Newest Review: ... Queen of Scots, somehow Edward, Earl of Oxford hopes to have his influence through his plays. Some further, perhaps even more shocking re... more
Member Name: Ayesha-`
Advantages: Fascinating story
Disadvantages: Not very realistic in the delivery
Shakespeare is a name known worldwide, and conjures up images of romance, tragedy and flowery literature. The plays and works are known worldwide, frequently quoted and used in probably every English Literature class. Unique and perhaps difficult for most of us to get our heads around, this is the sort of work that cannot be produced by just anyone. But what if Shakespeare himself was just 'anyone', fortunate enough to come by the works of another person, and simply put his name to the work. What if he could not even write a single letter?
This film, Anonymous, explores a historical theory that the plays and also poetry were in fact written by a nobleman, who sought to keep his own name hidden from the records, since creative writing was not a 'noble' pastime and his own family disapproved. At a time when the succession of the throne after Elizabeth I is a mystery yet to be solved, with growing competition between supporters of the Earl of Essex and James, son of Mary Queen of Scots, somehow Edward, Earl of Oxford hopes to have his influence through his plays.
Some further, perhaps even more shocking revelations occur during this film, which those with some historical knowledge may not be so surprised by, but for me, they truly made me look at those Tudor stories told at school in a completely new light. It amuses me to think that our primary school teachers felt comfortable discussing gory methods of execution, but not the bizarre social and sexual behaviours of the aristocracy of the time.
In fact, this film does the reverse. Finally we, as adults (and really this film is only for adults), are granted access to a whole new side to the story, yet the crude living standards and horrific torture chambers and executions are shielded from us. I found this a little frustrating at times, and it made everything seem a little less convincing, but I was still able to appreciate that this has a lot to do with not wanting to diverge too far from the plot.
The second thing I became very conscious of was the fact that this play was so blatantly and unashamedly biased. On the one hand we have the Queen's advisors, often portrayed in films as manipulative and scheming. This film was certainly no exception there. On the other, we have the conveniently handsome, mostly blond Earls that are being prevented from sharing their true intentions with her Majesty. I found this aspect of the story hard to believe, and I suspect the conspiracy theories go just a little too far.
The actors are not particularly familiar to me at all, apart from Vanessa Redgrave, who plays a much more realistic and human version of Queen Elizabeth I than we often see. The styles did, however, seem a little inconsistent, with some players seeking to deliver this story in a contemporary manner, like our Shakespeare, who spoke like many ordinary people in my own home town might. Others seemed to be following the traditional style of period drama acting, and this made me feel like I wasn't really sure whether all of these people were on the same planet. This might have been why some characters disappointed me, as they seemed just a little too textbook for my liking.
There are some scenes of shootings, sword-fights and sex, but is clear that this is not the primary focus of the film. In most cases, the story shuffles on quickly enough, and the camera is not there to show us any detail. On the other hand, the costumes and sets were exactly as I have always imagined things would have been in that period, just a lot cleaner. The soundtrack was also very appropriate, but as with any period drama, it pretty much blended into the background for me. I was willing to accept that the effects would not be too powerful in this film, but it was something that might have made a good film great. Instead it did all seem a little subdued.
I'd have to admit that in spite of its flaws and weaknesses, I enjoyed this film and watched it twice. I opened, appropriately, I guess, with a modern-day play setting where a narrator is about to tell us this whole story, and closes with his conclusions. This I thought was an interesting and fitting way to introduce and close this film, and in a way it makes you aware that this is just an alternative perspective proposed to us. We are still free to choose what we wish to believe.
I guess I am just a sucker for any stories based on the Tudor period. It was always my favourite period of history, and I am always keen to learn more about who's who and what they did. I am now truly undecided on what really happened, and this film has really made me question everything I know. It is frustrating to think we will never really know the truth, for sure, but I am glad I watched this film. . I recommend, just because you have to be a little curious...
Summary: Do we really know who the real Shakespeare was?