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Plot: A historical drama set in Roman Egypt, concerning a slave who turns to the rising tide of Christianity in the hope of pursuing freedom while falling in love with his mistress, the famous philosophy and mathematics professor Hypatia of Alexandria. Runtime: 127 mins Release Date: 09 Oct 2009
Extraordinary movie-making at its best. (by vnsfth)
Alejandro Amenábar's masterpiece is a breathtaking excursion into religious fascism and misogynistic tyranny made special by Rachel Weisz, who probably give one of the best female acting performances in years as a scientist who was light years beyond her generation. Weisz is amazing and her performance is the show and then some. She's back up by Max Minghella, who is a great actor in his own right and Oscar Isaac, who is just as good. The triangle between them in believable and touch by their struggles to find their destinies. Its a moving cinematic piece of art and Alejandro does <more>
the story proud in his way of capturing the time of struggles of that time. Far and away, the best film I have seen all year.
The Sublime Insignificant (by tytoalba-766-483232)
It surprises me how many reviewers are giving this astonishing film only mediocre ratings, and I do hope this is not because the film chooses not to dwell on the viciousness of Hypatia's murder: a decision which would have made a cinematic 'spectacle' entirely inappropriate for this most subtle and beautiful of films. For the record, the real Hypatia - a pagan philosopher in fourth century Alexandria who deduced that the earth orbited the sun in an ellipse, and preserved her right to operate as a lecturer by repelling her suitors with a gift of a handkerchief stained with her own <more>
menstrual blood – was killed as a witch by fundamentalist Christians who scraped the living flesh from her bones with seashells. It is her life and thought, however, and not the manner of her death, which is the chief subject of this film, and that is as it should be.The astonishingly realistic recreation of Alexandria is in itself a remarkable cinematic feat, the costumes look entirely authentic, the performances are flawless, and the cinematography - always beautiful - is often thoroughly awe inspiring. Ultimately, however, what makes this film so great is the way in which it puts human beings into perspective swarming fundamentalists ransacking the agora are likened to ants, and in one of the most inspired shots in cinematic history, Alexandria is viewed from outer space, and is sublime and utterly insignificant all at once whilst suggesting that human beings are nevertheless capable of reaching the heights of reason, and plumbing the depths of unreason. It is one of the ironies of history that the monstrous 'Saint' Cyril of Alexandria is recognised as a Doctor of the Church, whilst not a single word written by Hypatia has survived.Much ink will be wasted in coming months in discussion of whether this film deliberately paints Christianity in a bad light. The truth is that no form of religious extremism looks good in this film, and for that reason alone, it ought to be statutory viewing for all people who are convinced that theirs is the only god. Rachel Weisz plays the lead role with such grace and conviction that her refusal of Christian baptism, accompanied by the words "I believe in philosophy" – clunky as they may look on the printed page – becomes one of the most powerful moments in modern cinema.Forget the lukewarm reviews, and see this film for yourself. Thrown off the scent, perhaps, by publicity over-emphasising the romantic element in the film, reviewers have begun to argue that the plot begins to flag in the second half. This is to miss the point entirely: the film is not a romance; it is an exploration of one woman's discoveries about our place in the universe, and it is at once humbling, tragic and victorious. I found myself on the edge of tears throughout most of it, entranced by the splendour, wisdom and realism of its vision. The ending was the hardest and the truest thing I have ever seen in a film.But don't trust me. Make up your own mind. That is what Hypatia would have told you to do.
This is arguably the best film of 2009, depending on whether or not you understand the filmmaker's perspective. I believe, in some ways, full appreciation of this film can only be achieved if you have watched a completely unrelated work: "Cosmos", by Carl Sagan.Both the Library of Alexandria and Hypatia were terms that constantly came up in Cosmos; and although it is unclear if Sagan had any influence in the making of this film, it really embodied Sagan's philosophy. For example, there are a lot of aerial shots, looking at the Earth from afar - often during dramatic scenes <more>
of either love or violence that shows both how insignificant and how precious the human existence is. In spite of all our wars and hate and differences, we are all being carried on this lone blue vessel, journeying through the vast emptiness of space. Are we really that different? Or do more things unite us than divide us, like Hypatia says? In a moment of sheer ignorance, men can destroy their own proudest and most beautiful achievements and erase all of their accumulated knowledge. It's happened before, and it could happen again. This film delivered this message with beautiful precision - are we naive, like Orestes of Alexandria, to think we have finally changed? Or should we look at ourselves in the mirror and know that we still have a long road ahead to better ourselves? The choice is up to us.
