Many contemporary films have catchy and witty titles, which promote those movies better than their trailers or synopses. The case of the film called “Agora” belongs to one of those few exceptions, where the title says it all, if you know what it means. The word ‘agora’ stood for a ‘gathering place’ in ancient Greece. It was the central point for the Greek community, a meeting point of differences and similarities within the social, economic and political views, and it is exactly where the story within the film finds a crack.
The film “Agora,” released in 2009, is essentially an account of the decline of polytheism in ancient Greece, along with the rise of Christianity and the changing views in science, showed through the lens of the story of Hypatia, a female mathematician, philosopher and astronomer, who tries to preserve the knowledge of the ancient Greeks.
Her life was indeed on the verge of the ‘old’ Hellenistic and the ‘new’ Christian world. Despite the fact that she accepted students of different religious backgrounds, the religious fight was too strong, and the views too opposing, to tolerate such inclusive behavior. Notably, her death marked a break from Hellenistic era, the era of ancient philosophers, rigorous study of logic and reason, and empirical study of the Earth. Many philosophers left Alexandria after her death in fear for their lives.
Critics rate the film 53% on rotten tomatoes and 7.2% on IMBD. There are also mixed reviews about the accuracy of the films with the arguments on both ends of the spectrum. Whatever the truth is, Hypatia’s story rings true today as it has a clear parallel to our contemporary society, in which each social, religious group keeps pulling the blanket their way in hopes they will prove everyone else wrong.
The film “Agora” is a beautiful historical drama that masterfully depicts the transiting period of ancient Greece though the eyes of a wise fearless woman, a scholar, a philosopher Hypatia.
Unquestionably, the film strikes us with accurate scenography and dynamic development of the plot. It is full of bloody scenes and curious theoretical notions, which keep the audience in focus till the end of the film. However, the true beauty of it lies in the fact that it the events parallel with the contemporary situation in the world, thus proving the point of history repeating itself. The fact that people do not stop fighting over religious or political or scientific matters throughout centuries should have made us focus more on the reasons for quarrel, instead of addressing only the outcomes of the resistance.
Another key juxtaposition within the movie deals with the idea of struggle between science and religion. Here, Hypatia plays the key role as she is trying to preserve the ancient pool of knowledge which has been carefully gathered and studied by many disciples throughout many generation. Religious authorities, however, felt threatened by that pool of knowledge and the superstitious field of astronomy. They were afraid to anger the God by fiddling with the matters of the sky. This is why Hypatia’s actions (in addition to her disinterest in godly matters) seemed inferior to the social norms, which the religious authorities tried to implement. The confliec to views between science and religion is never ending, as there are competlling arguments and missing facts on both sides. It is sad, however, to realize that innocent but brilliant people vanish from the earth as a result of one’s desire to show power and order.
“Agora” after all is a brilliant movie which speaks to any generation. It is as much about antiquity, as it is about modernity. There is only hope that our or future generation will find a way to create a balanced community, where no one fights for a fight to be first and noone needs to prove anything to anyone.