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Was Shakespeare a Fraud? 

Year: 2011 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 12A Cert – Under 12s admitted only with an adult 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Roland Emmerich 
Starring: Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrav, David Thewlis  
An image from Anonymous

William Shakespeare: literary genius, master of words, storyteller extraordinaire. We all know his words; we all know his plays. What we don’t know? We’ve all been played.

Shakespeare’s name is put proudly to 37 plays, 134 sonnets and a treasure trove of epic poetry, but still generations have wondered whether a single word is his. Anonymous explores a fascinating interpretation of the origin of the plays, weaving the complex threads of politics, religion, sex and ambition around the words we know so well.

The film follows the story of Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford (Jamie Campbell-Bower and Rhys Ifans), who is taken in as a ward by the Queen. Elizabeth I, (the talented Vanessa Redgrave), has no heir, leaving England’s future vulnerable to the selfish schemes of powerful nobles. It is in this squalor of corruption that de Vere sees his chance to seize power for the populace, by weaving his political agendas into plays. Unable, due to his rank, to accept credit for the plays himself, de Vere names playwright Ben Jonson (Sebastian Armesto) the author. But Jonson has a friend, a friend he should never have confided in, a friend who takes everything from him: a friend called William Shakespeare.

Beautifully shot with a plethora of exquisite settings and incredible London skyscapes, Anonymous will transport you to Tudor England, a land wrought with strife and corruption. The stunning Elizabethan setting is underpinned by Harald Kloser and Thomas Wander’s haunting Renaissance-style score. Unarguably a change of pace for the typical apocalyptic-action director, Roland Emmerich (Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow) deals skilfully with the many layers in this intriguing film.

Definitely one for anyone who enjoyed the affluent costumes, sexual tension and political schemes of the BBC series The Tudors, or any fan of the famous plays, this is a brand new take on one of the oldest, and most compelling, conspiracies of all that will have you questioning till the very end:

Was Shakespeare a fraud? That is, as they say, the question.

Clarissa Gillingham

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Screenings of this film:

2011/2012 Spring Term (35mm)