Sound Off: Roland Emmerich's 'Anonymous' - What Did You Think?

October 28, 2011

Roland Emmerich's Anonymous Sound Off

Now that you've seen it, what did you think? There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. Hitting theaters this weekend is Anonymous, a look at the mystery of who William Shakespeare really was, directed by German Hollywood apocalypse mastermind Roland Emmerich. Welsh actor Rhys Ifans stars as Edward de Vere, the suspected true Shakespeare, along with Rafe Spall as the one actually named Will Shakespeare. So how is it? Can Emmerich actually pull off a period drama, with some flair, and make it interesting? If you've seen it, leave a comment with your own thoughts on Emmerich's Anonymous.

Oh Roland Emmerich, how you can entertain me. Yes, I thought Anonymous was a great movie, a fairly complex Shakespeare romantic story within a Shakespeare story, full of great performances and intriguing theories, all with the glossy production values of Mr. Roland Independence-Day Emmerich. It's a very good movie, especially if you're fascinated by the story of Shakespeare and who he really was, if not, perhaps, himself. Rhys Ifans is fantastic as the Earl of Oxford, and I was also impressed by a lot of the younger actors, including Jamie Campbell Bower as the young Earl of Oxford, and of course Joely Richardson as the young Queen Elizabeth I (plus Vanessa Redgrave as the old). It's a captivating dramatic thriller that I found tough to constantly keep up with, which is a twist for an Emmerich film, but truly he deserves a compliment for directing something so "out of his wheel house" as this, that's entertaining and enthralling.

What did you think of Anonymous? A compelling Shakespeare drama, or a terrible tragedy? We will remove any comments that indicate you have not seen the movie, as this area is meant to discuss the film only once you have seen it and can talk about your thoughts. Please keep the comments civilized!

Find more posts: Discuss, Hype, Sound Off



This looks good I want to see it. I'm glad it sounds tough to keep up with, that is how a period piece done right usually is. I'll see if I have time to check it out.

Josh Taylor on Oct 28, 2011


It's appalling that a movie like this can get made nowadays. Sure, it's fiction, but it's also slandering the heritage of one of the greatest writers who ever lived. The story has never been proven and thus should be considered false, and you just know that there are gonna be some conspiracy-nuts who will walk away from this thinking that one of the great auteurs was a hack. It's a sickening way to try and attract an audience and Emmerich should feel ashamed for his lack of ethics.

Cedric Ceglowski on Oct 29, 2011


Seriously, what on earth are you talking about? There's no proove that Shakespeare ever existed, so, why not to make such a movie?

pipo on Oct 29, 2011


Shakespeare never existed huh?  Only your typical ignorant yank would say something that stupid.

Glad to Not Be a Yank on Oct 29, 2011


A tad ignorant to assume he's american, good job in falling into your own stereotype

Philip J. Fry on Oct 29, 2011


@ FRY lololol Classic Couldn't have said it better where you at now AntiYank

Kysersosai on Nov 1, 2011


That's marvelously ignorant.

childerolandusa on Oct 29, 2011


Because if you're going to based the entirety of life on "proof", then let's get to the nuts and bolts. There's no "proof" you exist. You could be a figment of my imagination. However, if I'm going to base my belief in whether or not Shakespeare existed on evidence, then I will base it on the material as I know the material exists.  You are right about one thing: it's OK to make a movie like this. It's a moooooooovie. It's made to entertain. If someone can write a book or make a film about Lincoln being a vampire hunter then we can see a film about Shakespeare being a fraud.

Quanah on Oct 30, 2011


quanah,  you are such a post modernist. I agree with you that there is not entirety proof of his existence. But, come on there is such thing as truth even though people like you would really want us to believe that there isn't and its subjective which it is not. There is proof that others beside you exist, if you cannot see that, I do not know what else to say to you man, but good luck convincing people that are intelligent that (notice how I did not say educated).  Your Friend, Common Sense 

Jar Jar Binks on Oct 31, 2011


Jar Jar. Lighten up. I was being a smart ass.

