Originally posted by Conrau K
I have not seen the film, Agora, and I cannot authoritatively tell whether it accurate or inaccurate. I have read reviews and altogether they are not very positive. On the topic of Hypatia, I will however just point out a few things. As it happens, in my university department, there has been scholarly interest in the story of Hypatia and her history is an i f her Neo-Platonic doctrines, which were acceptable to her Christian theologian contemporaries.
Thanks for the detailed response. That's interesting. I did notice in the movie that one of the powerful Christian bishops was initially a young student of Hypatia and admired and respected her, but in the end he still questioned the idea of a woman being influential or advising the Roman political leader (her former student), and concluding that maybe she placed a spell on men.
I also noticed that the elite, whether of the Christians, pagans, Romans, or later the Jewish elite, all seemed to basically get along, were usually practical, and wanted order. Yet, mistakes by the Jews, pagans, and Romans, combined with the rising power of the Christians, and the vehemence of the Christian mob was just too much.
As for reviews, 51% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes recommend Agora. Users give it a 7.1/10. The reasons I watched it is because I like both Rachael Weisz and historical movies. I wasn't expecting the cruel and mobbish behavior by the Christians, or the theme of the tension between science versus religious superstition. An excerpt of Ebert's review:
BY ROGER EBERT / July 21, 2010
I went to see "Agora" expecting an epic with swords, sandals and sex. I found swords and sandals, some unexpected opinions about sex, and a great deal more. This is a movie about ideas, a drama based on the ancient war between science and superstition. At its center is a woman who in the fourth century A.D. was a scientist, mathematician, philosopher, astronomer and teacher, respected in Egypt, although women were not expected to be any of those things.
Hypatia (Rachel Weisz) was born into the family business. Her father Theon (Michael Lonsdale) was the curator of the Library of Alexandria, which had as its mission "collecting all the world's knowledge." Scholars traveled there from across the ancient world, doing research and donating manuscripts. It was destroyed by Christians in 391 A.D., and "Agora" takes place in the years surrounding that incalculable loss.
The film's title refers to a name for the public assembly places in ancient Greek city-states. The library was such an agora, and we see Hypatia teaching a class of young men who listen to her with open admiration.
There's an early indication that this won't be a routine "Troy"-like exercise in CGI action scenes: Hypatia actually does teach something, using the first scale model of planetary motion to deduce, centuries before Galileo, that the Earth cannot be the center of the universe.
The film's director and co-writer, Alejandro Amenabar, re-creates the Alexandria of Hypatia's time with a mixture of sets and effects, showing it at the tipping point between Greek and Roman paganism and the new religion of Christianity. As she studies with and under her father, drawing from countless parchment scrolls in the library, in the city the Christians burn with a fearful intensity. Hypatia herself is not interested in religion; she feels passion only for her ideas.
. . . warfare culminates in the destruction of the library. Hypatia races with her students to rescue armloads of scrolls, a few of which may literally have been responsible for our surviving texts from Aristotle and other Greeks.
. . . After the rise of the Christians, the factions grow even more militant; one group wears black robes and searches streets for dissenters, heretics and Jews.
That Hypatia was a genius seems beyond question. Her invention, the hydrometer, is being used in the Gulf at this moment to distinguish oil from water by their specific densities. Although "Agora" avoids the temptation to sneak in a romantic subplot, it gets mileage out of her character as a focus of emotional intrigue for her male students, who would have never seen a woman anything like her.
The previews of the movie put much emphasis on the fact that Hypatia's slave is in love with her. And while important, the movie is more diverse.