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Agora [DVD] [2009]

4.0 out of 5 stars 132 customer reviews

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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 (132 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003IHV2XQ
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 35,799 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Product Description

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

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Some reviewers have questioned the historical accuracy of this film, however this isn't a documentary. Even if it was a lot of speculation would have to be employed.
This film, quite simply,is the most intelligently scripted and researched 'epic' that I have seen for a long, long time.
We know that Hypatia was a reknowned (neo?)Platonic philosopher, pagan and proto-scientist.We know that she taught and that her classes were attended by the elite of Alexandrian society. We know that she was percieved to be influential to the municipal rulers and that she was butchered by a Christian mob. We know that St Cyril called for the expulsion of Jews from Alexandria. We know that there was murderous strife between the civil authotites and the Christian sects in Alexandria in that period.
Her love interest,her precocious views on elliptical planetary orbits and much else of the 'personal' side of her life are cinematic conjecture,designed to enrich the plot.
Whilst most recent 'epics' have spent millions on computer graphics and about £10 on developing a script (witness the recent re-make of 'Clash of the Titans'), I am delighted to say that 'Agora' gives visually stunning panoramas of Alexandria, obviously well researched detailing of ancient world architecture, manners, clothing etc but has not stinted on intelligent and nuanced storylines.
The plot, whilst implicity deploring the results of religious bigotry, has some masterful ambiguities in its treatments of the protagonists. For instance the humanity of the Christian philosophy of charity to the poor is movingly demonstrated in one scene, and the bigotry of Hypatias socially respected Pagan father revealed in others.
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