Like many in the U.S., my Greek/Roman history is spotty at best. Prior to seeing the film Ágora (directed in 2009 by Alejandro Amenábar), I really didn’t know anything about Hypatia and her horrible fate.
I have been terribly moved by her story. I mean, there’s a reason we are not on the moon. A reason we haven’t cured cancer. And a reason our energy “crisis” will never be solved.
We are, all of us, hampered by the will of God. A god that refuses to move human consciousness beyond our petty prejudices and narrow-mindedness.
That was my first reaction after watching Ágora, a film starring Rachel Weisz, Max Minghella and Oscar Isaac. Though the movie has been out since 2009, I only saw it recently at the San Francisco’s Atheist Film Festival this past August (has it really been that long since I last posted here?).
The festival included a number of enticing films, but the hubby and I only have time for one, and I chose Ágora. I’m very glad I did. Though the story will bring you to tears, it is one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time. The actors were first class, the cinematography stunningly beautiful, and, yes, there’s CGI, and it worked flawlessly with the story. All that in the ample hands of writer/director Amenábar, and the results will move your soul.
I know it did mine.
Here’s a recap from IMDb (way better than what I can come up with):
Alexandria, 391 CE: Hypatia teaches astronomy, mathematics, and philosophy. Her student Orestes is in love with her, as is Davus, her personal slave. As the city’s Christians, led by Ammonius and Cyril, gain political power, the great institutions of learning and governance may not survive. Jump ahead 20 years: Orestes, the city’s prefect, has an uneasy peace with Christians, led by Cyril. The Christians enforce public morality; first they see the Jews as their obstacle, then nonbelievers. Hypatia has no interest in faith; she’s concerned about the movement of celestial bodies and the brotherhood of all. What place is there for her?Written by <email@example.com>
Remember, this is a movie. It’s not about following the known political facts of four centuries before the common era. It’s about the ancient clash of science and religion, and how it may affect the way we live, the way we think, and our future. Agora’s message is clear: religion kills science, even when packaged so beautifully in the body of a young scholar.
And don’t think that the movie is all about ancient Alexandria.
What is it that they say about historic films? That they reflect the movie makers current politics/religion/morality/what-have-you rather than the period it is portraying?
After watching this movie, if you fail to see how, currently, today, religion zealots are moving in for the fatal blow on science in this country, then please listen/read this recent piece on NPR.
Do not be like a Orestes or Davus – if you love her, defend her. Defend science.
- ‘Agora’: Rachel Weisz shines as a heroine caught in an orbit of hate (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- ‘Agora’: A mind ahead of its time (boston.com)
- Agora Reflections (pknatz.wordpress.com)