Agora – The Pillars of Heaven

Agora - The Pillars of Heaven

Agora – The Pillars of Heaven

               Genre: Drama, Adventure Film
               Antiquity, Slavery, Philosophy, Library, Christianity, Cannes 2009

The eternal conflict between religion and science

  With sex and violence, an artist in today’s world can hardly provoke yet. Dealing with a filmmaker but a religious issue, it inevitably goes into turbulent Fahrgewässer. Since the devastating attack on the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001 was the struggle against Islamist terror networks on the credo of the U.S. foreign policy. The violent responses to the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq were not long in coming. Against the background of this delicate conflicts of Chilean-Spanish director Alejandro Amenábar directed to the lavish historical drama Agora – The pillars of heaven, a radical pamphlet against religious fundamentalism.

Amenábar lets the audience into the vibrant life of Egypt’s meticulously reconstructed the port city of Alexandria in 391 AD dip. The cultural center of late antiquity is the famous city library. Teaches there Hypatia (Rachel Weisz), the highly educated daughter of the philosopher Theon (Michael Lonsdale), mathematics and astronomy. With the striking her students is highly regarded scientist, from their male counterparts are their hypotheses, which represent the Ptolemaic world view into question critical. In the Agora, the great gathering place in Alexandria, meanwhile held heated discussions. The ever-growing group of Christians striving for more power and calls for the replacement of the traditional polytheistic faiths. Soon the conflict be brought into the strictly protected areas of the library. Hypatia truly devoted slave Davus (Oscar Isaac) also converts out of personal frustration – he is dismissed by Hypatia – to Christianity, while their bright students Orestes (Max Minghella), and rises in the hierarchy is also in love with the beautiful teacher. Meanwhile, Hypatia tried to cope with political and emotional pressure and hold high the banner of science.

Last year, Alejandro Amenábar had at the film festival in Cannes, insert a bitter defeat. Hardly a film distributor wanted to secure the rights to its 50 million-euro production. Too hot for many potential buyers, the issue seemed also appreciated the commercial potential of industry insiders as a rather tenuous. At least Agora could succeed in its origin country. In Spain, visited after a record-breaking start soon more than three million visitors, the Historienepos. In the Agora Awards won seven Goya awards (up) to the brilliantly researched screenplay mostly in technical categories. Despite these achievements reached in the U.S. until the small production and distribution company Newmarket Films, to publish, at Agora in the States. Significantly, the same company that drove Darwin biopic Creation.

The two films have in common that they address issues that in many parts of the U.S. is still a taboo. While creation is clearly committed to Darwin’s evolutionary theories in Agora Amenábar creates analogies, will bring the radical evangelicals on the palm. The aggressors in his film are Parabolanos complex, consisting of monks, a religious faction that was soon to brutal military arm of the Christians developed. Similarities to the brutal practices of the Taliban are well intended. No one, neither Jews nor Gentiles are spared from the blind, fighting in the name of God Parabolanos. Amenábar served in these violent sequences clearly atheistic prejudices: religion is ultimately to blame for the demise of the late ancient civilization and, ultimately, precludes also the scientific progress. This radical statement reinforces the Oscar-winning, renowned filmmaker (The Sea Inside, The Others) with the fact that the destruction of the library culture humanity threw back hundreds of years. In order to illustrate this thesis on film, the courageous director requires only a brilliant sequence. While storming the hordes in the name of Christ, the library and writings mindlessly destroying the camera a brilliant 180-degree swivel performs – on its head. Thus symbolizes Amenábar with one great idea to change the time and the perversion of all values. However, the director has in addition to this formal coup with Hypatia another – human – ace up its sleeve in order to formulate his sharp criticism of religion.

Hypatia, whose life and works are historically documented, is the presence of sensitive and gracious Rachel Weisz for absolute identification figure of Agora. Their peaceful views put forward, her clear commitment to science and their denial can be like other women of feeling overwhelmed, characterized by Amenábar stereotypes and absolutely credible. Rarely seen in a historical film such a strong female character, the men in terms of ingenuity and vision far superior. Nevertheless, it is possible the young actors Max Minghella and Oscar Isaac (the son of the late director Anthony Minghella) their characters through intense drama filled with life. Rationally comprehensible arguments against the brilliant scientist they draw with their emotional outbursts, however, always the loser. Also impressive is how long Minghella takes time to realize the astronomical models of thinking about Hypatia. Here, stands out clearly from the Agora pathetic and extremely simplistic dialogues popular Hollywood movies such as gladiator sandals. Also in the visual language can match the drama with the Hollywood models. The sophisticated rides through the halls of the library and through the crucible of Alexandria are dynamic and multifaceted. Even from space fascinating pictures are shown from the air, which shrunk the economy figures to ant size. Also, the equipment – in Malta created enormous wings – convinced, despite one or two moderate computer animation with great detail and authenticity.

What do you have to hold Agora which is a little triangle constructed looking Amenabar and claim to be a real flood of information put it in his film to like. Sections of the ambitious, aspiring factory threatens almost under the ballast of the mind games and interpretations of sinking. Dramatically questionable is the hard time breaking into the middle of the Agora, as the action in favor of simple text panels explain Helps stops. Despite these small shortcomings Amenábar has to settle for the great compliment to have liberated the dusty history of movie finally by his compulsion to historicity. Rarely a playing in those times long past work seemed so topical and explosive as Agora. It can only be hoped that Amenabar courageous criticism of religion is not only in Spain heard.

(Florian Koch)

Title: Agora – The Pillars of Heaven Country of production: U.S., Spain Year of production: 2009 Length: 126 (min) of material: Tobis Film Distribution

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