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Agora [DVD]

3.6 out of 5 stars 1,259 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Set in ancient Egypt under Roman rule, AGORA follows the brilliant and beautiful astronomer Hypatia (Weisz) who leads a group of disciples fighting to save the wisdom of the Ancient World, as violent religious upheaval spills into the streets of Alexandria. Among these disciples are two men competing for her heart: the witty, privileged Orestes (Isaac) and Davus (Minghella), Hypatia’s young slave, who is torn between his secret love for her and the freedom he knows can be his if he chooses to join the unstoppable surge of the Christians.

Alternating between cosmic splendor and human squalor, Agora is a movie of unusual ambition. In the last days of the Roman Empire, the Egyptian city of Alexandria is torn between the aristocratic pagan society and the emerging, rough-and-tumble Christians. As this broad cultural conflict teeters violently back and forth, the scientist-philosopher Hypatia (Rachel Weisz, The Brothers Bloom, The Fountain) struggles to resolve the motion of the planets with her belief in celestial perfection. Tangled in her life are three men: a Roman prefect (Oscar Isaac, Body of Lies), a Christian bishop (Rupert Evans, Hellboy), and a slave (Max Minghella, The Social Network) who turns to Christianity to escape his unrequited love for Hypatia. Some viewers will be uncomfortable with Agora's depiction of early Christianity and others will quibble about the movie's historical accuracy, but the movie's themes--of faith vs. zealotry, of religion vs. the spirituality of science--and its vivid depiction of one culture being brutally supplanted by another demonstrate a scope seldom found in contemporary film. Writer-director Alejandro Amenábar previously made popular ghost story The Others, mind-bender Open Your Eyes, and heartbreaker The Sea Inside; clearly, this is a career to watch. Don't overlook the deleted scenes--the gorgeous original opening shot accentuates the twin pulls of science and spirituality. --Bret Fetzer

Special Features

Director’s Presentation
"Journey to Alexandria" Documentary
Deleted Scenes
Production Design story boards
Costume Design storyboards
Photo Gallery

Product Details

  • Actors: Rachel Weisz, Max Minghella
  • Directors: Alejandro Amenábar
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
  • Studio: Lionsgate
  • DVD Release Date: October 19, 2010
  • Run Time: 127 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,259 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,040 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Agora [DVD]" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Is it right to question? Is it proper to doubt? Is it the question itself, or the questioner, who offends in asking? These are some of the issues presented in "Agora", the compelling film by Alejandro Amenabar starring Rachel Weisz.

The film presents the fascinating life of the Roman philosopher/mathematician/scientist Hypatia, a neo-Platonist philosopher of 4th century Alexandria. Very little is known of her scientific or philosophical discoveries, as none of her writings survived the fall of Rome and the rise of Christianity. What we do know of her comes from other writers of the period, who tell us she was widely regarded as the bright jewel of the empire for her wisdom, virtue and brilliant erudition. The broader outlines of her life are known, as are the larger historical and cultural context in which she lived.

As the film opens, Hypatia is laboring to develop a theory that explains the orbits of the planets in contradiction to the accepted Ptolemaic model of the time. Amenabar and his writer take a few artistic liberties in his presentation, as he imagines Hypatia's train of thought along these lines in the absence of any documentary evidence. We just don't know if this was in fact the case. But never mind that, as Art is well served here.

Do the planets travel around the earth, or the sun? Hypatia struggles relentlessly with this question against the backdrop of abrupt and shocking changes in Roman culture. The early Christians have gained a political foothold with imperial favor, and begin to challenge the Pagans and Jews in the provincial capital. The confrontations become violent. As the Christians gain power, they repress any differences of belief and insist on agreement with their faith, often at the point of a sword.
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Alexandria was one of the most glorious cities of Eurasia, a hybrid of three sets of cultures, European, Nubian and Asian created by Alexander and the Ptolemy dynasty around 320BCE. Its heyday was probably around 200BCE and it lasted well over a millennium. Alexandria was eclipsed by the dark ages around 415 when the whole of Egyptian history in the classical mould came to an end as Theodosius, the Emperor of a dying Rome imposed Christianity on Egypt. Most temples, their gods and writings were destroyed or defaced, from Zeus in Olympia to the temple of Artemis at Ephesus in modern Turkey. In Egypt the Seraphium was destroyed, a daughter library to the famous library of Alexandria that was probably largely destroyed around 50BCE when Julius Caesar took over Alexandria and Egypt fell under Roman sway. This film is very much an encapsulation of the Christianisation of Alexandria and the destruction of its ancient ways, making it ripe for ruin and decay. The one structure that did survive that forms a backdrop to this film is the Pharos lighthouse, created in 250BCE that survived all the way into around 1280 by which time Alexandria was part of the Islamic Empire.

As a satellite city of Rome, Alexandria still enjoyed a cultural and educational reputation at the time of Hypatia, a neoplatonist philosopher who had studied in Athens and Italy. She taught at the Seraphaeum representing a sort of University/Library scholastic complex dedicated to learning. Hypatia was part scientist and mathematician but also and no less importantly a philosopher. She probably believed in transcendental modes of consciousness as taught by Plotinus.
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Format: DVD
1500 years later, the story of Hypatia continues to rouse furious controversy. I recently came across a religious blog decrying AGORA which began: "I have not actually seen the movie, and have no intention of doing so...All I know about it is what I have read in an article in the New York Times..."and then proceeded to "debunk" the movie. Thus making precisely the point that Amenábar is making in AGORA, about the pernicious nature of dogma. Bow down before my holy book, or die!

This is a magnificent movie, perhaps the best film ever made about the Ancient World, and visually one of the most beautiful films you'll ever seen. The soundtrack is as haunting as the visuals; the scene in which Orestes plays the pipes before a crowd of theater-goers in an attempt to woo Hyapatia could have become kitsch in lesser hands, but Amenábar imbues the moment with an unforgettable poignancy. This is also one of the scenes in which the camera rises high above the earth, establishing a cosmic viewpoint that informs the whole movie. There is true genius in the making of AGORA.
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Format: Blu-ray
The review by Sarakani covers most of the bases, so I won't duplicate them here. I will point out that the casting and acting were phenomenal. The direction was very good, save for the fact that transitions from one scene to the next were sometimes to abrupt and tended to break the mood. I will disagree with Sarakani on one thing. This film is a much better film than Elizabeth Taylor's 'Cleopatra'.

I agree that there was a conspiracy to keep this film from wide distribution in the US. The reason is quite simple. Those who would distribute the film fear the right wing Chrisianity much as the pagans feared the Christian thugs in the time the film portrayed.

George Santayana said it best. "Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." Learn, people.
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