Agora (2009)

German Tobis Blu-ray edition


Text below written 2016-12-10


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 made
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 2014.

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 great films.
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

 

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