Much Ado about a Movie

November 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

In French, the English language is often qualified in a metonymy as “Shakespeare’s language.” But what if Shakespeare actually had nothing to do with the words we attribute to him? It is anyway this long-living theory that gave birth to a new Hollywood production released last week: “Anonymous,” by German director Roland Emmerich. The movie highlights the fringe theory that questions Shakespeare’s true authorship of the plays and poems historically ascribed to him to the benefit of Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford. The tagline modestly wonders: “was Shakespeare a Fraud?”

Planned for a release in March 2011, the film eventually arrived in theaters only last week. Should we see this delay as the first sign of an uncertain reception? Anyway, it is to be noticed that the world-wide releasing plan has been cancelled for a smaller one limited to 250 theaters in 4 countries.

Strange at least, if we have a quick look at the plot: it says conspiracy, scandal, legend and costumes. That is to say, the good old recipe to a programmed success. However, to the cast there is more than just the story when they describe it as a “political thriller.” This too sounds fine. But the truth is, nobody seems to care about the movie’s quality by itself when we look at the main critics. The majority of the reception lies in awakening the historical controversy through endless disputes of fans and scholars on the web. Even the Guardian offers a poll simply called “So, did Shakespeare write the plays?” – Yes, you can do it too.

This whole controversy leaves me wondering: what is it with movies taking on old disputes to create what they struggle to call half fiction, half historical? And especially in the case of Emmerich who stated that he never enjoyed Shakespeare and only knew Shakespeare from movies. Why take the risk of such an outcry when you are not even passionate about the topic? Oh well, I guess the answer can always be summed up as “This is just a movie.”

Having said that, I will most probably watch Anonymous at some stage – but probably for the wrong reasons. By surfing on the success of Shakespeare in Love, I’m hoping from Anonymous to emotionally remind me of my teenage years hoping and weeping whilst watching Gwyneth Paltrow. Furthermore, there is never enough occasion to enjoy a costumed movie with British accent and old palaces. But I definitely won’t watch it to form an opinion on whether or not the dispute has some foundation or even try to learn more about it, neither to see a masterpiece of Hollywood studios. In my humble opinion, all this rage is just much ado about nothing.

-Anne-Claire

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