Sunday, June 9, 2013

Agora

Agora; history/ drama, Spain/ USA, 2009, D: Alejandro Amenabar, S: Rachel Weisz, Oscar Isaac, Max Minghella, Michael Lonsdale

Alexandria, 391 AD. Hypatia is one of the rare Greek women who teach at the library, but during that time the Christians are slowly becoming the dominating religion in the Roman Empire and do not tolerate any other worldview. After a feud, where Christians attacked statues of ancient gods, a riot breaks out and the Christian destroy the 'pagan' library of the Serapeum. Hypatia's slave Davus becomes a Christian himself. 20 years later, Hypatia has a new theory in which she stipulates that the Earth may actually be revolving around the Sun, not vice-versa. Her former student, Orestes, is now the prefect, but comes into conflict with the radical views of Cyril. The Christians start attacking the Jews and ultimately demand that everyone converts to their religion. Hypatia refuses and is thus killed.

"Agora" should be appreciated for the sole fact that it was the first film about Hypatia, the revolutionary woman philosopher, as well as bravely choosing a rarely shown 'taboo' theme in history, namely that even early Christians were fundamentalists and extremists who caused great damage to knowledge. The movie has certain omissions, most notably because Hypatia's works were destroyed and thus director Alejandro Amenaber had the burden of practically inventing her scenes from scratch, yet the storyline has a point and can be viewed as a clash between feminism and religious fundamentalism, relevant even today, not only in ancient times. Several times, scenes of Earth from space are shown to emphasize Hypatia's fascination with astronomy, whereas in the sequences where Christians destroy the library because it contains 'pagan' ideas, the camera is tilted upside-down to symbolically say how the world values became all wrong, contrariwise. The genre of history film, especially from the ancient times, became almost extinct since the 70s, which is another reason to applaud Amenabar for having courage to make "Agora", and he was probably inspired because he realized the ironic parallels between Jesus Christ's execution by the Romans for having integrity, different worldviews and Hypatia's execution by the very same Christians for having integrity, different worldviews. "Agora" shows how Christianity was established on genocide/religioncide, just like numerous other big religions who expanded and did not tolerate other, older religions, and leaves the message open to interpretation to the viewers. It is an appeal for tolerance and knowledge over force.

Grade;++

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