Quanah on Oct 31, 2011


Yea I really have no idea what you're saying either. Did you even SEE this film? You realize this is Hollywood, they put out fiction every week, that's what the entire business is built around. Does Batman really exist? No? Then why are we making movies about him! There's nothing wrong with this, it's a fine film with a good story, go see it first.

Alex Billington on Oct 29, 2011


So that's exactly what i am talking about: You can't prohibit fiction...and this is fiction.

pipo on Oct 29, 2011


You do realise that there is a big difference between a fictional universe and fiction that's set in our actual history, right? No, Batman doesn't really exist, but the problem is that Shakespeare did. That's a pretty big difference. To illustrate: I could make a movie about JFK secretly being a childmolester. People would go insane at this notion because it's an unwarranted claim that damages an icon and its legacy. But surely you will say: it's fiction! Superman doesn't really exist either, and I haven't seen any proof of the existence of magic either! But fact of the matter is: even if I were to work this JFK-idea into a completely fictitious cartoon (like Batman), and make it as surreal as possible, filled with people who have wheels for feet and giant fish that sail the sea on boats made out of turtleshells, you'd still be disgusted at the disrespect shown for the man and his legacy. The only way you could warrant something like this is through comedy, in an obvious joke. So now imagine I'd be completely serious about the subject, present it all in a historical looking film and act like it's real life history (as Emmerich has expressed he actually believes this dribble). Noone would justify that, yet it's the exact same thing as Anonymous does. So don't compare it to more obvious fictional works that don't take place in our own universe. Whether this example would be more offensive is completely irrelevant. And no, I haven't seen the film. It's not out here for at least a month and even then I couldn't care less about seeing an Emmerich film. But I've heard enough details and know about theories alike to be allowed to talk about the subject. As far as I know the film could be written, acted and/or directed with all the flair and grace that its premise is lackin. But I'm not talking about Anonymous' filmtechnical qualities, so please don't delete my highly relevant and on-topic comment because of this. Simply put: De Vere did not write Shakespeare-plays, people far more literate on the subject than myself have flat-out said so, with solid arguments to back up their case. Therefore it's not ok to create a work that lays out these falsehoods with a straight face; it's nothing but propaganda that will poison many minds with little information on the subject. It's indefensible.

Cedric Ceglowski on Oct 29, 2011


I believe there is something called freedom of speech.  One may interpret history as they see fit.  You cannot condemn a movie because you disagree with its story.  There are plenty of historical movies that show different interpretations of what actually occurred.  Don't go see the movie if you dont want to.  I ACTUALLY went to see the movie and quite enjoyed it.  Unless you actually lived int he 16 and 17th century, don't tell me what is true and what isn't because you can prove diddly.

Ben G on Oct 29, 2011


Uh, no. FREEDOM OF SPEECH is the liberty to say what's on your mind without fear of persecution. Studying historical sources in order to determine possible biases, revisionist themes, orthodoxy, and meta-narratives? That's HISTORIOGRAPHY -- a legitimate field of study. The academics can, as a matter of fact, come a lot closer to supporting their textual dating and understanding of the times with first hand resources than Emmerich can with a few Google searches. Interpreting history "as they see fit" is actually, believe it or not, just as wrong as "interpreting" 1 + 1 = 3. And I can, as a matter of fact, condemn a movie for being a shitty movie. The problem is that this is not JUST a shitty movie -- this is a shitty movie that misrepresents itself as a beacon of truth.

Cinephile on Oct 30, 2011


Freedom of speech incorporates the ability to make a movie however they may see fit.  There are plenty of those people who believe the holocaust did not exist, and can freely say it, or put it to a movie, it does not give me the right to censor them because I think it is ludicrous to think that.  Just because you disagree with someone's interpretation of history does not give you the right to tell them they cannot tell their story. As historians tell us, history is written by the victor, who knows how many untruths we tell in history class because of who dictated the following events to occur.Just because this story is only believed by a minority of people does not mean it cannot be made into a movie.  If you think so, your ignorant, and I feel sorry for you.What would happen to the arts if you couldn't tell anything but the truth and not allow creativity to thrive, what century are we in, Shakespeare's time?

