The collections

Agora, Hypatia and Alexandria


Hypatia was an Alexandrine from the 4th century AD. Mathematician and philosopher, she was a brilliant and cultured woman, and she is also the heroine chosen by the director Alejandro Amenabar for his last film: Agora. Despite some flaws, Agora is a realistic and successful film, in a genre that has been rather roughed up in recent years by the latest holywoodian productions and uninspired bodybuilders (Troy, Gladiator, Alexander).


Agora and history

4th century after Jesus Christ. Egypt is under Roman domination. Taking refuge in the great Library, now threatened by the anger of the insurgents, the brilliant astronomer Hypatia tries to preserve the knowledge accumulated over centuries, with the help of her disciples. Among them, two men dispute the love of Hypatia: Orestes and the young slave Davus, torn between his feelings and the prospect of being freed if he accepts to join the Christians, more and more powerful ...

In 391 AD, the Roman Empire became Christianized. In Alexandria, tensions are growing between pagans and believers in the new religion. The philosopher and astronomer Hypatia finds herself in the midst of this clash of religions, which threatens culture, knowledge and science in the name of a Truth that cannot be disputed.

A topical subject and an original context

This is a subject that can be described as topical! And Amenábar does not hide it! Its references to current fundamentalism extend to the physical resemblance of the most fanatic of Christians to the bearded ones of today, and the discourse on both Knowledge and women resonates in a very contemporary way. It is true that the chosen context was ideal and that is one of the first qualities of the film; in fact, the 4th century is the period when the Roman Empire becomes Christianized, first with Constantine (312), then his successors, and in particular Theodosius I under whose reign the film begins. The Empire sees Christianity becoming the state religion, and paganism increasingly threatened. "Agora" shows clearly, with the choice of a strategic city like Alexandria (remarkably reconstituted), all the challenges and tensions of this period of transition. The film probably ends around 415: Christianity has triumphed, paganism is officially banned (although in practice it is a little more complex) and, in the process, the Empire has been split in two.

Religious fanaticism against Knowledge and "feminism"

Amenábar does not really choose his camp, between pagans and Christians: it is the first who react with violence to insults to their idols. And even if the director charges a little on Christian fanaticism afterwards, can we really say he's wrong at this point in history? It is also very interesting to see the nuances that it brings: not all Christians are fanatics, but some are cowards or opportunists, even have no choice, or convert out of love or frustration ... The words of a few preachers succeed in inflaming an ignorant crowd, and this is the strength of all fanaticism. Amenábar does not hide anyway that his "camp" is that of agnosticism, even atheism, and this is where the film is engaged. He makes Hypatia (extraordinary Rachel Weisz) a sort of "saint", a virgin who is moreover, of Knowledge, of doubt, of critical thinking and even of feminism since her fate is settled following the reading by the bishop. of the Epistles of Paul (canonical text of the Church), probably one of the most misogynistic things ever written (even taking into account the context) ...

A realistic and successful film, despite its flaws

Historically, there are obviously some errors, but they are minimal compared to other "historical" films, and the spirit of the time and consistency seem well respected. Even the characters appear to be roughly true to their role model (including Hypatia), with the exception of the slave Davus, who was invented to show a young man's "rocking" out of love for an unapproachable woman. This is perhaps a flaw in the film, even if this character makes it possible to come into contact with the Christian militias and to show how one can switch to fanaticism (whereas the character of Orestes would show more the opportunism then cowardice, and that of Synesius ambition). On the other hand, the character of Cyril is apparently very close to what we know, and this both shivers down the spine and explains a lot of things in the evolution of Christianity (it is he who reads holy Paul)… We can certainly quibble over a few staging facilities (but also note good ideas, such as plans "seen from the sky"), a contrasted interpretation (Rachel Weisz is wearing the film, some of her partners are not at height), sometimes a bit of caricature and shortcuts (the plight of the Jews of Alexandria, shown as a sort of summary of Christian anti-Semitism). But the film is overall a success, despite its flaws, and it should be praised for its originality (the time covered, the angle chosen, the manner) and its integrity.

- the most: the subject, the originality, the reconstruction, a global historical fidelity, a committed point of view, certain ideas of direction, Rachel Weisz.

- minuses: part of the interpretation, some shortcuts and caricatures, the music.

Agora, a film by Alejandro Amenabar with Rachel Weisz and Max Minghella.

Original title: AGORA (United States)

Genre: Drama, Historical - Duration: 2H21 mn

Distributor: Mars Distribution

Released in theaters January 06, 2010

Year of production: 2009


Video: Hypatia and Alexandria 25 (December 2021).