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3025Re: A Review of Agora from Le Monde

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  • vaeringjar
    Feb 4 10:59 AM
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      --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, "Goya" <goya@...> wrote:
      > Hi Dennis,
      > here's some comments I posted on another list:
      > Just saw Almenabar's Agora, his portrait of the life of Hypatia, and
      > thought it was terrific, no doubt the best film about Antiquity I have
      > seen. It was well acted, with surprising understatement, and the
      > computer-enhanced vistas of ancient Alexandria were beautiful. There may
      > well have been historical howlers in there, but if so I missed them. It
      > seemed to me a convincing portrayal of life among the elite of 5th-century
      > Alexandria.
      > The Christians are, of course, the bad guys, especially the bearded,
      > black-clad Parabolani (Talibani?), a mob of ignorant thugs who eventually
      > do in the virtuous Hypatia. Cyril of Alexandria might well sue for
      > defamation if he were still in this veil of tears. But I saw nothing that
      > contradicts what I think is known of that period, with perhaps two
      > exceptions.
      > First, H.'s student Synesius of Cyrene is depicted as a rather slimy
      > individual and at one point defends a fundamentalist reading of Paul's
      > letters to the Galatians, which seems unlikely if one has read much
      > Synesius (scholars can't even agree he was really Christian). Secondly, H.
      > herself, beautiful and impossibly virtuous, is depicted as a kind of
      > Galileo avant la lettre, interested almost exclusively in science. In fact
      > she taught Plato and Aristotle, and is likely to have been a fairly
      > standard Neoplatonist.
      > But I thought the positives far outweighed the negatives. Parts I
      > particularly enjoyed were Michel Lonsdale's lovely portrayed of H.'s
      > father Theon ; H's ambiguous relations with her slaves (Aspasius, her
      > scientific collaborator, is petrified with fear when she hugs him), and
      > especially the scenes of scientific discovery : although it is probably
      > unlikely that H. discovered the elliptical form of the earth's orbit 1200
      > years before Brahe and Kepler, the scene where she discovers this is one
      > of the most believable scenes of scientific discovery I have seen in film.
      > Bravo.
      > Michael Chase
      > CNRS UPR 76
      > Paris-Villejuif
      > France

      That's great news, glad to get your positive reactions - Lonsdale is a fine actor, so another indication this is a serious effort. If the spirit is right, a little historical inaccuracy is hardly the end of the world, and it is a film and not a documentary, after all. I like Rachel Weisz and she would seem a perfect choice for the role.

      Poor old Synesius - waits 1600 years for his "big moment" and then gets rather slimed!

      Isn't it Eunapius who complains about the gangs of black-hooded Christian thugs? They must have picked that up from him.

      I hope the film finds distribution here in America, but I won't hold my breath. Maybe if the pagans were shown as tall, purple-skinned, and all buffed and svelte...

      Dennis Clark
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