Anonymous (2011)

2013 #24
Roland Emmerich | 125 mins | TV | 2.35:1 | UK, USA & Germany / English | 12 / PG-13

Was Shakespeare a fraud? No.The director of Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, and other films which don’t imply a specific timeframe in their title, helms a film about Shakespeare? Oh yeah, that sounds like a good idea…

And it is indeed dreadful.

In fact, it’s one of those films that’s hard to criticise because I just thought it was so consistently weak. There’s a lot of middling to couched-positive reviews of it floating about, but I practically despised it. For a start, there’s the faintly ludicrous premise that Shakespeare didn’t write the works of Shakespeare. It’s a conspiracy theory that’s been around for decades, at least, and some people do believe it… but not anyone who’s serious about Shakespeare. I think the film takes it seriously, though, and that sets me against it from the off. I know there are plenty of films that tell silly stories in a silly way, but no one’s trying to convince you Avengers Assemble or 2012 actually happened.

Then there’s the confusing storytelling, which occasionally jumps around in time; the attempts at a court intrigue storyline (because the “it’s not by Shakespeare!” thing doesn’t sustain a whole plot), the kind of thing which has been done better even in something as simplistic as The Tudors; the too-dark cinematography (with occasional eye-catching images); the attempts at spicing up a period thriller with action scenes and other histrionics, This film by any other name would smell just as shitwhich is what you should expect from the director of all those films I listed above but quite blatantly doesn’t sit right. And it’s over two hours long too, so it keeps going… and going…

Unlike Emmerich’s other films, which are hardly the height of art but are largely entertaining on some base level, Anonymous is just bad. With a quality cast and the occasional scene-redeeming moment, it’s not an unmitigated disaster. Still, this film by any other name would smell just as shit.

2 out of 5

(If you think that one-liner was bad, try watching the film.)

(But, seriously, don’t.)

Anonymous featured on my list of The Five Worst Films I Saw in 2013, which can be read in full here.

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