“Anonymous” has good atmosphere but lacks plot

This movie, set in the Renaissance, provides an interesting premise and scenery but quickly turns confusing

Now that the Renaissance Festival’s season is over, one must turn to other options, such as movies, in order to enjoy the colorful atmosphere of 1400-1600 Europe. “Anonymous” (2011), directed by Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, 2012), takes place in the Renaissance era at the height of Shakespeare’s fame. The movie questions whether or not he deserved his fame, not because of the plays’ quality, but because of the question of their true author. The movie is a combination of interesting Renaissance feel and confusing plotlines, making it a good watch for some reasons but a bad watch for others.

The movie sets up the Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere (played by Rhys Ifans), as the true author of Shakespeare’s plays. Writing poetry and prose is seen as a taboo and sinful hobby that only poor people partake in, so to maintain his reputation, de Vere pays off another playwright and eventually Shakespeare to release the plays under their names instead of his own. The drama of Queen Elizabeth I of England’s (played by Vanessa Redgrave) succession unfolds at the same time, connected to de Vere’s storyline by a romantic subplot and the portrayal of his plays as subliminally political.

What this movie does well is creating a good atmosphere. During the theatre scenes, one can imagine what it would be like to be in the energetic crowd. The settings are historically accurate and the Oscar-nominated costumes add to the Renaissance feel.

Plot-wise, the Shakespeare-is-a-fraud conjecture is interesting but not interesting enough to overcome the boring historical drama. The succession-and-rebellion scenes were tiring to watch, and remembering the names of and relations between all the royal characters was a struggle. Instead of being surprising and interesting, the twist ending was actually really gross and ruined the last bit of the movie.

The pacing also has some issues. Time skips are used often and add to the confusion of the audience. While the was wonderful, the cinematography made the film feel more like a TV show or made-for-TV movie.

Overall, this movie is a good flick to watch if what you’re looking for is a Renaissance-like atmosphere with some historical elements to it, but if confusing plot lines steer you away from a movie, avoid it.

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