08/11/2011

Agora – Movie Review

Agora - The actors & the acting

The movie (AGORA) left me cold mainly because there was an unidentifiable element (for me) missing.  In spite of the lavish mounting, great photography and huge sets, the acting left me untouched.

For instance, Rachel Weisz, who played the protagonist Hypatia, was distracting. Not only did she appear a Julia Roberts clone, she also emoted like her. In fact, her body language appeared incongruent with the period (Alexandria, Egypt. 391 A.D.) of the movie.

If I might take it further-every actor in Agora appeared to be play-acting and was very unconvincing. To me it appeared the Director (Alejandro Amenábar) of Agora-he also wrote the script-seemed to have lavished his attention on the sets and the photography.

Having said that the photography was phenomenal and the aerial shots well conceived. I believe the number of aerial shots also contributed to my lack of involvement with the story and the film. It gave me a sense of detachment from the happenings visualized by the filmmaker.

The only actor who shone was Sami Samir who played Cyril. His portrayal of Cyril a man using his crowd inciting capabilities to eliminate all the powerful people in Alexandria and finally becoming the undisputed leader using the Word of God was perfect. You can almost feel the inevitability of his machinations and his portrayal was just perfect and ensured that the character did not turn out to be malicious and evil. 

Agora-The Storyline

Agora revolves around philosopher and astronomer Hypatia who lived in Alexandria in 391 A.D. The story is set in time when Christianity was gaining ascendancy and powerful enough to overturn the existing world order.

In this churning milieu, Hypatia continues to teach, research and advice the prefect of Alexandria, Orestes who was once her student and a suitor.

The city's Christians led by Cyril, slowly but surely gain control over the other religions. However, Cyril understands that in order for the Christians to have unquestionable power, he has to destroy Hypatia's hold over the minds of ruling class and cunningly using the scriptures denounces her as a witch and has her arrested and stoned to death.

Agora is also about Hypatia's quest to understand the universe. The movie ends when she discovers that the earth moves around the sun in an elliptical orbit. For her pains, she is denounced as a witch and killed. 

Agora- The minuses

The movie starts promisingly enough but gets side tracked into trying to establish Hypatia as an extra ordinary woman committed to understanding the universe. It goes to great length to establish her as a liberal-the scene where her slave Davus molests her-but she remains quiet and sets him free from slavery is a case in point. Similarly, the scene where she presents Orestes with her menstrual blood stained kerchief is irrelevant and the reason unfathomable (unless it is to establish her as bold-then it is unnecessary) to understand.

Agora -My recommendation: Watch Agora if you have nothing better to do.