by Melissa Silverstein on May 28, 2010

in Movies

Agora tells the true story of 4th century astronomer and philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria.  While all her works and theories were destroyed, the film gives the impression (though is clear not be definitive) that she was one of the people who not only pondered the stars, but was one of the early theorists who figured out the relationship between the earth and the sun.

Hypatia was part of the elite, and even though she was a woman, she was accepted as a scholar within pagan society.  But as Christianity spread through Alexandria the pagans were forced to convert or be killed and Hypatia, who worshiped science, refused to succumb to religious pressure.

That’s where the film really gets interesting.  As religious fundamentalism spreads women are relegated to subservient roles and must accept biblical teachings.  Hypatia refuses.  She is branded a witch and I don’t need to tell you what happens to a woman when she is called a witch.  Nothing good.

Check out the trailer:


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Jendra May 28, 2010 at 11:11 AM

Wow! This looks amazing. I’ve heard nothing of it til here.
I commend how bold it seems, taking on Christianity and having a big budget “woman’s story” at the same time. I love the line “your God has not yet proved himself more merciful than his predecessors!”

I was excited about the film and showed the trailer to my husband, who is a bit of a Roman history buff. He too was impressed by the trailer, though he pointed out that a Roman woman wouldn’t have been that thin, and I countered with “at least they dressed her appropriately and didn’t make her inappropriately scantily clad.”

I hope this film is as good as its potential, and that it is very successful.

grrljock May 28, 2010 at 11:25 AM

Your line makes me chuckle, in a gotta-laugh-so-I-don’t-cry sort of way: “I don’t need to tell you what happens to a woman when she is called a witch. Nothing good.”

I watched the trailer, and I have to sigh in response. As awesome as Hypatia is portrayed, she looks to play the Princess Leia role, i.e., the only female character in a sea of boys. It’s f%*@in’ 2010, and we still have movies with women as either the Outstanding Other or, even as they pass the Bechdel Test, are bad or antifeminist.

Jennifer May 28, 2010 at 2:54 PM

Thanks for highlighting this movie, this may be worth seeing.

I had never heard of Hypatia until I was researching Women of Influence for my blog page. Every month a new woman is featured but she, by far, caught my attention.

I’m not sure how they will portray her but she was described as shapely and remained caste and virginal. In one case apparently she had a novel way of discouraging a guys advance by showing her garment with stained menstrual blood. I’m assuming in this film they will avoid that insight into her life :)

Philosopher but also she wrote commentaries on geometry, published work on astronomy and even opened up an academy. Her death was incredibly cruel, sickening to read.

However, I am glad there is an interest in bringing her name into the light. Far too many women are sitting buried in the back pages of history books. Thankfully, Women & Hollywood is not letting women in film stay on the cutting room floor!

Esteem Rising

sally May 28, 2010 at 2:59 PM

Ok – once again since the Captcha ate my post. I wonder if there are some who try to post here, and just pass when it gets eaten.

I think it’s fitting that the lead actor is Rachel in this movie. She has come out against Botox, which is this generation’s form of binding. Now the teens do it! It is considered righteous to have a shiny forehead like a chrome bumper. You know, incapable of having a furrow of disapproval, a raised eyebrow of judgment, or any big “upsetness.”

When I watched an episode of Desperate Housewives and saw the lead tied up, by a fire, screaming at her capturers to “Give me my child!” Her forehead was as placid as chrome bumper. It was comedy to me – but I bet another generation just thinks it’s normal. Women don’t emote. Hillary Duff and Megan Fox have no expression above the nose line.

When they censored a female scholar for thinking consider we censor women from emoting. Who wants to see the forehead of judgment from a woman? Or the unpleasantness of a woman demanding with that forehead expression? Be seamless, placid, you know, what the powers that be approve. Really now (sarcasm), it’s only the nasty emotions that we don’t want to see women having that are censored….

I’ve written on feminist sites about this, and I have to say, some women don’t get it that this is a form of censorship. Face lifts and makeup and lasers don’t prevent a woman from emoting. Botox to the point of chrome bumper does.

Quercki May 28, 2010 at 3:18 PM

Also, she was MUCH older when she was murdered. Maybe 65.
But, hey, a movie about her? Yay!

Anu May 28, 2010 at 4:36 PM

“In one case apparently she had a novel way of discouraging a guys advance by showing her garment with stained menstrual blood. I’m assuming in this film they will avoid that insight into her life”

Actually the movie does have a scene of her deterring a student who had a crush on her by showing him (and a whole auditorium of students) a cloth covered with menstrual blood. So none of the usual “gross! women’s bodies are so icky” nonsense on that part.

Vertigo May 28, 2010 at 5:57 PM

Can’t wait to see this movie! Thanks for the information, it was a huge hit in Spain.

Jennifer May 28, 2010 at 9:14 PM

Thanks Anu for pointing out the scene exist. One more reason to think they may cover the woman’s life closer to what we know.

By the way: For the person who was complaining about the captcha code…I too hate it, very annoying little addition to the blog.

Caroline May 29, 2010 at 8:32 PM

I’ve already seen the movie (I live in Europe) and I can highly recommend it. (And no, they haven’t changed it Hollywood-style and given it a happy ending..)

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