Jump to content


Photo

Agora


  • Please log in to reply
45 replies to this topic

#21 Ryan H.

Ryan H.

    Riding the crest of a wave breaking just west of Hollywood

  • Member
  • 5,525 posts

Posted 14 October 2009 - 11:26 AM

I hadn't paid much attention to this project, and now I'm intrigued. I'm frustrated by the manipulation of history for the sake of an all-too-obvious agenda, but it appears that the film merits a viewing.

Edited by Ryan H., 14 October 2009 - 11:27 AM.


#22 Peter T Chattaway

Peter T Chattaway

    He's fictional, but you can't have everything.

  • Member
  • 30,030 posts

Posted 18 November 2009 - 04:19 AM

The film now has an American distributor: Newmarket Films, the company behind Memento, The Passion of the Christ and the upcoming Charles Darwin biopic Creation.

#23 Overstreet

Overstreet

    Sometimes, there's a man.

  • Member
  • 17,404 posts

Posted 28 April 2010 - 12:40 PM

Tim R:

You can’t fault Agora, a saga of ancient Alexandria, astronomy and religious strife, for gumption or ambition – just plain common sense. It’s of some egghead interest, but who on earth paid for it? ... The director, Alejandro Amenábar, has a crashing great beef with Christian fundamentalism and the threat to scientific learning – everyone grabs what scrolls they can before the library’s ransacked. Meanwhile, the ridiculously handsome Max Minghella moons around as a lovestruck slave, vying with snooty-pants student Oscar Isaac for Hypatia’s affections.

Some clunky captions lurch us forward an hour in, and it’s still not clear what Amenábar thinks he’s doing – there are a few piercing images amid a lot of patience-taxing marketplace dust-ups, and some of the worst barnets in Christendom. Visibly recut, the movie has too little time to do itself intelligent justice – I wish it had been a miniseries.



#24 Peter T Chattaway

Peter T Chattaway

    He's fictional, but you can't have everything.

  • Member
  • 30,030 posts

Posted 28 April 2010 - 01:13 PM

'Agora' Star Rachel Weisz Talks CGI And 'Edgy Sex Scenes'
MTV: What appealed to you first and foremost? Alejandro as a director?
Weisz: I guess it was him first and foremost and what he was asking me to do with this real woman. I had never heard of her, but it was such an interesting role. Plus the thing that really struck me when I read it was, when I put it down, I thought, "This is really a contemporary film. This is a film about today." Really nothing much has changed in terms of human beings and killing each other and "My God is better than your God." There's this resurgence of fundamentalism on the planet, so it's kind of like, "Wow, we still haven't figured this out?" I just thought, "Wow, this is a fourth-century contemporary film." . . .
MTV Movie News, April 28

#25 Thom Wade

Thom Wade

    Happy Go Lucky Meat Machine

  • Member
  • 2,949 posts

Posted 28 April 2010 - 02:04 PM

Its like...totally contemporary in a really contemporary way! But Old school contemporary. Really, really contemporary. Did I mention that it is contemporary? Because you know what? It totally is. :)

#26 Overstreet

Overstreet

    Sometimes, there's a man.

  • Member
  • 17,404 posts

Posted 20 May 2010 - 01:03 PM

Mark Shea piggybacks on Fr. Robert Barron's comments about Agora:

Here is a textbook example of how a lie get popularized and becomes pseudoknowledge. Our Manufacturers of Culture, under the influence of powers and principalities, are slowly and surely preparing our culture to undertake a pogrom. Again and again, outright lies about Christians and their history get promulgated while we are told that it is “impeccable research” as, incredibly, the Da Vinci Code was described by one reviewer. Or, we get the ill-informed tracts by New Atheists that would embarrass any real atheist. But, above all, we begin to get the toxicity making its way into popular visual media like Agora.



#27 Peter T Chattaway

Peter T Chattaway

    He's fictional, but you can't have everything.

  • Member
  • 30,030 posts

Posted 27 May 2010 - 01:26 PM

Wait a minute, is it true what I hear? Is it true that Agora is opening in the United States this week, at the same time as Prince of Persia and Sex and the City goes to Abu Dhabi? Gadzooks, it's a Middle East triple bill! Sand, sand everywhere.

