Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on March 2011
If you’re looking for a conventional swords-and-sandals epic, keep looking. But for thinking moviegoers, this film by Alejandro Amenabar (The Sea Inside, Abre Los Ojos), about the historical development of ideas and the age-old struggle between science and superstition, plays better than Troy. The story revolves around Hypatia (Rachel Weisz), a female philosopher, mathematician and atheist in 4th-century Alexandria, and the men who, in different ways, revered her. Hypatia figured out more than a millennium before Galileo that the Earth revolves around the Sun, but no one really cared. It was 391 AD, a time when Christianity was gaining ground, and the Christians, Jews and pagans were more interested in slaughtering one another than learning anything. Christians, by the way, are not going to like the way their early brethren are depicted as power-hungry, thuggish zealots who usher in the Dark Ages by destroying the fabulous library at Alexandria (shouting “Hallelujah”) and early on beginning their subjugation of women. But who’s to say this is not accurate? Though uneven in spots, Agora is a gorgeously filmed, intelligent and engrossing historical drama that kept me interested throughout.