Wednesday, March 04, 2015

“Cymbeline” (“Anarchy”) – Movie Review



This week, I attended The Film Society Of Lincoln Center’s Film Comment Selects series with a screening of “Cymbeline”, starring Ed Harris, Milla Jovovich and Ethan Hawke


When the leader of a biker gang splits up his daughter from the husband she secretly married, will the couple be able to survive the violent retribution of others so they may eventually reunite?


Imogen (Dakota Johnson) has angered her father Cymbeline (Harris), the leader of a violent motorcycle gang, by marrying Posthumus (Penn Badgley), a poor young man who was once mentored by Cymbeline. Feeling his daughter is worthy of a better spouse, Cymbeline banishes Posthumus. Meanwhile, Cymbeline’s second wife, The Queen (Jovovich), has other plans; she came into this marriage with her own son and wants Imogen to marry him so he’ll be part of the upper echelon of the gang. Posthumus and Imogen, however, wish nothing more than merely to live their lives together once again.

While banished, Posthumus accepts a challenge by Iachimo (Hawke): Iachimo tells Posthumus that Imogen is not as loyal to him as he believes; in fact, he suspects that he can easily seduce Imogen himself. So, he bets that if he can prove to Posthumus that he bedded Imogen, he will win Posthumus’ ring; if, on the other hand, he strikes out with Imogen, then he will be forced to fork over $10,000 to Posthumus. With Posthumus desperately in need of the money – and truly believing Imogen will remain faithful to him – he gladly takes the bet, then sits back waiting to collect the money.

Iachimo falsifies the results of his attempted tryst and fools Posthumus into thinking that Imogen slept with him. Discouraged, Posthumus asks his aide Pisanio (John Leguizamo) to murder Imogen; but when confronting her, he doubts her infidelity. As a result, he hatches a plot to have Imogen masquerade as a boy while she searches for her husband to convince him she did not cheat. All the while, The Queen’s son, angered by Imogen’s rejection of him, goes out to find her and possibly exact some degree of revenge. But will Imogen survive long enough to get back with Posthumus?


“Cymbeline” (or “Anarchy”, depending on how you come to know this movie – see below) has been described as a combination of two television shows: “Sons Of Anarchy” and “Game Of Thrones”. While this may not be an entirely inaccurate comparison, perhaps a better characterization would be a second-rate “Romeo And Juliet”. Based on one of Shakespeare’s later and lesser known plays, The Bard was apparently becoming self-derivative in his later years as he once again revisits the theme of lovers forced apart by internecine turmoil. Perhaps watching episodes of “Sons Of Anarchy”, “Game Of Thrones” and a production of “Romeo And Juliet” back-to-back-to-back might be a better alternative than sitting through this abridged version of “Cymbeline”.

For Shakespeare purists, director Michael Almereyda’s adaptation of “Cymbeline” may be painful to watch; however, those who admire creative perspectives of an ancient tale, may find both the setting and wardrobe sufficiently entertaining. There is also the issue of the language, which may be no trivial matter for those who struggled with any of Shakespeare’s plays; all of the dialog in this adaptation is from the original play, so it can sometimes be difficult to understand or follow along with the story (particularly when some actors either mumble their lines or recite them so quickly that you can barely make out the individual words, much less properly interpret the inscrutable phrasing).

Following the screening was an interview with director Michael Almereyda. Originally, the movie was to be released under the title “Anarchy”; this came at the recommendation of its distributor and against Almereyda’s wishes (he wanted to keep the original Shakespearean title). Reconsidering, the distributor renamed it back to “Cymbeline”, pleasing Almereyda, but potentially causing confusion; therefore, if you are interested in seeing this film, you may have to expend the extra effort of looking for it under either title. Almereyda said that he began adapting this play after his previous project – an adaptation of “Merchant Of Venice” – was cancelled when the money fell through.

Cymbeline (2014) on IMDb

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