Ben G on Oct 30, 2011


Ladies and gentlemen, Godwin's Law has been invoked. If you can't make an argument without resorting to cheap Nazi/Holocaust analogies, then perhaps it is time to rethink your position. Again: freedom of speech gives people the right to say what they think, without fear of persecution. I'm afraid you misunderstand me -- I am not saying they cannot tell their story. They can tell it, by all means, and I actually think that a well-executed story about the Oxfordian theory of authorship could be very interesting if done well. This is not done well. Hence my shaking my head in disbelief that they would actually stand behind such an atrociously mangled and mishandled piece of work with some sentiment approaching pride. In short, I think this movie is badly written and badly executed, and I think it is highly laughable (more laughable than it is problematic in fact) that a thoroughly discredited fringe theory of Shakespearean authorship is being marketed as the ironclad truth. In short, you can't say "this is just for your entertainment! how titillating! an alternate interpretation to what we accepted to be the truth!" in one breath and then attempt to push your hackneyed entirely-fictionalized-with-no-basis-in-fact movie into English classrooms across the country. That's like trying to have your cake and eat it too. It's either fictionalized entertainment (in which case, go nuts! Tarantino did with Inglourious Basterds!) or you pay some respect to fact by not mutilating it beyond recognition. Acknowledge that you're taking artistic license and ask your audience to suspend disbelief, if you're not going to take pains to DO YOUR GODDAMN RESEARCH. Do not purport to be telling the truth when you're at best weaving theories based on scant evidence. It can be entertaining if done right, but it's not fact. And for the record, creativity and the truth are not mutually exclusive. Shakespeare, of all people, knew that very well.

Cinephile on Oct 30, 2011


John F. Kennedy existed, and his assassination did take place, but does that mean all of the incidents in Oliver Stone's film JFK take place? No, even Stone admits he's twisting history. It's one thing to not want to see a film. It's a whole other to treat Shakespeare like a deity and his writing as the written word (which the written Word has been manipulated as well). He's a great writer, not a god among men. We get it. You love WS. 

Quanah on Oct 30, 2011


You just said it, fiction, take it as fiction, let other people decide what it is, every movie is fiction. If its also appalling and may offend you then why would you see it.

andrew on Oct 30, 2011


Rhys Ifans and Rafe Spall should be considered for supporting categories. They're so good and entertaining. Both had elements in their performances that reminded me of Heath Ledger's last performance. Rafe Spall especially because he was so manipulative and extraverted...just like Tony in Parnassus. 

Vitaliy Shtabnoy on Oct 29, 2011


Boring...just like Patriot movie.

David on Oct 29, 2011


Please tell me you guys are going to view this for free @

Greg on Oct 29, 2011


You guys need to check your spelling before you start yelling at each other. It's really hard to take your arguments seriously when you misspell words as simple as " Realize".

Xander on Oct 30, 2011


Why would you act as childish as dismissing the message because of slight errors in spelling or grammar? English is not my - and with me a lot of people on the internet and this website - native language, and I try my best to express myself as fluent and comprehensible as possible. It wouldn't take the same amount of effort for you to try and figure out what the original poster actually ment to say, instead of immediately dismissing everything he says entirely because he "cannot do the english very good". Then again, "realise" actually is correct spelling, so at the very least don't go around correcting words that are perfectly fine.

Cedric Ceglowski on Oct 30, 2011


Realize is the American way of spelling realise (which is how the rest of the English speaking world spells it.) You Americans  have to realise that you represent only a very, very, tiny portion of the world population.

Glad to Not Be a Yank on Oct 30, 2011


The same type of difference between "American" English and "European" English are felt in the differences between Mexico Spanish and Spain Spanish. Move on. Let's all keep picking on language. Or, better yet, let's all reali(z)(s)e we're posting on a blog in comment lines that won't be read by Ivy League schools. What's your point about the film? Oh, you do not have one? Ok. Great.

Quanah on Oct 30, 2011


WTF people, the topic header is "What did U think"....  about the damn movie !!!   16 posts and thus far David is the only person who actually provided his thoughts on the movie

Tester on Oct 30, 2011


watching this movie is a real wasting of money....a cheap movie.

