WOW! That was a powerful movie watching experience. What
a great work from my favourite Spanish film director
Alejandro Amenábar. This film costed a regular
fortune to make and how he made it ....
Amenábar has created Alexandria 400 AD with no costs or work
avoided, it looks absolutely sensational. It's filmed
in Malta and they built lots and lots of actual sets with enormous efforts
with an army of experts to complement the
CGI. A historical film that plays out during the late Roman era when
the the Rome empire was in decline, but when
the city of Alexandria, in the Egyptian province, still had some glory
left, the scientific centre of the world with it's
library/libraries and it's scientists, especially the much respected
female astronomer, mathematician and philosopher
Hypatia - played brilliantly by Rachel Weisz.
This film really feel like a deeply felt personal project for filmmaker
Amenábar about a very important subject, the
intolerance, ignorance and the hate mongering the leaders/priests of
a monotheistic religion preach to the followers,
and this time it's a Christian horde who attacks jews and pagans in
Alexandria around 400 A.D. They murder and
destroy a library with the collected scientific knowledge of the then
known world, with the same gusto that fanatics
in our times has destroyed ancient statues, monuments and buildings,
in an orgiastic frenzy of hatred and stupidity.
The evil (in the film he is ... i don't know if this is a historic fact
or not) Bishop Cyril of Alexandria (Sammy Samir)
calls Hypatia a witch and a whore when she refuse to convert to the
christian faith with a baptism. And, in a painfully
sad and depressing scene she's murdered by a mob, by slime creatures
from the human abyss.
The real murder was to horrific to be shown or even told about in the
film and Hypatia was "only" stoned to death.
Hypatia only believed in reason and science (but she did have slaves
and that's not very good) and in this film she
constantly tries to figure out the mystery of the movement of celestial
bodies and leans to a heliocentric solution.
She's teaching at a neo-Platonic school, she's very respected and is
seen as an equal to the male rulers of the city.
Her friend and admirer Orestes, the Roman prefect of Alexandria (Oscar
Isaac, so good in Alex Garland's Ex-
Machina as the arrogant IT billionaire and he's great here too) is drawn
into the religious unrest in the city and also
he's a object for Cyril's fury. Also Max Minghella as the liberated
christian slave is memorable as fanatic Davus.
So, a great looking historical film from late Roman
antiquity, BUT without sword-fighting and blood splatter and
gladiators and heroes (OK, there's some bloodletting) that uses the
impressive historical setting instead to discuss
religion, power and intolerance vs. science and free minds. A very touchy
subject even today and this film flopped
badly when released, but got good reviews. The GoT & Gladiator audiences
didn't want to see it, and the big
(possibly christian) masses neither, i think only in Spain this film
was met with some success and respect
Agora (a Greek square in the center of a city, and where
much of the religious riots take place in this film) whas
seen by very few and became a huge economic flop. I don't remember when
or if it was shown in the cinemas
here in Sweden but it was hard to come by on a blu-ray as it's out of
stock everywhere, and i think i bought the last
copy from Amazon ?
Alejandro Amenábar, is a mainstream
Spanish filmmaker that i really like as he's immensely talented. He
his feature film debut in 1996 with the horror-thriller Tesis
and won a bundle of Goya awards for it. The film was a
huge Hit and everyone liked it, but it's hard to find these days. Luckily
a US company called Tanelorn Films has
re-mastered this very enjoyable film to a pristine Blu-ray print in
I also liked his sci-fi thriller Abre los Ojos
from 1997 (but beware of the Hollywood re-make) and i haven't seen his
blockbuster The Others from 2001. Tesis, Abre los Ojos and Agora - 3
In 2015 he returned to directing with another flop, thriller Regression
with Ethan Hawke as a policeman investigating
a possible satanic cult. I haven't seen this yet when writing this text,
but i must see it. It will surely look great.
anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
english audio (with german subtitles only, and there's
some explaining text in the beginning of the film setting the time and
place for the film and that's in german).
Extras: a introduction by Alejandro Amenábar in spanish (with
german subs), a commentary track with Amenábar
in spanish, Deleted scenes (10 minutes), International Making of (in
spanish and in some english with german subs
(60 minutes), a german version of the making of, english and german
trailer, B-Roll and Bilder gallerien