Great re-enactment of 4th century Alexandria (by grmagne)
AGORA brings 4th century Alexandria back to life with some expensive, elaborate sets combined with a bit of CGI where necessary. Other than a couple of alterations to historical facts, such as the manner and location of Hypatia's death and the creation of a fictional slave character, the production team obviously did a tremendous amount of research and they stuck closer to the real facts of history closer than your typical Hollywood film does for whatever that's worth . I'm a bit of a history buff, and I'm always excited when an ancient city is re-created with such attention <more>
to detail. But it couldn't have worked without a great cast, and Rachel Weisz was perfect for her role. She had just the right combination of charm, strength and enthusiasm for math & philosophy to convince the audience that she was a legendary intellectual that could elicit loyalty from her male students and slaves too.This film recreates the religious struggles of the late Roman Empire, the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, the ensuing ignorance and the relegation of women to 2nd class status in society. I greatly enjoyed watching this and I hope that many more such films are created in the future.
Philosophy and religion doesn't mix : religious hatred vs goddless humanism (by stephane-sibani)
This excellent film perfectly describe the inherent danger of religions in manipulating hatred and people's foolishness for political gain and how humanism and reason seems incapable to deal with it. The story focus on a famous atheist philosopher woman obsessed with astronomy and the struggle of several mans in both camp who love her humanism in protecting her. Although not historically perfect, this film is a lot worth watching as we learn how a religious zealot used a new founded religion to take power over an important city, how Jews became stateless for a while because of religious <more>
extremism, and how suppressing bias is the only path to knowledge and humanism.
|Minor Spoiler: Wouldn't ruin the story|I am not too picky when I watch a movie, unlike other reviewers. I base my reviews not only on the acting, scenery etc., but also I place emphasis on the emotion the film elicits.This movie, judged like that, is simply excellent. It is a wonderful portrayal of faith gone bad. Some have accused the film of being anti-Christian, but I do not believe that at all. In this film, you see Faith at it's worst... the faith which ignores the tenets that it swears to uphold. |Minor Spoiler Below| I think it was an interesting plot device that the movie <more>
began with the pagans making a decision to retaliate with violence against the Christians, and have that be portrayed as an evil, and then end with the Christians committing the same atrocity by murdering Jews and brutally murdering Hypatia. |End Minor Spoiler|Many of the scenes were quite emotional, even the burning of Alexandria! In the end, I would recommend you ignore the valid yet, in my mind, irrelevant criticisms of the dramatic cinematography and with the fact that such an important story was condensed, and go see this movie, which I certainly enjoyed!
TIFF 09: I was forgiven, but now I can't forgive Agora (by jaredmobarak)
I will not deny the fact that Alejandro Amenábar is one of my favorite directors at the moment. With the eerily creepy The Others and the emotionally wrought Mar adentro, how could he not be? And why have I not seen Abre los ojos yet? Disgraceful I know. Well, you can imagine my immense excitement when finding out his new 4th century Egyptian epic Agora would be playing as a gala presentation in Toronto for TIFF. The trailer made it seem very unlike his past movies, looking to be on a much larger scale in comparison. But it was Amenábar, so I had complete faith that he could pull it off, <more>
probably infusing it with the detail and heart the previous movies had in abundance. He spoke before the film that he wanted to make a work that tackled the subject of intolerance, to fight "against anyone who uses violence to prove his ideas". Using three weeks of preparation before filming began, with minimal computer effects—he wanted a "going back in time" realism, so extras were hired and sets were built—he definitely did the job while also shedding light on a period of history that hasn't really been done in Hollywood.Debuting at Cannes, this screening was the North American premiere. The theatre was full of festival attendees and rows of Blackberry, Bell, and AMC sponsorship employees. But once the lights dimmed and the movie began, all that went away and Amenábar encompassed us in the city of Alexandria. A woman, the daughter of the head of the glorious library holding mankind's history, Hypatia, played nicely by Rachel Weisz, is the voice and teacher for a new generation of Egyptians. It is a mixed group of those still believing in the Gods, pagans , and the new Christian contingent, being persecuted while also persecuting as well. Hypatia looks past all that, refusing to align herself with a religion, instead utilizing science itself as her philosophy's backbone. Teaching and comprehending the world as heliocentric, attempting to grasp at the idea of gravity many, many years before its discovery to allow for a geocentric model, it all derails once bigotry prevails. The agora becomes a scene of Christians throwing fruit at the statues of the Gods, an offense that the pagans must meet with retribution. It all turns into a fight that exposes the infinite number of Christians living in the city. All those who hid their beliefs expose themselves for the battle, eventually driving the pagans back into the library to await word from the prefect on what's to be done for a truce.The fight is epic in scope and execution—a mass of humanity fighting friends in the streets. Amenábar has no fear in showing the brutality and intimacy of the war. We see overhead shots of people running around like ants, but also close-up views of the men engaging with each other, taking it as personally as possible. When a man's slave must reconcile his duty to his master and that to his God, the pain and conflict is etched on his face. Screaming, "I'm a Christian!" and then going over to beat the man he served, epitomizes the event completely. You could argue that the fighting scenes overshadow the rest in effectiveness and you would be right. The scenes of government, school, and scientific research do become second