Johnny23 on Oct 30, 2011


I went in biased, because I can't with my academic training take the Oxfordians seriously at all, but I thought this might have been good for a laugh in the way that TROY might have been. Yeah, no. I lost it at the point when Jonson was gobsmacked by how INGENIOUS Oxford was for writing an entire play........ IN BLANK VERSE. HOW CAN IT BE DONE. WHAT AWE. WHAT GENIUS. It's like Kit Marlowe never existed and he never wrote Doctor Faustus! Also, WHY would you replace his death by a knife to the eye with a slit throat? This is a case of artistic license not exactly improving reality, especially when reality was... kind of awesomely gruesome. And dear Lord in heaven above let's not get started on the sheer number of illegitimate children sprung from the loins of Queen Liz. There have been excellently done send-ups of Shakespeare in the past: case in point, Stoppard/Madden with SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE. Doubtlessly that film will be mentioned in the course of Emmerich defending his own movie, but the issue is this: that was a loving and knowing and incredibly well-researched tribute, poking fun and filling in the gaps of what is known to form a fanciful history. ANONYMOUS, on the other hand, is an act of baffling audacity. Its crime is not in the theory it presents -- though that has for the most part been banished to the corners of Shakespearean academia for a dire lack of support -- but in the way that it seeks to present clear (and badly researched and badly written) fiction as persecuted truth. There might have been a good movie in there somewhere, but Mr. Emmerich and his team missed it by a mile.

Cinephile on Oct 30, 2011


I don't understand why people are traumatized out they are fictionalizing Shakespeare's life.  He was guilty of the same thing himself.  I don't see anyone freaking out he dramatized the life of Julies Caesar, Richard III and countless others.  He borrowed truthful elements from history and made great literature with it.  Once you get over that fact, it's easier to enjoy the movie.  It's not exactly blasphemy.   As for the movie itself, it's an enjoyable if somewhat forgettable film.  You can almost feel the greatness that could have been.  I had the strange feeling it either should have been 10 minute shorter or 20 minute longer.  I also had some issues with the pre and prologue.  I felt they were both unnecessary and didn't really add anything the audience can't deduce on their own.  I was sorta fun to see the winks to the various plays and Rhys Ifans is fantastic.  I'll probably give it another shot in a few years if I find it in a cheap bin.   If the director of Godzilla and 2012 feels Shakespeare was a fraud, who am I to argue with him?

ETP on Oct 30, 2011


Cheezie weezie, make a movie about Shakespeare and you get all the wannabe scholars commenting on how much of a travesty this is. Half of them probably looked up those big words on google so they can sound smart and feel better about themselves. Get over yourselves really, I MEAN C'MON, seriously people it's a movie. I'm pretty sure even Shakespeare would have been entertained by ANONYMOUS. I thought it was great and very entertaining. Surely no one went in there believing that this was anything but fiction. 

TK on Oct 30, 2011


With regards to your last sentence: 'To accompany the movie, which historian Simon Schama called an “idiotic misunderstanding of history”, Sony Pictures has produced a package of lesson plans for American high schools. They suggest that it is “impossible to believe that a mere grammar school graduate could have written the plays and poems attributed to Shakespeare. “Wouldn’t it make more sense to suppose that William Shakespeare was only the stand-in for a better-educated author?"' So basically I think they lose all rights to the "surely everyone knows this is fiction!" defence when they're marketing the movie like it's the persecuted truth and inviting what is essentially a form of literary birtherism into the classroom. To my eyes, they're trying to go for another Da Vinci Code -- presenting the story with just enough of a patina of legitimacy (seriously, what was Jacobi's prologue for except to make the case that ~this is a legitimate theory look at all the respected actors supporting it~?) so that the general audience member doesn't dismiss things outright. Do I want to believe that everyone realized DVC was completely unfounded fiction? Yes. Would I be proven wrong? It's very likely. That's sad. I gave the movie a chance and was prepared to enjoy it ironically as mindless popcorn fare. It didn't even deliver on that front because of the lugubrious and self-important way the material was handled. It took its own premise way too seriously to be FUN. And honestly, halfway through it felt like getting lectured by someone deadly earnest wearing a tin hat.