#28 SDG

SDG

    Catholic deflector shield

  • Moderator
  • 9,100 posts

Posted 27 May 2010 - 01:45 PM

Wait a minute, is it true what I hear? Is it true that Agora is opening in the United States this week, at the same time as Prince of Persia and Sex and the City goes to Abu Dhabi? Gadzooks, it's a Middle East triple bill! Sand, sand everywhere.

Yep, the same thought occurred to me also.

#29 du Garbandier

du Garbandier

    Dull in a new way

  • Member
  • 358 posts

Posted 27 May 2010 - 03:52 PM

For anyone interested in a useful examination of Agora and the historical Hypatia, I highly recommend this piece by Tim O'Neill (an atheist, no less). (I had thought I or someone else had provided the same link here, but I didn't notice it in a quick skim of the thread.) And again, the book by Maria Dzielska is quite interesting.

#30 SDG

SDG

    Catholic deflector shield

  • Moderator
  • 9,100 posts

Posted 27 May 2010 - 03:58 PM

Aces. Thanks, du G. (I've already got the Dzielska book coming via inter-library loan...)

#31 Overstreet

Overstreet

    Sometimes, there's a man.

  • Member
  • 17,404 posts

Posted 27 May 2010 - 04:50 PM

Fantastic. Thanks so much.

#32 Peter T Chattaway

Peter T Chattaway

    He's fictional, but you can't have everything.

  • Member
  • 30,030 posts

Posted 27 May 2010 - 11:16 PM

du Garbandier wrote:
: For anyone interested in a useful examination of Agora and the historical Hypatia, I highly recommend this piece by Tim O'Neill (an atheist, no less). (I had thought I or someone else had provided the same link here, but I didn't notice it in a quick skim of the thread.)

I had thought that, too, but I don't see it either. Then I remembered that I had linked to it at my blog almost a year ago. Maybe A&F was still importing people's blog posts at the time...?

#33 du Garbandier

du Garbandier

    Dull in a new way

  • Member
  • 358 posts

Posted 28 May 2010 - 01:05 AM

I had thought that, too, but I don't see it either. Then I remembered that I had linked to it at my blog almost a year ago. Maybe A&F was still importing people's blog posts at the time...?


I don't recall. You know, your mind must contain a small, powerful staff of reference librarians, to be able to pick out that single link from the veritable Library of Congress of links you must have accumulated over the years.

#34 Overstreet

Overstreet

    Sometimes, there's a man.

  • Member
  • 17,404 posts

Posted 28 May 2010 - 01:39 AM

I'm just too tired tonight to respond to the comment left by "Gaith" on my most recent Agora blog post. It deserves more than a brief reply. But I don't want it to go unanswered. So, if you feel moved to respond there with a comment of your own, you're more than welcome.

FYI: I do moderate comments there, and I won't be able to review and approve them until Friday morning.

Edited by Overstreet, 28 May 2010 - 01:40 AM.


#35 mrmando

mrmando

    Lassie, the Barbarian Musical Thinker

  • Member
  • 3,636 posts

Posted 28 May 2010 - 02:59 AM

I dunno, Gaith seems awfully incoherent to me. He alludes to an argument but doesn't make one, unless his argument is that Christians suppressed democracy and the steam engine (huh?) or don't believe in listening to multiple viewpoints before making a decision (aren't ecumenical councils just one of many examples of Christians have a good old-fashioned debate before deciding who was right?).

#36 SDG

SDG

    Catholic deflector shield

  • Moderator
  • 9,100 posts

Posted 28 May 2010 - 01:45 PM

I also blogged Tim O'Neill's post ... then wrote a longer post with more commentary on the film.

While I've got plenty to say about the film's negativity toward religion generally and Christianity in particular, this was the part I enjoyed writing the most:

Agora offers no insight into Hypatia’s neoplatonic asceticism. It prominently depicts, but does not understand, the famous episode in in which she rebuffs a would-be suitor by presenting him with her menstrual rags as graphic evidence of the manifest error of his attraction. No attempt is made to illuminate this distasteful episode for viewers, to explore the distance between Hypatia’s neoplatonic sensibilities and our own “sex-positive” milieu.

Instead, Hypatia’s disinterest in marriage is presented solely in terms readily accessible to modern feminism: Marriage in ancient Alexandria would mean subservience to a husband, the end of her independence and her career. The idea that the biological realities of human reproduction were considered unworthy of a soul seeking the highest good isn’t even on the radar.