fiddle to the hostility brewing underneath the surface, as they are somewhat generic and not too original as far as historical biographies go. They are a necessity, though, to give the audience a jumping off point as to why both factions feel the need to disagree and prove their superiority. Just wait for the second half—after a clumsy transitional time jump—where most pagans have become Christians themselves in order to survive in the new rebuilt Alexandria. It now becomes a war between them and the Jews, fighting for equality in a government ruled by one of Hypatia's former students, Oscar Isaac's Orestes, a newly made Christian, yet educated by a woman blasphemy indeed.All the fighting does, however, is cause death and destruction, setting mankind back centuries in progress and education. We can't know for sure if Hypatia was on the verge of such scientific theories that far back, but the point definitely comes across. Amenábar made a statement before the screening that if the Alexandria library had not been destroyed, we might have landed on Mars already. The interesting thought of those words is that they might not be as bold as you'd initially think. So much knowledge was lost in this bickering feud without reason besides needing some form of victory in a pissing contest. It is something to consider especially when you look at history after that point and the countless deaths of visionaries and potentially brilliant minds due to zealotry, genocide, and just plain blind aggression or inferiority complexes. I'm sure the fact that the film shows three religions at war, none of which are Muslim, isn't lost on the filmmakers and serves as some sort of comment towards political tensions today, but you have to read into the tale to get to that point; I think it works as a historical epic alone without the need of social commentary of the present. As a piece of history and as entertaining wartime cinema, I think Agora earns the right to be seen.
A film stretched too far in its complexity. (by aragorn_lordofthering)
I saw this today at the Toronto International Film Festival, and overall it was quite an interesting experience for me. I will first comment on the pros, and then the cons.The GoodFrom the beginning, the film's exquisite detail is evident -- costumes, sets, props, hundreds/thousands of extras, etc --, reminding me especially of HBO's Rome series. CGIs were amazing, and the sound effects used in certain scenes with large numbers of people were thunderous and powerful -- surely the best I have seen from a film. It is by far the most ambitious project in the bringing to life of an <more>
ancient city that I have seen on screen. I only wished that they would have had the actors speak in Greek, but that would be asking too much I suppose :pAlso, I liked how the film did not focus so much on portraying any one religious group as "the bad guy". Naturally, one would have assumed that it was going to be the Christians after seeing the trailers , but in fact the goods and the bads were exposed in all religions, which added to the realism and historical accuracy of the film.Above all, this director ought to be commended in his attempt to capture the society in the city of Alexandria of late antiquity. This has never yet been done in cinema, and Amenabar clearly attempts to do this out of extraordinary passion for his work. Agora presents to the audience a glimpse into a world that is little known outside of the circles of ancient historians and classicists, and the film's portrayal of religious strife between the different groups in Alexandria successfully shows a very complex ancient society.The main character, Davus, also serves as an important figure, by representing the common man living in Alexandria at the time who must face the challenges of an ancient society in transition. However, I feel that the subtleties of Davus' character, who is indeed a source of much important historical information, would be misunderstood and ignored by the audience, which would be in search of something more direct and "in- your-face" from the film.Overall, the film was at its best when it subtly hinted certain elements/themes to the audience -- this is when it showed the most sophistication in the portrayal of history, and skill in terms of artistic merit.The BadI think the biggest mistake that the director made was to focus too much on the religious conflict. Without a doubt, during the first 45 minutes the audience was engulfed and captivated with awe by the strife between the pagans and the Christians probably because such a time in history is little known today, and rarely portrayed in art or discussed , but the film does not give a break to its constant references to religion. Throughout the two hours, the script continuously shows the characters' endless preoccupation with religious matters, which takes away from development of their individualities. Amenabar tries to differ attention toward other things, through the love triangle between Orestes, Davus, and Hypatia -- which works well at times, but could have been developed far more especially between her and Davus . He also gives some attention to science; a big mistake IMO, because in such scenes, one feels like the film turns into a lecture. If Amenabar had tried to use CGIs to demonstrate some of the scientific concepts discussed among characters, he could have added something artistic to the bland dialogue of those scenes.I was also somewhat disappointed by Dario Marianelli's score. HAving heard his compositions for "Pride and Prejudice", "Atonement" and "V for Vendetta", I was expecting a musical score that was more intense and thought-provoking, rather than a more or less typical and primitive symphony that one often hears in "epic" historical films.8/10
watched that film in the Toronto Film Festival; I have to say that it is an important story that was never told before. Overall, the movie was good, acting is excellent, and they successfully recreated the city of Alexandria and it was beautiful. It was thought provoking to see how misinterpretation of religion is a mistake that happened throughout the history of mankind. The parallel between the story that took place 1600 years ago and what is happening today is very clear. The story of Hypatia was never told before though her struggle facing the religious fanatics is one that we can <more>
identify with. The movie is based on historical facts except for the character of the slave "Davus". I highly recommend it.