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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Movie Review - Agora

Agora (2009)

Production: Mod Producciones

Agora, starring Rachel Weisz as the main character Hypatia, is a movie about many things. It is a sweeping tale of the battle between pagans and Christians in 4th Century Alexandria; it is a story of the evolution of certain scientific findings and beliefs; it is the story of Hypatia, a female mathematician, astronomer and atheist. You get all of the above and more in this complex 127 minute film.

The overarching theme behind this movie is the religious upheaval in Alexandria – at different times there were battles between Christians and Pagans and then later it was the Christians and Jews. Interwoven through this setting is Hypatia. Here is where Rachel Weisz certainly stole the show. She is a scientist and teacher during this chaotic and uncertain time – and she is atheistic. All of these characteristics ultimately lead to her downfall once the new regime takes over the city – despite the attempts of her former pupils to save her. Also intertwined in these religious changes is an ex slave, who is in love with Hypatia. All of these story strings came together nicely, although I was left a little confused by the ending and did have to look up what it meant.

The first surprise for me was that even though this film is a Spanish made film – it is in English! I was expecting to have to focus on subtitles and kept putting off watching this one for awhile because of it. This revelation allowed me to spend more time looking at the beautiful world that was created on the screen, rather than having to read words. And what a world it was that was presented to us. I could really picture being in 4th Century Egypt. The costuming was also very appealing and well done.

The biggest drawback for me did have to do with words on the screen – despite there not being subtitles. Periodically there would be a screen full of words to try and set the setting or explain what was happening – that in and of itself wasn’t the issue – it was the colors that they chose. The words were in white and were usually displayed over a tan desert scene – it made it very difficult to read and I did lose some of the context because of this.

I would recommend this movie to any of my historical fiction fans! It really was a surprising movie with a lot of depth of story and exploration of the events of the time.

4.5 out of 5 stars







Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

5 comments:

  1. Oh, score!! Hypatia is one of my favorite women from history--and the fourth century is so cool for all the religious changes. I hope they captured the nuance well (more than the "typical" story of pagan oppression under Christian emperors--so much cooler than that!!).

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  2. Thanks for that.

    I haven't seen the film, just the trailer that you've included.

    The impression that the trailer gives me, is that an equally interesting perspective on the conflict, is that men were pursuing idealogies, and a woman was the voice of reason.

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  3. I loved this movie!! So glad you enjoyed it as much as I did. I got it on Netflix a while back as soon as it was available and found it utterly fascinating. The ending was so sad.

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  4. I saw Agora when it first came out in NYC and agree it was a beautifully shot movie. I loved Weisz' performance as Hypatia. Amenabar distorted some history in pursuit of his art. The Great Library didn't end as he depicted and Synesius wasn't such a jerk. However, that's what artists do. I don't go to movies for accurate history. For people who want to know more about the historical Hypatia, I highly recommend a very readable biography by Maria Dzielska called Hypatia of Alexandria (Harvard Press, 1995.) I also have a series of posts on my blog on the events and characters from the film - not a movie review, just a "reel vs. real" discussion.

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  5. Rowenna - I hadn't heard of Hypatia until this movie.I think that they did a very good job at presenting both sides of the religious turmoil of the time. I think this is one that you would really enjoy.

    Robur - I do think that Hypatia acted as a voice of reason throughout the movie. She seemed to look at things from a very different perspective and not get caught up in the moment and passion of the time.

    Allie - The ending was so sad - and I was really enjoying it too!

    Faithljusitce - Thanks so much for the book recommendation and for the link. I'm on my way to check it out now.

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