On this accounting, the menstrual rag can only be a stunt, something that Hypatia and the suitor—Orestes himself, in this telling!—can laugh about years later, in a quasi-romantic moment alone: Hypatia reclining on a couch, Orestes chastely at her side, devoted, resigned, demanding nothing. “Even my father loved a woman,” Hypatia smiles wistfully, sounding more like a Jane Austen heroine than a neoplatonist. “What have I ever loved?”

It’s about as plausible as the film’s depiction of Hypatia’s egalitarian embracing of slaves and aristocrats alike, with no trace of the aristocratic elitism of her age and social class. While Agora stops short of having its heroine speak out against slavery, she does free Davus on her father’s death—this, despite the fact that he has just briefly molested her!

The problem here isn’t simply that the filmmakers make Hypatia the embodiment of all virtue, devoid of even small faults. It’s that they want too much for us to relate to their heroine to allow her to be in any way foreign or alien to us, a woman of her own times.



#37 Overstreet

Overstreet

    Sometimes, there's a man.

  • Member
  • 17,404 posts

Posted 28 May 2010 - 08:07 PM

FYI: Mr. O'Neill himself just showed up to offer a response to the aforementioned "Gaith" on my blog, where he continued to strip away at common generalizations.

#38 Peter T Chattaway

Peter T Chattaway

    He's fictional, but you can't have everything.

  • Member
  • 30,030 posts

Posted 03 June 2010 - 11:12 AM

Finally saw it yesterday. Just a few quick thoughts:

-- The opening crawl says something about the Roman Empire being on the verge of ending at the time the movie is set, which is circa AD 400. Well, that's true, sort of, but still. The Roman Empire had essentially split into two halves at this point, and yes, the Western half -- the half with Rome -- was just a few decades away from its "end", as historians reckon these things. But the Eastern half continued for another thousand years, and it is in the Eastern half that this movie takes place. (However, the city depicted here was, admittedly, conquered by the Muslims -- a religious group that didn't even EXIST when this movie takes place -- only two centuries later.)

-- The opening crawl also says something about the pagan city of Alexandria being threatened somehow (I forget the exact wording) by the Jewish faith and by the rise of Christianity. Um, Jews had been living in Alexandria for centuries by this point. Estimates vary, but the Septuagint -- the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which became the standard Old Testament for the Greek-speaking Christians in the early Church -- was produced in Alexandria about 600 years before this movie takes place. And the Jewish philosopher Philo lived in Alexandria about 400 years before this movie takes place. (If memory serves, there were also anti-Semitic riots in Alexandria around that time, when Caligula was emperor and his friend Herod Agrippa I passed through Alexandria on his way to taking the throne in Judea.)

-- Speaking of Judaism in this period, would a Jew necessarily have defended himself against the Christians by saying "Where would you Christians be without us Jews? Jesus was a Jew!"? That sounds rather modern, even ecumenical, to me. If I'm not mistaken, anti-Christian polemics in the Talmud etc. tend to revolve around the idea that Jesus was the bastard offspring of a Roman soldier or something. (Though a quick bit of Googling indicates that the passages in question might be referring to a different Yeshua. Hmmm.)

-- Why are the Christians the only ones with, like, really bad hair and really bad teeth? It's interesting, too, how the Christians -- almost all of whom are basically Bad Guys -- are played by the most "ethnic" looking actors in the cast (and the few not-so-bad Christians tend to be played by not-so-ethnic-looking actors). It's a strangely retrograde element in a film that purports to be progressive.

-- I do appreciate the fact that this film does not make Christians the ONLY violent jerks, even if the first act of actual violence (throwing a pagan man into a fire) is committed by Christians. The first large-scale violence is perpetrated by the pagans, after Christians taunt and throw vegetables at an idol, and the Christian sacking of the library is presented as a RESPONSE to the pagan violence. Similarly, while a handful of Christians do assault Jews in the amphitheatre, the Jews attack and kill the Christians within their own church, and the Christian slaughter of the Jews is presented as a RESPONSE to this violence. But in both of those cases, the Christians seem to be MORE violent, MORE degenerate, LESS sympathetic -- and the basic thrust of all this is to make EVERYONE look like murderous power-hungry thugs ... everyone, that is, except for Hypatia, the one clearly non-religious character in the entire film, who is interested in nothing more than Science and Enlightenment! (Footnote: There ARE a few characters, like Orestes and Synesius, who are not murderous per se ... but they are portrayed as men in positions of power who, by virtue of the fact that they are in power, do tend to accommodate themselves to the murderous thugs more than they ought to.)

