Addressing the ever-shrinking credibility of rock journalism since 2007. With a sasquatch.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Screen Shots: Agora (2009)

Director Alejandro Amenábar's "Agora" (2009) stars Rachel Weisz in the religious chaos of ancient Egypt.

Religion is often portrayed as a religion - when in fact it started as a kind of delirious fever. This fever burned murderously bright at it's most humble of beginnings.

The religion of Christianity, like Islam today in The Middle East, began as a burning rage among it's first and most faithful followers. This fire spread and engulfed governments, societies and all those who were judged as heretics - i.e. anyone who disagreed.

The first proponent of Christianity, due to centuries of brutal suppression expressed their own long burning desire in proto-Christian Egypt with unspeakable violence that rocked Egypt, Greece and even distant Rome to the core.

Spanish director Alejandro Amenábar's "Agora" (2009) closely examines this religious cataclysm in the ancient world in the moment it occurred - freed from of hundreds of years of polished, perfectly gilded trappings and solid ivory columns that often hide the savagery and bloodshed carefully censored from Christianity's long and storied history.

The ancient Egyptian city is torn apart as Orthodox Christians expel all other religions from Alexandria.

Agora, the film's namesake, is an archaic Greek word for "town square" or "gathering place" many times it was the business, cultural and spiritual focal point within an ancient city as is still the case today.

The movie, true to it's name, unfolds in the public square of ancient Alexandria, Egypt. An epic series of clashes take place between Judaism, State sponsored Roman and Greek polytheism/paganism and the early Orthodox Christian Church. Each religions' followers attempt to claim the busy coastal town for their own religious sects.

Amenábar's film places the legendary mathematician and astrophysicist Hypatia (pronounced Hy'pay'shuh) in the middle of the chaos. Hypatia, a legendary mind and great beauty, was the first scientist to propose that the Earth circled the sun in a elliptical heliocentric orbit 1200 years prior to Copernicus. She attempts to navigate through the center of a violent Christian movement that is in the process of destroying it's perceived rivals in the middle of the bloated Roman Empire.

The Christian zealots are led by the dark cloud of a man called St. Cyril. This canonized saint in Eastern Orthodox Christianity piously leads bloody attacks unbelievers. After two particularly bloody slaughters, Cyril abolishes two major State religions, expels Alexandria's Jews and then threatens to topple the city's Roman rulers.

Agora is truly the story of an out of control Christian jihad in the ancient world.

A former pupil of Hypatia's school of math and philosophy becomes one of Christianity's first bishops.

Starring the beautiful Rachel Weisz (Stephen Sommers' Mummy and The Mummy Returns) as Hypatia in a role that she fully embraces and Oscar Isaac (Cuban born actor appearing in 8 upcoming movies according to IMDB) as Orestes. Amenábar fearlessly confronts this social, political and personal upheaval in ancient Egpyt as the Holy Roman Empire began to gain a terrible momentum in the 4th Century only a few decades before the Roman Empire was to be fractured and broken.

This movie should not be mislabeled as "high-brow". It is shot and staged much like Lord Of The Rings yet is as brutal as any horror film. It is not only meant for a handful of intellectuals or historians. It is for all people. This movie is unbelievably accessible for fans of all movie genres as saints are declared, cultural wars are waged and empires shake... in the Agora.


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