Agora

Agora

DVD - 2010
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4th century A.D. Egypt under the Roman Empire - Violent religious upheaval in the streets of Alexandria spills over into the city's famous Library. Trapped inside its walls, the brilliant astronomer Hypatia and her disciples fight to save the wisdom of the Ancient World. Among them, the two men competing for her heart: the witty, privileged Orestes and Davus, Hypatia's young slave, who is torn between his secret love for her and the freedom he knows can be his if he chooses to join the unstoppable surge of the Christians.

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NancyLDraper
Oct 12, 2018

WARNING: THIS FILM EVOKED A RANT. If you ever doubted that there was a war between science and faith, this movie should be proof. This is a blatant testimony of secular humanists - that all belief systems and people of faith are ultimately evil and only the sciences and the great thinkers are pure. Their belief in tolerance has become intolerant. And the saddest part of all is that our society is swallowing this belief system hook line and sinker. We've trained our children in it. Our culture has elevated its brilliant academics and scientist to sainthood, whitewashing their vices, and refusing to see their propensity to self-destruction, hubris and dismissal of any other conclusions than their own (the very antithesis of free thought). I say this as a person educated in secular humanist thought and granted degrees by such institutions who is a person increasingly convinced that they are as intolerant to faith as they say faith is to them. What they don't see is that their science has become a religion, too, and if they are consistent in their prejudices they will see that their religion is dangerous and will support inhuman crimes against people who hold anything dearer than what they espouse. To support this religion of science, all faith based belief systems are misrepresented and vilified, as are the Christians and Jews in this movie. Did Alexandra fall? Yes. Was this a great loss to humanity? Yes. Were there wars between factions? Has there ever not been? These are more rightly seen as social politics than religion. Humans are flawed. They are not worthy gods. How many times do we have to see that we are the victims of our baser instincts? To put your faith in the supremacy of human thought or human nature is to miss the testimony of history. I chose to put my faith in something greater than humanity and I think history is on my side. OK, rant over, now back to the movie. You can see what I think of the theme and storytelling (its misleading and ultimately dangerous). I thought the acting was good, and the plot tensions were real. All in all it was a good production. I just think its underlying assumptions are dangerous and evil. For production alone I give it a 7 (good) out of 10. [Historically biased drama]

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Byond
Apr 22, 2018

I haven't elected to rate this. If you give any credence to material on wikipedia that essentially finds this mangled non-history, you might be left wondering about its appeal. As a piece of entertainment it seems to me to rank rather low compared to other things that are widely available. It does seem the spirit of the age is not to feel too troubled over fake news if it is consistent with ones preferences. A generous read might conclude it was a cautionary tale about mob rule, which could be relevant as Trump continues his rallies. As such, I found it somewhat narrow, akin to a WWF match, without the intense interest fans find in them. Those who seek to cover its alleged sins by citing allegory do a disservice to that form.

p
patch666
May 01, 2017

Good movie Rachel Weizs is great as usual. Interesting history And subject

ArapahoeSarahD Sep 25, 2016

What would you do if a library containing all of the history and literature of recorded time was destroyed? History lesson, it was. Find out what happened and why.
As a Library employee, I believe in freedom of information for all. If we can learn anything from history, it is that it had better not repeat itself in this regard.
RIP Library of Alexandria...you are still missed.

h
Hypatya
Sep 22, 2016

LOVED LOVED LOVED this movie.
Weisz is PERFECT for the role and executes impeccably.

Very well made, attention to details, realistic, mostly factual.

Ahhh, why are there no more Roman Empire movies like this?????

There is a lot of people complaining a lot about the historical accuracy of this movie, they should remember that this is a movie, NOT a documentary.

I am just grateful that a good effort was made to keep everything as accurate as possible rather to give in to box office traps such as excessive makeup, high heels (like in Taylor's Cleopatra), contrivance, and just general gaffes of the sort.

This is one of the most impeccable movies for this period.