-- After the screening, one or two colleagues who know I'm a Christian asked if the film was "accurate". Not very, I said. But the one detail they were particularly interested in was whether or not the New Testament (which, incidentally, was just beginning to be finalized around the time this movie takes place) actually contains the bit about Paul not permitting a woman to teach. Um, well, yeah, that IS in there. Still, it's interesting that that was the one bit they thought needed verification.

-- I do like all the hyper-aerial shots, and the way Amenabar typically shows Alexandria from unconventional angles (i.e. angles that do not conform to the North=Up and South=Down perspective on typical maps).

More later, perhaps.

Oh, and while I haven't read anyone's analyses of the film yet -- not recently, that is, since I was waiting for a chance to see the film for myself -- I do like SDG's points above about the menstrual-rags episode. Yeah, as handled in the film, it doesn't really make any sense: Is Hypatia, by telling Orestes to go find some other woman, somehow supposed to be suggesting that OTHER women don't have menstrual periods? Of course not, that would be silly. So what IS Hypatia saying here? The film doesn't really seem to have a clue.

#39 SDG

SDG

    Catholic deflector shield

  • Moderator
  • 9,100 posts

Posted 03 June 2010 - 02:56 PM

Peter, excellent point about the Eastern Roman Empire, and yes, of course the Diaspora presence in Alexandria was many centuries old. The movie seems to over-juice the instabilities of the local situation. OTOH, it does seem that Alexandria was something of a hotbed of conflict and violence. And yeah, the same question occurred to me about that comment about the Jewishness of Jesus, a point that I rather doubt anyone in that day and age would consider in any way telling.

Your comments about ethnicity and violence in the film parallel my own:

Played by Israeli actor Sami Samir, Cyril’s accent and style of dress typifies the film’s portrayal of Christian fundamentalists as ethnic Middle-easterners in dark garb, in contrast to the pagans, who are brightly robed European types with Oxbridge accents. (There are also non-ethnic, Oxbridge Christians—all educated admirers of Hypatia.)

The depiction of the Christian Parabolani brotherhood, who are transformed over the course of the film from proto-Franciscans who care for the needy into proto-Taliban armed enforcers of public morality, completes the film’s not-so-subtle correlation of Christian violence in Alexandria with Islamic extremism today.

Agora doesn’t blame the Christians exclusively: Christians, pagans and Jews all commit atrocities. (This may be the only film I have ever seen in which a mob of Jews ambushes and kills a group of Christians, apparently a historical incident.) Still, Christians are presented as the instigators. The first act of violence is a pair of ragged Parabolani Christians publicly murdering an aristocratic pagan leader. This is the film’s opening salvo, its first portrayal of Christianity....

It’s in retaliation for that initial murder that the pagans escalate, massacring a crowd of Christians, which leads to the assault on the Serapeum. The Jewish ambush against the Christians is likewise preceded by a pogram-like attack on Jews at the theater. One might say, then, that Christians, pagans and Jews are all equally culpable, especially Christians.



#40 Peter T Chattaway

Peter T Chattaway

    He's fictional, but you can't have everything.

  • Member
  • 30,030 posts

Posted 03 June 2010 - 03:37 PM

SDG wrote:
: It’s in retaliation for that initial murder that the pagans escalate, massacring a crowd of Christians . . .

Not quite, I think. There may be a direct connection that I've forgotten, but if so, the two events are buffered by a lot of other stuff. (I did think it was interesting that the initial murder prompts Hypatia's father to go home and beat a Christian slave, just for being a Christian; and of course, it is Hypatia's father who gives the official sanction for the massacre of Christians that follows several scenes later. But when the pagans are planning the massacre, the only justification I can remember them giving for it is that the Christians have been mocking their gods -- and sure enough, the film cuts to a shot of Christians throwing vegetables at one of the pagan statues.)

: The Jewish ambush against the Christians is likewise preceded by a pogram-like attack on Jews at the theater.

Which, when you think about it, is kind of doubly weird, because Christians as a rule were not very fond of the theatre, period, in that era, right? (Actors and entertainers having a certain reputation and all that. Plus, pagan productions tended to involve at least some measure of pagan religious ritual, right?) Were Jews any fonder of the theatre than the Christians were? (And did pagans allow them there?) Would Christians have attacked Jews for breaking the sabbath by being there, and NOT have attacked the pagans for attending the theatre in the first place?