like this could inspire you to look deeper into finding an answer.
Past Digital Views reviews, other current reviews and more can be found online at http://dvddigitalviews.blogspot.com