Although we willingly concede, yet once more, that



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Although we willingly concede, yet once more, that Anonymous is not a compelling film, and we are happy to have watched the film for you should you never wish to see it, we think its cruxes are worth reading closely precisely because of the paradoxical ways in which it produces opacity while trying to make connections between writings and writers obvious. Again and again in Anonymous, Emmerich mashes up and on occasion does not follow the fundamental classic codes of Hollywood cinema, including genre, flashbacks, cross-cutting, formal repetitions of shots, and montage. These codes establish diegetic and narrative continuity and discontinuity in space and time, and Emmerich follows them quite well in his better executed disaster films.i

Understandably, Anonymous was received by Stratfordians as just another ridiculous, even contemptible “Oxford wrote ‘Shakespeare’s’ plays” story masqureading as fact. It is therefore a film to be written off. Yet given that Anonymous has about has much to do with the Earl of Oxford as Shakespeare in Love (dir. John Madden, 1998) has to do with Shakespeare, the kind of widespread attention Emmerich’s film received, including sometimes vitriolic attacks on it and campaigns like “Shakespeare Bites Back in England,” bear scrutiny.ii Let us now consider James Shapiro’s New York Times op-ed on Anonymous we mentioned above. Entitled, by an editor no doubt, “Hollywood Dishonors the Bard” and published about a week before the film’s nationwide release in the U.S, the op-ed denigrates the film. Sounding something like a conspiracy theorist himself, Shapiro focuses on Sony Pictures’ distribution of educational material related to the film rather than on the film, which he has apparently not seen. According to Shapiro, “Anonymous . . . presents a compelling portrait of Edward de Vere as the true author of Shakespeare’s plays.” That’s according to the lesson plans that Sony Pictures has been distributing to literature and history teachers in the hope of convincing students that Shakespeare was a fraud. . . . Sony Pictures’ study guide is keen to reinforce this reductive view of what the plays are about, encouraging students to search Shakespeare’s works for “messages that may have been included as propaganda and considered seditious.” A more fitting title for the film might have been Triumph of the Earl.” Shapiro goes on to attack the film for what other viewers, even Oxfordians, might consider poetic license:



In offering this portrait of the artist, Anonymous weds Looney’s class-obsessed arguments to the political motives supplied by later de Vere advocates, who claimed that de Vere was Elizabeth’s illegitimate son and therefore the rightful heir to the English throne. By bringing this unsubstantiated version of history to the screen, a lot of facts — theatrical and political — are trampled. Supporters of de Vere’s candidacy who have awaited this film with excitement may come to regret it, for “Anonymous” shows, quite devastatingly, how high a price they must pay to unseat Shakespeare.

Bluewater grill



i On these codes, see David Bordwell, Narrative Cinema

ii See



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