Posted on 7/10/12 10:58 AM
"This is a work of fiction" says the credits; and its more true than any of the facts presented to convince us that its somehow proof of the plays authorship. It's really a think piece that really has too many holes to think about. Told from the Oxfordian point of view on the topic of who was Shakespeare, the film rolls out slickly enough. It has high production values, and a good cast. However, it's not a scholarly, or even accurate approach, which might have served it better. It shows what you can do with facts; and how you can manipulate them to support any theory as well as the next. However, dates, times, and accepted truths are ignored here in favor of a ficitonal story that never quite seems possible.
It also has a narrative with lines that are written only for the purpose of casting doubt on authorship, and these stand out as glaring the deeper into the film you go. It also presents a later-in-life Queen Elizabeth as a befuddled old lecher, which, while bold, has slender evidence to support it. The acting is all right: There's a lot of scenery chewing by the advisors of the Queen, and the muddled political plot founds itself on the modern idea of communication: That information is instant, and that a single peformance of Richard III could somehow support Essex's rebellion. There's also the problem put forth that the Earl of Oxford wrote a bunch of plays all at once with political motivations, and then dribbled them out through Ben Jonson and Shakespeare. While somewhat plausible, this ignores the fact that you can't write political satire into a play when those events that surround what's being satirized haven't even occurred yet! To do that would require a crystal ball. But then, publishing dates are always in question surrounding the plays, so I suppose you can just fit the date to match the facts.
One case in point: The movie purports that the Earl wrote Richard III with an idea that if he had it produced to support a rebellion, it would act like a Twitter-based Internet rebellion right at the precise moment they needed it to. However, it's already established that he wrote it before there was any thought of getting rid of the queen and her hated advisor Robert Cecil. Crystal ball gazing again. The play, it's true, does advocate regicide, and that's what Emmerich is saying. He chooses to forget that the play was about how the Tudors gained power, so it's really pro-Tudor, not anti-Tudor. However, you can fit the facts any way you like. The film was ultimately a huge disappointment, and didn't convince me of anything except that Shakespeare was still brilliant, whoever he was.