July 2, 2011 at 9:41 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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I had some spare time and so I went to see Agora ay the Paramount Theatre.

Plot revealed

The film is set in 4th century Alexandria – at the end of the Roman empire, and when the light house (one of the wonders of the ancient world) was still standing. Despite the name, Agora, the film is really about the rising power of the Christians in a part of the declining Roman world.

Most of the action involves Hypatia: mathematician, astronomer, general philosopher, and young women. All qualities that lead her into trouble and an untimely end. Yet her joy in the conic sections is inspiring.

The early Christians are portrayed in a very bad light; the film implies that they were no better than any other clique rising to power – propaganda, intimidation, innuendo, and violence. Hypatia’s non-secular influence on key dignitaries – she taught them – means that the archbishop of Alexandria eventually isolates and eliminates her.

Hypatia, played ably by Rachel Weisz, is portrayed as a moral academic caught up in turbulent political times. Hypatia, in the film, is accredited with modeling the solar system with the sun in the middle orbited by planets in elliptical orbits; reputing the Ptolemaic model and fixing the drawbacks of the Aristarchus/heliocentric model; eliminating the use or circular orbits and planetary epicycle. In some respects the film is a astronomy lesson.

The film is a series of juxtapositions: Hypatia’s questioning philosophical approach versus the dogma driven mob; Hypatia’s tolerance versus the intolerance of the emerging power; and personal integrity versus cynical pragmatism.

Hypatia’s world gradually changes in a series of political events, and through it all she continues to question and to look at the stars and ask why – to seek an elegant simple solution to why the planets move the way they do.

The viewer is at first entranced by the ancient world. Then suffers a series of disappointments as they see riots, pogroms, self-serving politics, murder; and finally the only question is; “will she live?” But even her former slave – Davus, played by Max Minghella – now a foot soldier of Christ cannot save her; he can only provide a quick clean death – so sad.

Worth watching if you are interested in astronomy, geometry, politics and history.


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