Two Jews on Film - By Joan Alperin-Schwartz: Yes 'Anonymous' is a political thriller, but it's one that is set in the past, 400 years ago to be precise.
The film, directed by Roland Emmerich and written by John Orloff (took him 15 drafts to get it right) supports the premise that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, (Rhys Ifans)a prominent aristocrat, was the real author of the works attributed to William Shakespeare. Sounds dull? Believe me, it's anything but.
Whether you agree with the premise or not, 'Anonymous' is an exciting, sexy, suspenseful, exquisitely acted and intriguing film, One that will make you think and question.
When 'Anonymous' opens, we found ourselves in the present. A scholar, (Sir Derek Jacobi) gets out of a taxi, rushes into a theater and steps onto a stage. He looks out at the audience and announces that... 'William Shakespeare never wrote a single word.' That in fact, Shakespeare was illiterate. He says a few other things as well and then... We are whisked back in time to the early 17th century when England was an empire and she was ruled by Elizabeth 1 (Vanessa Redgrave) The Virgin Queen... who was anything but a virgin.
'Anonymous' is not only a thriller but a complex one...with many, many players and lots of flashbacks and flash-forwards. This makes it imperative that you pay very close attention to what's happening on the screen. If you take a bathroom break, you'll be lost.
Besides the above mentioned Queen Elizabeth and the 17th Earl of Oxford, here are some of the other major players....
Queen Elizabeth, as a very horny, young woman (played by Vanessa's daughter, Joely Richardson) we find out later on that The Virgin Queen had several bastard children...
One child was with the young; Earl of Oxford (Jamie Campbell Bower)...The poor Earl doesn't discover this until much later in life. Note: Important plot point.
Queen Elizabeth has two extremely religious and equally devious advisors in her Court...Robert Cecil (Edward Hogg) and his creepy, hunchback son William (David Thewlis) they will stop at nothing to maintain their power over the Queen.
Playwright, Sebastian Armesto (Ben Johnson) who reluctantly agrees to help the older Earl get his plays produced. Since many of the plays ('Hamlet', 'MacBeth' and 'Richard the 3rd') make fun of the political leaders in power, the Earl couldn't possibly take credit for them...Not if he wants to 'keep his head'.
And who does Sebastian find to take credit for these masterpieces? None other than an illiterate, buffoon actor by the name of William Shakespeare. (Raf Spall).
As in any good political drama, we have battles, beheadings, palace intrigue, double-crosses, even some incest.
For over ninety years, literary scholars have been investigating the true authorship of the plays, poems and sonnets attributed to the Bard. Shakespeare left behind no manuscripts, no writings of any kind. Apparently his father, wife and daughter were all illiterate. In his later years, William became a businessman and never wrote another word.
But no matter what you believe, one thing is for sure 'Anonymous' is a stylish, thrilling, spectacle with Oscar worthy performances and definitely deserving of the 4 1/2 bagels it received from me.
Once again the 'Two Jews On Film' do not share the same taste in movies...Check out our video, to see what John thought of this epic drama.
'Anonymous' opens in theaters Friday, October 28, 2011.