Monday, August 09, 2010

On Sunday, we saw Agora, the 2009 Spanish film starring Rachel Weisz as Hypatia, the philosopher and mathematician.

Overall, quite enjoyable.  It's set in an interesting time, when the Roman Empire is transitioning from being pagan dominated to being Christian dominated and the film highlights the clashes between those groups, and the Jews who also lived in Alexandria.

The movie isn't really historically accurate, since it pushes the Library of Alexandria forward in time so that it can be sacked during Hypatia's lifetime, and has everyone dressing in stereotypical classical Greek/Roman outfits rather than after 3rd century garb, but it nonetheless gives a strong feeling for the difficulties of the time.

Some have criticized it for the portrayal of Hypatia, saying that it bought into the myth of her as a martyr to science, but they seem to have been watching a different movie, or just going off press clippings.  In this movie, Hypatia's death is clearly the result of political struggles between Cyril, bishop of Alexandria and Orestes, the prefect.