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Monday, November 7, 2011

Anonymous

With Tower Heist out of the way, there are only a further two films that I need to take a look at from last week. I do want to catch up with Attack the Block at some point but, for now, here's my thoughts on the first of two fairly noteworthy films.




The tagline on the poster kind of says it all but Anonymous explores a fairly simple conceit in a rather convoluted way: did William Shakespeare actually write all the plays and sonnets that bare his name or was William Shakespeare simply an actor who used his name as a way of protecting the reputation of the works' true author, an aristocrat named Edward De Vere, The Earl of Oxford, in an ultra-puritanical England? It's a very interesting conceit that the film does its best to make a strong case for its validity but the more you think about it, the more it shows itself to be nothing but silly, utterly unprovable conjecture.

More interestingly still, is the way the film explores the way Shakespeare-or-whoever's plays affected and were affected by an England cruelly divided by class and oppressively ruled by a particularly puritanical, fundamentalist branch of Christianity. While the "religious leaders" balked at any artistic endeavor as, at best, a childish waste of time and, at worst, fundamentally anti-God, the paranoid oligarchy heavily censored all art with even the slightest hint of sedition. The film uses this political and sociological climate as the seemingly perfect environment to posit the idea that the works of "William Shakespeare" were tools used by an aristocrat to rile up the masses - quite successfully at that - against what he sees to be a grossly unfair and unjust ruling class.     



All of this adds up to a thoroughly captivating film that makes the absurd seem viable, while being a massively entertaining whowhywhatdunit... by the man who brought us Independence Day! That's right, this politically charged, brilliantly acted (Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, David Thewlis are all in top form), literary thriller is by Roland Emmerich, the guy responsible not only for topnotch daft entertainment like Independence Day and Stargate but also just plain daft trash like 10,000 BC, 2012, The Day After Tomorrow and the atrocious Godzilla remake.

Anonymous is, therefore, pretty easily Emmerich's best film since Independence Day way back in 1996 as it proves the perfect template to both control and harness his penchant for trashy, ridiculous entertainment. Not that the film entirely escapes his more infuriating tendencies -  the film is far too bloated at 130 minutes and he does allow the fascinating setting of this particularly nasty period in England's history to overwhelm the story that is being told - but a return to form it certainly is.

Unless, of course, it was truly someone else entirely who directed Anonymous as a way of saving the reputation of the man who screwed up Godzilla for an entire generation...       

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