AnonymousDirector: Roland Emmerich, Sony Pictures, Rated M, 130 mins
The director of such hits as Godzilla, Independence Day and The Day After
Tomorrow, sci-fi supremo Roland Emmerich, has suddenly made his first period drama by turning his cameras onto the world’s greatest playwright and poet by challenging the authorship of his extensive body of literary work and indicating it was really Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford instead of the internationally proclaimed William Shakespeare.
Written for the screen by John Orloff (A Mighty Heart), Emmerich’s preposterous production is set against the backdrop of the Elizabethan period that is filled with political intrigue and a scandalous dalliance by the Virgin Queen (producing an illegitimate child) which contradicts historical facts.
Despite his fictionalised fantasy relating to the veracity of the famous playwright, Emmerich’s Anonymous still features a wonderful ensemble cast that includes Rys Ifans (Elizabeth - The Golden Age) as the Earl of Oxford, Rafe Spall (One Day) as William Shakespeare, Vanessa Redgrave (Atonement) as Queen Elizabeth, Joely Richardson (The Tudors) as a young Queen Elizabeth, Jamie Campbell Bower (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) as the younger Earl of Oxford and David Thewlis (Harry Potter franchise) as the Queen’s adviser William Cecil.
In addition to some good performances, there is a realistic recreation of 16th century London and a replica of the Rose Theatre where some of Shakespeare’s well known plays were staged at which the Earl of Oxford (Ifans) insisted that the playwright Ben Johnson (Sebastian Armesto) pose as the author of de Vere’s plays – only to be usurped by the actor Will Shakespeare (Spall).
At the same time Emmerich’s approach in depicting the older Queen Elizabeth (Redgrave) as a doddering old woman (which she was not) and then showing a youthful Elizabeth (Richardson) having a sexual liaison with the younger Earl of Oxford is nothing further from the truth.
It is therefore not surprising that Emmerich has titled his latest release Anonymous as the story he presents is rather fanciful and hard to accept in view of the long-standing historical facts that show Shakespeare to be the true author of his many works (some produced after de Vere’s death) with Emmerich’s movie being summed up by one famous Shakespearean quote “To be or not to be, that is the question”!
VIC'S VERDICT: 3 Rubber Stamps
Of Gods and MenDirector: Xavier Beauvois, Sony Pictures, Rated M, 122 mins (released this month)
Loosely based on the life of the Cistercian monks of Tibhirine in Algeria from 1993 until their kidnapping in 1996 comes this month’s DVD release which is the stirring story of eight French Christian monks who live in harmony with their Muslim brothers until a crew of foreign workers is massacred by an Islamic fundamentalist group, causing fear to sweep through the region.
In fact it is their leader Christian (Lambert Wilson) who takes it upon himself to express the group’s intentions to ignore the threats and continue their mission of goodwill despite being disputed by the group whose dilemma forces some of them to question their allegiance to God and jeopardise their own health.
Despite the growing menace in their midst and the army offering them protection, the monks soon realise that they have no choice but to stay, no matter what happens.
Director Xavier Beauvois’ powerful and moving story of undying faith is both visually and performance-wise compelling viewing not to mention the cinematic beauty created by cinematographer Caroline Champetier.
It is no surprise that Of Gods and Men won both the Best Foreign Language Film as well as the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
VIC'S VERDICT: 4 Rubber Stamps
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