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Agora [DVD] [2009]


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Product details

  • Actors: Rachel Weisz, Max Minghella, Rupert Evans, Michael Lonsdale
  • Directors: Alejandro Amenabar
  • Format: PAL, Colour, Anamorphic, Widescreen, HiFi Sound
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 12
  • Studio: Paramount Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: 16 Aug 2010
  • Run Time: 122 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (111 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003IHV2XQ
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 19,655 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Reviews

A historical drama set in Roman Egypt, concerning a slave who turns to the rising tide of Christianity in the hopes of pursuing free dom while also falling in love with his master, the famous female philosophy professor and atheist Hypatia of Alexandria.

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Arch Stanton on 1 April 2013
Format: DVD
This is a good movie that could have been great were it not for two major flaws. Since I think there's much of value here I'll focus on what the film did right before getting to what it did wrong.

First off, and most obviously, comes the sets and costumes. The sets here are truly amazing. This film's Alexandria is possibly the most realistic portrayal of an ancient city on film. It's run down, populous, and colorful. The costumes are likewise realistic using a much heavier cloth than we're used to seeing in film. When this is combined with some excellent cinematography and visual themes (including a recurring satellite view) it makes for a visually stunning film. I don't know how they did this on such a small budget but it stands proudly as one of the most beautiful historical dramas put to film.

The second thing I loved about this movie is simply it's choice of time and subject. The Roman Empire seems to end with the death of Commodus judging from Hollywood productions. It's very nice to see a film that takes place in Rome's final century. The choice of philosophers for a theme is also excellent. Rachel Weisz makes a wonderful Hypatia and the scenes with her working to understand the nature of the universe are the best in the film. In fact, if the film had consisted entirely of this plot line it'd have been simply perfect. The love of knowledge and culture really comes through in a big way. They pay strict attention to what science was known at the time and how it was taught, and although they do have some rather implausible speculation about what she knew it manages to make it seem believable.

Now we get to the problems. First and most obvious is the fact that the film is basically several films in one. And you can take that in several ways.
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288 of 319 people found the following review helpful By Guy Mannering VINE VOICE on 26 May 2010
Format: DVD
Note: This review may contain spoilers.

When Agora had its UK cinema release recently it opened to sparse, albeit respectful, reviews. There was certainly very little hype or debate surrounding the movie such as I've seen recently for the new TV series of Spartacus (of which a little more anon.) Perhaps this is because Agora is a fairly rare breed of cinematic bird - a movie epic which attempts to be literate, intelligent and clearly aimed at your brain rather than your viscera. Previous cinematic attempts at this sort of thing - Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) and Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) come to mind - have usually resulted in commercial failure whereas historical travesties such the recent 300 have done well. So is director Amenabar guilty of overestimating the public's taste?

The first thing you'll notice about Agora is that it looks like one hell of an expensive production. It's richly detailed with magnificent sets and costumes all looking marvellously authentic. And the film is a pictorial delight. The opening scene in which Hypatia addresses her students in a lecture hall is bathed in the kind of shimmering luminosity you see in those 19th century painters who recreated meticulous tableaux of antiquity. And so it continues, scene after scene beautifully and imaginatively lensed. The result is a pictorial triumph and whilst clearly CGI effects have been employed (for example in the giddy views of ancient Alexandria viewed from space) there's none of the garish and obvious CGI effects which characterise essentially low budget productions like 300 and the new Spartacus.

What of the story? Hypatia ought to be a much bigger feminist icon than she is.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By The Movie Guy TOP 500 REVIEWER on 26 Jun 2013
Format: DVD
If there was ever a such a thing as an atheist saint, Hypatia would be it. This movie is a dramatization of historical events. The city of Alexandria was a center for learning. It was said that the philosophical and religious discourse among the merchants and general population in the agora were on a very educated level, that which rivaled the scholars. With the onset of Christianity, the religious discussion changed. Religion was primarily based upon cosmic myths, most of which had lost their original meaning due to the Pythagorean concepts which fused with the old religion creating multiple paradoxes as to generate such debate. Is God anthropomorphic or is God light?

Hypatia was a scientist and philosopher, she is portrayed as an atheist in this film, although her religious belief is uncertain. She may very well had been a pagan. The menstrual cloth she presented to a would-be suitor is recorded in history. The movie is long and at times doesn't move along fast enough. I thought it needed better editing.

Apart from the dramatization, the movie sticks to history. The documentary commentary writing on the screen is white on a predominately white background which made it difficult for me to read with old eyes and an analog TV. I had to pause it.

In spite of some of the films shortcomings, I absolutely loved it.
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123 of 140 people found the following review helpful By Dr. G. C. Watson on 4 May 2010
Format: DVD
It surprises me how many reviewers are giving this astonishing film only three stars, and I do hope this is not because the film chooses not to dwell on the viciousness of Hypatia's murder: a decision which would have made a cinematic 'spectacle' entirely inappropriate for this must subtle and beautiful of films.

The astonishingly realistic recreation of fourth century Alexandria is in itself a remarkable cinematic feat, the costumes look entirely authentic, the performances are flawless, and the cinematography - always beautiful - is often thoroughly awe inspiring. Ultimately, however, what makes this film so great is the way in which it puts human beings into perspective (swarming fundamentalists ransacking the agora are likened to ants, and in one of the most inspired shots in cinematic history, Alexandria is viewed from outer space, and is sublime and utterly insignificant all at once) whilst suggesting that human beings are nevertheless capable of reaching the heights of reason, and plumbing the depths of unreason. It is one of the ironies of history that the monstrous 'Saint' Cyril of Alexandria is recognised as a Doctor of the Church, whilst not a single word written by Hypatia has survived.

Much ink will be wasted in coming months in discussion of whether this film deliberately paints Christianity in a bad light. The truth is that no form of religious extremism looks good in this film, and for that reason alone, it ought to be statutory viewing for all people who are convinced that theirs is the only god.

Forget the lukewarm reviews, and see this film for yourself. I found myself on the edge of tears throughout most of it, entranced by the splendour, wisdom and realism of its vision. The ending was the hardest and the truest thing I have ever seen in a film.

But don't trust me. Make up your own mind. That is what Hypatia would have told you to do.
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