Agora (2009)

“Agora” (2009)

IMDb

metaphors, distances, ellipses

The great thing about this film is the choosing of the story, and its context. The shifting of mentalities depicted here and the riotous events, whether historically accurate or not serve as an example of what was going on. Basically the end of an age, that meant the placement of religion at the core of political, social, and cultural powering of society. So, it’s pretty apt that they developed a story around the idea of christians overcoming jews and pagans, yes, but more important, forcing Orestes (the “old school” guy) to play their political game, and wiping out Hypatia, the “last” free thinker (and a woman!).

Those viewers that care about historical “truth”, whatever that is, should mind a few things here: there aren’t enough true facts for us to be able to tell a factual story of the events, and in this film specifically, we shouldn’t take things at their facial value, but to consider them as metaphors for something. Characters stand for what they represent in their context. It’s all a metaphor, including the physical act of destruction of the library. Library, the term, referred to the books back than, to knowledge, no the physical place, and this certainly is understood by the writers here, who nevertheless use the idea of the building being destroyed, but as a metaphor. That building, which is fairly interesting [1] (even if virtual) becomes the central piece of the metaphor, and the richest thing about the construction of this film, for how they play with the idea of distances. It’s as simple as this: first, you have the “Greek school” controlling the library, and everybody else outside. Than christians take over, throw the greeks out, and make the “library” into something close to a church. The remaining Greek thinkers are thrown to the outskirts. And the Agora, center of social discussion, becomes center of riots. Who gets the library gets control, but those events leading to control take place in the Agora. And Hypatia comes to go on with her research outside the city, marginal to the new order.

There is a certain visual interest in the recreation of events, but it seems to me that there was more to the intentions of Amenabar in what concerns the use of the camera than what technology allowed him to do. The movements seem to be more mechanical than he’d probably want, because he wasn’t able to predict the spacial world as much as he wanted.

Than we have Hypatia, and the interesting thing about her is how in her we see something common back than, which was the use of science, logic, and mathematics as a path to God, to the understanding of the universe. Actually this attitude went on through the middle ages in western cultures, disguised with various names (gnosticism, alchemy, esoterism). Physical or metaphorically, this shift towards religious politics certainly has been one of the greatest set backs in western culture.

[1] – The building has a circular hole in the ceiling, and the effect is, i think, a watered version of one of our best buildings, Rome’s Pantheon.

My opinion: 3/5

This comment on IMDb

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