Friday, September 9, 2011

The Premiere of Anonymous

Yes it has finally happened! The movie Anonymous has had its World Premiere on Wednesday, September 7 during the 15th Annual Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon. (Actually the "official" premiere will be next Sunday at the Toronto Film Festival). I was very happy to be able to represent the Oberon Group at this auspicious occasion.

Over 200 people (some of them Conference Registrants and others Concordia students or having other associations with the University) packed the Auditorium at the Portland Art Museum.

There was an introduction of the film by the director, Roland Emmerich (yes, he was there in person) and then the movie began in front of a hushed, but excited crowd.

I will say that the movie is quite fantastic. The acting and cinematography are among the best I've seen. Can you say "Oscar material"? I can.

As we have been led to believe from prior rumors and the movie trailer (some of what is in the trailer is not actually in the move though), the movie does concentrate heavily on the Essex Rebellion and the idea that the Earl of Southampton is the bastard son of Elizabeth and Edward de Vere. There is also the idea that de Vere himself was a son of Elizabeth, but it is not given any real importance. It is almost a throwaway point near the end of the movie. There are a few surprises as well which I won't spoil for you now. The characterizations of Edward de Vere as a man with a "tortured soul" and William Shakespeare as an almost incompetent illiterate actor without much of a conscience are first-rate.

I think you will all love it. I also think that the movie will on the whole be a good thing for the Oxfordian movement. Certainly, Stratfordians will have a field day nitpicking all of the liberties that Emmerich has taken with history and "received wisdom", but they will not be able to stop people from finding this a great story and wanting to know more about it. That's where all of us come in. I hope we will be ready for it.

Yes, there are quite a few "historical inaccuracies" in the movie which were taken in order to "tell the story" (see some remarks by Emmerich later in this post). We must all realize that this movie IS a story (the movie even begins with Derek Jacobi addressing a large faceless audience in a theater and briefly recounting the "accepted" story of Shakespeare from Stratford and then saying, "But let me tell you another story, a darker story..." as the modern theater dissolves and we find ourselves in London in 1599 or thereabouts).

I'm reminded of the liberties taken with history in the movie Shakespeare in Love. But then the traditional scholars did not find much to complain about. After all, this story worked in their favor, "fleshing out" Shakespeare and offering a possible solution to the appalling lack of any personality or substance to the accepted Shakespeare of Stratford.

Anonymous is a whole different "kettle of fish". This movie, while still offering only ONE possible story about the creation of the plays written under the name of Shakespeare (or more commonly Shake-Speare), flies in the face of "received wisdom" and will be a real problem for the "Establishment". To paraphrase James Shapiro during his recent presentation in Stratford, Ontario (see prior blog entries for more information): Emmerich has been previously known as a director of disaster movies and this one (Anonymous) will also be a disaster.

After the movie was over (it's about two hours long) there was a panel discussion with Roland Emmerich, Professors Daniel Wright (English Department) and Joel Davis (History Department) of Concordia University, and Hank Whittemore (author of The Monument).

Of course, Emmerich's remarks were the most interesting. He admitted that he was drawn to make this movie because he knew it would make a great story. Only later did he realize that he was stepping into a "hot bed" of controversy among Oxfordians, not to mention the "orthodox" academics. He knows that he was playing with history, but defended it in much the same way Shakespeare would have defended his own use of history: We can only offer our own interpretation of history in order to tell the story that we want to tell. In his words, "Life is messy. Film is more organized".

Emmerich admits that he didn't know much about the Authorship Question when he began working on the movie, but he has since been "converted" to Oxfordianism (to use the religious language that has sprung up around this issue). Some of the actors in the movie (such as Rhys Ifans and Vanessa Redgrave) also admitted to Emmerich that they were now very interested in the issue while other actors "just didn't care". Of course, the movie does have Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance, both already confirmed Antistratfordians.

The movie is scheduled for general release on October 28, although there may be other opportunities to see it earlier. I'm sure that everyone will want to see it as soon as possible.

By the way, that is Emmerich himself in the picture above alongside yours truly. He is signing two copies of the official theater poster for the movie which Linda Theil was able to obtain (somehow) and which I brought to Portland for this purpose.

A new chapter in our quest to more fully understand Shakespeare has begun.