March 27th, 2011

Remy and Rogue's first "kiss"

Movie review: AGORA

A few hundred years AD, Hypatia, (Rachel Weisz) one of history's great mathematicians, astronomers, and scientists, lived in Alexandria. Highly intellectual with passion for scientific discovery, she rejects more personal matters; there's a scene where she compares love to menstrual blood with disgust on her face.

This intellectualism puts her in a unique position to stand between the Christians and Pagans warring in Alexandria. Pagans oppressed and abused Christians for decades, and Christian rage grew with each new abuse. Hypatia, who, by her own words, believes in "Philosophy" (which had a different meaning for her than us, but she didn't worship Christian or Pagan gods) becomes a voice of reason to her science students and Alexandria as a whole.

However, all her enlightened thinking doesn't erase her prejudice against slaves, including her slave Davus (Max Minghella). Like many of the poor, downtrodden, and oppressed of the time, he is drawn more and more towards Christianity and the equality it offers him. Yet he is in love with Hypatia, and when he sees his new religion turn more towards violence, and against his mistress, he's torn. Through him, we see both the goodness and cruelties of the Pagans and Christians, and why both religions might draw an average man.

AGORA takes place during one of history's great upheavals. Religious tension reached a peak of violence, but at the same time, it was a time of science and knowledge, where Philosophy and science were revered. The movie shows us the great scope of the conflict through Hypatia's studies: vast shots of space, her own studies into how the earth works, wide views of Alexandria and the many different of people who lived there. Much of Hypatia's work was destroyed so we don't know what she discovered. The movie shows her working out how the earth revolves around the sun; like all the characters, she is determined to make sense of the world, and her way of doing it gives us a glimpse at the grand, world-wide scope of human knowledge and conflict.

Davus's story makes the story personal. He shows us how, while Great Events in History happen, greatness matters nothing to men forced to choose between dignity and love. No one is completely right, and no answers are really offered--but AGORA challenges you to find your own. It is brilliant and fascinating and I could not recommend it more highly.


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