Agora Film Details
Overview: 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 philosophy and mathematics professor Hypatia of Alexa
Tagline: Alexandria, Egypt. 391 A.D. The World Changed Forever.
Review: The parts that were historical reconstruction were good, where they invented characters and drama it was weaker. It’s good that this story has been told in a surprisingly historically-accurate way. On questions of historical accuracy, and correcting inaccuracies that other reviewers have said about the film: * “Anti-Christian bias”. In fact Amenábar has gone out of his way to be negative to the other religions, to create balance. For example, pagan persecution of Christians, as shown in the early scenes, had ceased a hundred years before Hypatia’s time. Even then, being Christian never appears to have been actually illegal in the pagan empire, although Christians were universally despised. The stories of Christian martyrs are too frequently overblown propaganda stories invented during Hypatia’s time when the empire was starting serious persecution of pagans. The martyrdom of St. Katherine of Alexandria is often considered a Christian re-working of the Hypatia story with the religious affiliations reversed. -Some people have falsely said there were no positive Christian characters in the film. There are very many. Of the main characters, there are more positive Christians than negative. Certain people seem to think that any negative statement about any Christian must be historically false and biased. Some reviewers actually said that Orestes in this film was a pagan: he was a Christian, just one who did not persecute others: does that disqualify him from Jesus’s grace? The historical Orestes was a tolerant Christian, just as in the film. -Yes, the story is remarkably true to the historical record: read Socrates Scholasticus (a liberal Orestes-type Christian). Yes, Cyril and the Parabolani did exist, just as described: yes, the fanatics were opposed to philosophy and “pagan” science. If anything, they were considerably more extreme than shown in this film. Sozomen, a cheerful “Cyril”-type Christian historian, talks about the killing of philosophers with great relish. Read Augustine on astronomy and science, and on toleration of dissent. Or Lactantius or Tertullian: “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?”, “This is our primary faith: there is nothing we ought to believe besides.” Not all Christian leaders and writers were wise and humane. For conservative Christian cosmology, look up Cosmas Indicopleustes (admittedly a hundred years later). The views of Ammonius in the film follow Cosmas. For general background, try Synesius, Ammianus Marcellinus, or Zosimus. -The Library of Alexandria. Wise people judge others on their actions themselves, and not on the affiliations they profess. The library was mentioned up to Hypatia’s time, and not mentioned after. Some people try to blame it on Julius Caesar (although Antony later rebuilt it), and then desperately on anyone other than on someone who carries a label they identify with. After the Arabs conquered Egypt, a story was then circulated in Medieval Europe that the Muslims had destroyed it. That one still gets airplay. As far as anyone can tell, Christian mobs destroyed it along with the rest of pagan institutes. Theodosius gave orders in 391-2 to destroy not just the Serapeum, but all pagan temples and worship. -The scene of the Christians distributing bread was good, convincing and historically accurate. Some reviewers have used it to imply that pagans would not do this. It was true at the time. But remember that during the pagan empire there was dole of bread in cities: normally nobody was short of bread. Constantine nullified the urban bread ration with a stiff poll tax. There are many places where the film is bravely historically accurate: even at the cost of risking mass appeal. -Hypatia’s chastity. It was brave to have purely intellectual romance without any sex or even kissing. -The religious aspect of her astronomy. -The lack of any modern political correctness for the main characters. Also good was the direct historical reconstruction of key scenes: Cyril’s biblical challenge to Orestes over advice from a pagan and a woman, the subsequent physical attack on Orestes, the persecution of the Jews, etc. As for things which actually were historical inaccuracies: * Kepler. This was a kind of sweet artistic liberty. I took this as a sort of inside joke. Hypatia was an astronomer, among other things, and her most original work was on the mathematics of conic sections. So to have her tentatively propose the possibility that the the earth might move in a different conic section – an ellipse rather than a circle – is entertaining but not entirely implausible. * It would have been much better to have explained in more detail Hypatia’s views on spirituality and the flesh, so that her “cure” for her admirer’s physical passion was a bit more clear. Perhaps this is in the scenes that had to be cut. In reality, this is explained in detail in Synesius’s letters. * Synesius of Cyrene. He was in fact a much more sympathetic character than made out in the film: both more humane and braver and more admiring of Hypatia. He is the only character whose writings we still have: personal letters that are well worth reading even today. Perhaps Amenábar needed a more critical character to balance Orestes’s total admiration. But that kind of utter devotion was common between teacher and pupil in philosophical schools, even across religious boundaries. Again it is interesting that certain reviewers seem to think that admiration for a pagan equals paganism: even today. Just like Cyril. The message of the whole film was that this is not true. It was too subtle for some, obviously. * The initial attacks of pagans on Christians are anachronistic. Also pagans could not own Christian slaves at this time. But I suppose they had to explain the fanatics hatred for the pagans somehow, other than an inflated memory of events that had occurred a century before.
Country: Spain, Malta, Bulgaria
Duration: 127 min
Genre: Adventure, Biography, Drama
Also known as: Agora,Alexandria,Ágora,Агора,Mists of Time,風暴佳人,アレクサンドリア,Agora – Die Säulen des Himmels,Agoraa