6/3/10

Agora

Director Alejandro Amenábar ("Abre los ojos" and "The Sea Inside") brings us a sword and sandals melodrama that is based on the life and times of Hypatia, a singular woman who lived in the late 4th century. She was a highly respected philosopher, mathematician and teacher. The 2010 Seattle Film Festival audience, sitting smugly in possession of 20/20 hindsight, smile as she struggles to ascertain if Earth is round, is the universe heliocentric and what the devil is gravity? Her experiments are creative and interesting.

We see the brutal persecution of early Christians in Roman Egypt. Then, when the Roman Emperor converts and the Christians prevail, their enthusiastic persecution of the Jews. After the Jews are driven from Alexandria, the Christians turn on the pagans and continue their blood-letting. Religious fervor is NOT pretty!

Hypatia, played by Rachel Weisz ("The Lovely Bones"), is the central character, but her slave Davus, later freed, has the most interesting story arc. As depicted by Max Minghella ("Art School Confidential"), Davus evolves from callow youth with a crush on his mistress, to smoldering adulthood, still in love with her. Oh yeah...and a pretty good Prefect, as played by Oscar Isaac (Prince John in the latest "Robin Hood").

Of course we might expect lots of Computer Generated Imaging, swordplay, floggings and incinerations (as we already know, the library at Alexandria is burned for containing heresy), plus a few bits of artistic license. In my opinion, Weisz is gorgeous but Minghella steals the show.