The literati and wannabe literati will hate Roland Emmerich's latest film "Anonymous". Historians will also shred it to pieces. Shakespeareans will definitely hate it. So be it.


So, to make it clear "Anonymous" is based on the ages long rumor that William Shakespeare did not write his works; somebody else did. The name that came up most often was Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. For several reasons - which I will gladly discuss here - theorists conclude that he was the only person who could have written the works and that it is impossible for William Shakespeare to have written the works, let alone so many.


The first argument was that many of Shakespeare's works deal with royalty - King Lear, Richard II, Henry V, Henry VIII, etc. - and he would not have intimate knowledge of the inner circles of royalty. Only royalty begets royalty. The second argument is that Shakespeare showed no inclination toward writing until he mysteriously appeared in London around 1592 which happens to be the same time that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford was deemed the bad boy of England. Edward was already an established writer and patron of the literary arts. He would have easy access to a nobody actor like Shakespeare.

But there are some glaring problems with the theory. Lets say Edward was the author of the works, then how could you explain the publishing of All's Well That Ends Well, The Tempest, Macbeth, Coriolanus and several others written after Edward died? The other problem is writing styles were so far removed it's pathetic. Either way, it makes for great fodder for conspiracy theorists.


One of the best argument I heard - that actually made sense was that Shakespeare was more than one person, perhaps a group of writers. That would not have been unusual since writers frequently collaborated on peices - include the Bard himself! (He admitted this and there are several proofs of this at the Shakespeare museum in Stratford-upon-Avon.) That out the way, lets look at the film.


I give Mr Emmerich license to modify history anyway he wants, Quinton Tarantino did it in "Inglorious Bastards" and no one bitched about it! Or was that because it was about a reviled figure such as Hitler? It shouldn't matter, remember films are about entertainment value and unless it's too far-fetched to be practical, let's go with it.


"Anonymous" centers around the goings-on of a dashing Earl of Oxford (the elder played by Rhys Ifans and Jamie Campbell Bower as a young man). He was quite the playboy including a young Queen Elizabeth (Joely Richardson) as one of his playmates. [Note to Elizabethan fans: You're not going to like the way Queen Elizabeth is portrayed as pretty much a floozy!) As told by Ben Johnson (Sebastian Armesto), who alleges that he is a go between for Edward and Shakespeare.

During the recollection the film jumps from 1602 and an earlier time with Edward at his playboy worse. The older Elizabeth (Vanessa Redgrave Joely's mom) is trying to protect the crown while presumably still have fun with Edward who is no in disgrace.


Shakespeare comes off as pretty much a illiterate schmuck who just happened to be in the right place at the right time. It took the credit with Edward sat in the wings watching his works unfold.


Of course the proof is destroyed when the Globe Theatre burns down.

The history is a mess. But this is not a biopic nor a documentary. At no time does "Anonymous" push itself off as anything more than a drama. Much like "JKF" and "All The Presidents Men" (which, granted were closer to the truth because they were more recent) there is a great deal of poetic license. In fact it becomes somewhat confusing as the scenes flip back and forth so much you lose track of which time period you are watching.


However, there is no arguing the fact this is a beautifully shot film, capturing London in all it's past glory. This is by the same guy who gives us every disaster film made! Remember Roland is best known for "Independence Day", "Godzilla", and most recently "2012". this time he decides not to blow anything up and he does a terrific job.


The performances, no matter how off kilter, were wonderful. Though I had to question the match up of Ifans/Campbell Bower (who look nothing alike), casting the Redgraves was

brilliant; their performances superb! Across the board, support casting was perfect. And that's the bottom line of the film.


"Anonymous", despite whatever historical inaccuracies it might have is a character driven, acting clinic. Storyline notwithstanding look at the technical aspects and you see a film being referenced in every film school.   -- GEOFF BURTON