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Incal
Mar 07, 2016

Given that its director's got an axe to grind, I can't give this film full marks, and that's unfortunate because in Agora, there's a lot to like. In part, the movie is about Alexandria itself: the city, complete with its famous Lighthouse, has an Old-World exoticism that would delight as a setting for other movies. It's well-reconstructed and intensely atmospheric. Most exhilarating is the intellectual story arc of its protagonist, the mathematician Hypatia, and her pursuit of an answer to the theoretical puzzle dropped after the death of the Greek astronomer Aristarchus. Her quest to continue his work is accompanied by sumptuous music and perspective shots of her city from orbital vantages, suggesting the cosmic answers she's trying to find. These are the movie's peaks... and, sadly, one of its problems.

Aristarchus' heliocentric concept of the solar system failed because it couldn't successfully challenge Ptolemy's geocentric model. Hypatia, presented in Agora as a de facto atheist, was in life a Neo-Platonist and unlikely to question Ptolemy. Had she actually jumped from the box and continued Aristarchus' research, her first task should have been gauging the distances between the Earth, sun and other planets, measurements which his idea needed. Instead, director Alejandro Amenábar has her predating Johannes Kepler in plotting elliptical orbits. The most Eureka! part of the movie is, unfortunately, not very likely.

Then there's the rest of it: conflating the Christians' destruction of the Serapeum with the burning of valuable manuscripts is a falsehood which originated with Edward Gibbons and was popularized by Carl Sagan. Alexandria's witnesses and writers, as divided in their beliefs as Socrates Scholasticus was from Eunapius of Antioch, wrote preserved accounts of the destruction and don't mention any bonfires of books, a detail that would hardly have escaped their attention. Amenábar's camera turns upside down to show a world upended. Historical accuracy is what inverts instead.

Ditto the showdown between Cyril and Orestes: Hypatia is made pivotal to their conflict in a way she actually wasn't. Their clash was political, and Cyril eventually won. His reference in the movie to 1 Timothy 2:12 and accusation that Hypatia was a witch is without genuine historical precedent, but sells the conflict vision of science vs. religion. It all but compels the viewer to take sides.

With these points, Agora's not "only a movie." It's casting blame beyond what history actually warrants and attempts to distort perceptions of Christendom. (Some reviewers here imbibe this message.) As a post-script, I'll add that the "hostile Christianity" impression was undercut a century later by the life of Aedisia, a female pagan philosopher who also resided in Alexandria.

Good-looking movie, great setting... wish it was something I could enjoy instead of arguing with.

a
AQUILEA777
Jun 21, 2015

Impressive sets, interesting historical plot. The characters rarely come to life, but do effectively convey the forced conformism of organized movements, whatever their stripe. In the extra materials, the director brags of Rachel Weisz's intelligence, making her perfect as the brilliant Hypatia. But in her own interview, Rachel Weisz equates the Byzantine Empire with the Holy Roman Empire, showing she really knows nothing.

n
naturalist
Nov 07, 2014

Yes, it is historical speculation that Hypatia might have discovered that orbits describe ellipses. It is a story, it is “AlleGORicAl”. Religious fanatics turn the agora (meeting place) to a bloody area. Perhaps artistic licence portraying the Alexandrian Christian mob, but centuries later the mob still thrilled to the spectacle of heretics burning. Now, sixteen centuries later, superstition still resists reason.

r
rslade
Aug 27, 2014

The description provided at NVDPL is really misleading: this is sort of about the library at Alexandria (and its destruction), and sort of about religion-bashing. Unfortunately for the plot, there doesn't seem to be any existing evidence to support the theory that Hypatia pre-figured Newton by 1300 years. However, this movie does prove that Christianity-bashers can produce movies every bit as bad as Christian-propagandists can.

r
Ron@Ottawa
Aug 11, 2014

I can see why this Spain-produced film can vex viewers of strong religious beliefs, because the protagonist in the film, Hypatia, was a believer of science and the film is about her persecution by religious fanatics in ancient Alexandria, which was portrayed beautifully in the film. Historic accuracy aside, this is a moving film, and well acted by Rachel Weisz as the scientist ahead of her time. The costume, and the settings were all done right. For me this film deserves repeated viewings down the road. Highly recommended for all open-minded viewers interested in a time capsule of the past.

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EuSei Feb 04, 2012

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Monolith
May 05, 2012

Hypatia: "Synesius, you don't question what you believe… you cannot. ...I must."

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