Cinephile on Oct 30, 2011


This is exactly what the marketing team at Sony wanted. Bravo to them. If anyone thinks that Sony's "education package" is anything but a marketing ploy then gee whiz aren't we in big trouble. This movie is nothing but a conspiracy theory. So what if it took it's subject matter a bit to serious to be fun. It just added to the tone of the movie in my opinion. The only people that will believe anything in this movie are probably the same people that would believe that Gladiator or Arthur are historically accurate. The real loss in all of this is that people are reading too much into a movie. It's the entertainment business. Will they ever show Anonymous on the History Channel...somehow I DON'T THINK SO. People need to just let go and just enjoy the movie for a what it is. Just say whether or not you like it or not. If you didn't, then say so on the basis of the movie, not on the fact that it's not historically accurate. If you wanted an exact telling on who and what William Shakespeare was then save yourself the money and just watch the History Channel.

TK on Oct 30, 2011


I said that I didn't like it. Read my post again, see the last paragraph. The thing is though: dude, have you heard Emmerich talk about the movie? He's been in and out of conferences casting himself as a pariah who, alone of all the directors working in Hollywood today, had the "courage" to make a movie about the "authorship controversy". Except it's not a controversy. It's a persistent and unsubstantiated "theory" that will never be proven yet also will never die. In effect he has been talking ANONYMOUS up as something that, as you say, might be more befitting the History Channel -- he's been talking about this as if it's not a fringe conspiracy theory, but a secret maligned truth. I am on principle against such marketing ploys -- successful or no, and you seem to believe that their success validates their use, a point with which I can only respectfully disagree -- I am on principle opposed to publicity stunts that would introduce this movie and its purported theory into an educational setting. It legitimizes fiction posing as fact. It's a galling act of disrespect for the act of learning. Never mind passing judgment on the people who would believe this -- the fact that Sony can market the movie with a fauxcumentary slant is messed up in and of itself. But back to the movie itself. I've said this more than once, and I'm not tired of saying it again: you can acknowledge the fact that you're playing very fast and loose with (or even blatantly ignoring) history -- if that's your prerogative and if that's what you need to do to make a good movie, then go for it! But if you do that, then: (1) you can't claim to be the one brave man daring to ask questions that the academics are too chicken to ask because that's blatantly misrepresenting both yourself and the academic community, and (2) your movie had better be entertaining and vastly improved by the liberties you've taken. This wasn't entertaining. It dragged in parts, the "plot" (and the protagonist) disappeared in parts, and all in all could have done with a very judicious trimming of the convoluted plot twists. To me, it certainly wasn't a good movie, but its major failing was that it wasn't so bad that it was actually good again either.

Cinephile on Oct 31, 2011


The History Channel is not a legitimate source of information now, if it ever was.  There are the occasional informative, well researched programs, but the bulk of History Channel programming is Pawn Stars and American Pickers, interspersed with programs relating to astronomical theories presented as irrefutable fact.  Just sayin'.

JL on Oct 31, 2011


This is exactly what the marketing team at Sony wanted. Bravo to them. If anyone thinks that Sony's "education package" is anything but a marketing ploy then gee whiz aren't we in big trouble. This movie is nothing but a conspiracy theory. So what if it took it's subject matter a bit to serious to be fun. It just added to the tone of the movie in my opinion. The only people that will believe anything in this movie are probably the same people that would believe that Gladiator or Arthur are historically accurate. The real loss in all of this is that people are reading too much into a movie. It's the entertainment business. Will they ever show Anonymous on the History Channel...somehow I DON'T THINK SO. People need to just let go and just enjoy the movie for a what it is. Just say whether or not you like it or not. If you didn't, then say so on the basis of the movie, not on the fact that it's not historically accurate. If you wanted an exact telling on who and what William Shakespeare was then save yourself the money and just watch the History Channel.

TK on Oct 30, 2011


Well it's about time they made a movie just about him.

Mary Jones on Oct 31, 2011


What's going on here? The movie sucks - as a movie! I do not really care about the whole pseudo-historical debate going on here. It sucks namely because it is boring as hell, it's overly complicated and you don't care about the characters. The dialogues are horrible. Don't see it if you can avoid it. And most of all, don't get into a ridiculous debate about historical truths because of THIS movie!

TheSilentCowboy on Nov 1, 2011


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