Upon hearing mixed reviews, I was somewhat sceptical when I entered the movie theatre at Event Cinemas for a media screening of Anonymous. The film explores the possibility of William Shakespeare's works as in fact written by Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford (played brilliantly by Rhys Ifans).
Directed by Roland Emmerich, of Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow fame, Anonymous is an aesthetically striking film with beautiful shots of Elizabethan London. But the drawn out storyline and haphazard flashbacks leave me feeling puzzled at times. I have to say it doesn't even bother me very much because I get quite caught up in the dramatisation of this triangular spectacle between Edward, William Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) and Ben Jonson (Sebastian Armesto).
I'm also moved by a few heartbreaking scenes and brought back to nostalgic moments when Hamlet performs the "to be or not to be" monologue on stage. The film kept me entertained for the entire two hours, which is quite a feat because I'm normally easily distracted by period dramas.
What intrigued me was not just the idea that William Shakespeare did not write the play," says Emmerich. "That spark opened up all sorts of avenues for the story, to look at the creative fire in people and to explore the relationship between art and politics – is the pen truly mightier than the sword?"
Yes, it has to be mentioned that there are historical inaccuracies, but ultimately the film is delving into controversial territory. The question of authorship resonates with me, only because I'm also a writer. I certainly don't write in iambic pentameter, but I dabbled in poetry and even tried to write a book. Nowadays, I'm more of a food writer, as you probably know. That doesn't take away from the fact that writing commands a sense of rightful ownership. This is what Edward de Vere has to struggle with as a nobleman who can't be a writer – only an anonymous one.
Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth (played by Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson) is made out to be a wanton woman and William Shakespeare is depicted as a drunken and illiterate actor who pushes himself to fame by taking advantage of an opportune moment.