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Monday, May 10, 2010

Rachel Weisz is Hypatia

The Independent Catholic News has an article about an interesting movie - Agora. Here's some of what Wikipedia has for the film ....

Agora is a 2009 Spanish historical drama film directed by Alejandro AmenĂ¡bar [The Sea Inside], written by AmenĂ¡bar and Mateo Gil, and starring Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz and Max Minghella. It tells the story of Hypatia, a female philosopher in Roman Egypt, who is portrayed by Weisz. With dramatic license, the biopic includes a romantic angle: her slave falls in love with her. The film was co-financed by Spanish company Sogecable. It was screened Out of Competition at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival in May, was released in Spain on 9 October, and is being released country by country throughout late 2009 and early 2010 ....

And here is a little bit about Hypatia from Wikipedia ......

Hypatia .... born between AD 350 and 370; died March 415) was a Greek scholar from Alexandria, Egypt, considered the first notable woman in mathematics, who also taught philosophy and astronomy. She lived in Roman Egypt, and was killed by a Christian mob who falsely blamed her for religious turmoil ..... Believed to have been the reason for the strained relationship between the Imperial Prefect Orestes and the Patriarch Cyril, Hypatia attracted the ire of a Christian population eager to see the two reconciled. One day in March AD 415, during the season of Lent, her chariot was waylaid on her route home by a Christian mob, possibly Nitrian monks led by a man identified only as Peter, who is thought to be Peter the Reader, Cyril's assistant. The Christian monks stripped her naked and dragged her through the streets to the newly Christianised Caesareum church, where she was brutally killed. Some reports suggest she was flayed with ostraca (pot shards) and set ablaze while still alive, though other accounts suggest those actions happened after her death ....

The article from the Independent Catholic News takes a pretty balanced view of the film (as opposed to some who have called it anti-Catholic) and it's quite detailed on the background history of Alexandria at the time of Hypatia, especially the religious/political situation and the antagonisms between the Christians, Pagans, and Jews. It's worth a read.

Here's the trailer ....

- Detail of The School of Athens by Raffaello Sanzio, 1509, depicting Pythagoras, writing in foreground, with Averroes, Hypatia of Alexandria, and Parmenides behind him


Blogger Liam said...

I heard about this. I'm a huge Rachel Weisz fan and it looks very cool.

I have to say that I am a little wary about how Christianity is presented in the movie -- not from the perspective of a Christian, but of that of a historian -- because the director is Spanish. Although Spain has given the world some remarkable religious people in the past 100 years or so (think Pedro Arrupe), the hierarchy there is disgustingly reactionary, and people who aren't religious tend to be violently anti-clerical. There's a sad history there that really exploded in the Civil War, and I don't know if a Spanish director can really approach a subject like this objectively.

Still, it looks very cool.

3:54 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Liam,

I thought you might like this movie.

I think you're right about the way Christians might be portrayed in the film. That's why I mentioned the article at the Independent Catholic News. I probably should have quoted part of it, but it gave a helpful background on the religious situation at that time in Alexandria.

I always thnk people will watch movies or read novels about an historical event and then go look it up to see how it fit with reality, but I guess a lot of people just take historical fiction at face value.

5:21 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Fr. Robert Baron, S.J., has some interesting things to say about this film.

It seems that Liam may be correct.

7:55 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

oops - Fr. Barron is not a Jesuit - mea culpa.

7:58 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


Thanks for the link. Interesting - I hadn't realized that David Bentley Hart had commented on Hypatia in his Atheist Delusions book. I'll have to read that (maybe post something about it).

The thing is, it's rare, in my limited experience, to find an historical movie that does not take some license with the truth for dramatic reasons. This is so for movies that have nothing to do with religion as well as those that do, but in the case of movies with religion, religious people get very bent out of shape about it and seem often to think it's always anti-religous sentiment that is behind the inaccuracies. Maybe that's the case sometimes, but I think the religious community often over-reacts.

In the case of Hypatia, she was indeed said to have been killed by Christians in a really brutal way. The movie then says the Christians burned the library of Alexandria (not true).

3:11 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Very true Crystal. BTW, I saw the new "Robin Hood" and I thought it was terrible. And I am not talking about historical inaccuracies I am talking about as a story / movie. For example, some parts were "Gladiator" and other parts were "Braveheart" and the "love story" was pathetic. I know you like movies but I would save your money! The only good thing is that there were some "shots" that were beautiful.

12:14 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


Oh, that's disappointing. I do like Russell Crowe (and Robin Hood) but the last movie I saw by Ridley Scott was also not very good - Kingdom of Heaven. Maybe Robin Hood will be worth renting, though.

1:55 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...


Yes, I was so disappointed for exactly the reasons you cited. Renting will certainly bee less expensive than the $14 I paid to see it. BTW, the story was basically "why Robin Hood became Robin Hood" but it was so bad and definitely a stretch.

Speaking of renting, I recently saw a beautiful movie, the Burmese Harp. Great story and great cinematography. I also watched "Mothernight" which I thought was good. Lastly, I would strongly recommend "A Model for Matisse"!



6:46 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

I'll have to look for those - I haven't heard of them. I'm signed up for The Lovely Bones, and The Road, which I hope will be as good as the books.

2:45 AM  

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