It took Italian distributors some time to find the courage to release AGORA’ in our theatres but at last they made it last week and I was able to see it this weekend. Now I understand what they feared: this movie can be interpreted as an attack to Christianity, and maybe it partly is. But that would be a superficial reading of this beautiful , epic, costume movie. I think this is an attack but to any extremism which has infected human history since ancient times, it is an attack to the stupidity of Man who always repeats the same mistakes and never remembers, it is an attack to the continuous distortion of sacred texts to pursuit earthly greedy purposes, it is an attempt to reflect on contemporary serious dangers through the recount of this tragic, ancient, true story.
Alexandria , Egypt, 391 A.D. The protagonist is Hypatia philosopher and matemathician, heiress of the ancient Greek culture and , as a woman, expression of the long evolution and great freedom of thought which characterized the world that will disappear with her. She and her ideals are overwhelmed and swept away by the crisis of an entire world, the classic pagan world , that of Hypatia’s father, Theon, the head of Alexandria’s fabled library. She has the privilege to be free of teaching a group of brilliant minds in the city. Two men are in love with her : her student Oreste and Davus, her personal slave.
But Hypatia prefers to spend her time in the library, where scrolls of parchment are stuffed onto racks in a magnificent chamber, and pondering such matters as the movement of the Earth and the planets and whether or not the Earth is flat or round. She wants to demonstrate Ptolem was wrong.
Alexandria is a cosmopolitan city hosting Jews, Pagans and Christians, just legalized by the Roman Empire. They are the majority and their number grows more and more. A group of fundamentalist Christians called parabolani become aggressive and lead the sacking of Alexandria’s library. Violence spreads all over the city and among the different religious groups until the very tragic epilogue.
Among interesting male characters such as Davus (Max Minghella), Oreste (Oscar Isaac), Ammonius (Ashraf Barhom), Synesius (Rupert Evans), Theon ( Michael Lonsdale), Aspasius (Homayoun Ershadi), and Cyril ( Sammy Samir) the figure of beautiful, smart and brave Hypatia (Rachel Weisz) is there towering all the time.
If what is told in the movie is true, Christians shouldn’t be ashamed ,and hide their heads in the sand in order not to see or know. This movie should teach any human being something since it is food for brain. One can learn so much from his/her own mistakes and even from other people’s mistakes.
Alejandro Amenabar shows great courage again, after winning an Academy Award for The Sea Inside ( and after The Others starring Nicole Kidman) he has given us another amazing movie. Hypatia , her life and death deserved not to be ignored. Though not historically accurate I agreed with the choice of the director in the fatal ending scene. Davus desperate embrace to Hypatia touched my heart and moved me to tears. Gripping. Unforgettable.