... make for a volatile mix!
Well this was quite an interesting film! Very different from the usual fare. Award-winning writer-director Alejandro Amenabar (Tesis, Abre Los Ojos, The Others) does and excellent job of bringing Greco-Roman science and philosophy to life, right at the point in history when it was under attack from the rise of Christendom and fanatic preachers (some of whom are almost worthy of being called jihadists). Not Christianity's proudest moment, the loss of so much ancient knowledge and wisdom, drenched in blood and violence (and sadly this was just the beginning), leading to centuries known as the "dark ages" when everything had to be rediscovered. Has anyone ever wondered how far ahead humanity would be now if there had been no dark ages? If we had built continuously on the teachings of the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers instead of burying it all for centuries, only a fraction of which was salvaged, and most of that thanks to Arab scholars? The scientist and humanist inside of me sheds tears to think of all that was lost to supersition and hatred and man's fear of that which he does not understand. And I shudder when I read of certain modern groups speaking in a very similar language of hatred and wilful ignorance and religious fundamentalism.
The place: Alexandria, capital of Roman Egypt, circa 390 AD
The heart: the rare -and much admired- woman philosopher, astronomer and atheist Hypatia (a luminous Rachel Weisz), who teaches her students to use their minds in the city's agora and the surviving texts from famous library in the Serapeum.
The conflict: science and philosophy vs religion, reason vs extremely literal faith personified by the Patriarch Theophilus and later his (highly violent in the film) successor Cyril.
I knew next to nothing about this film going in, other that it was historical fiction, a major production (for Spain, massive budget), by a director who has yet to disappoint me, (there's a great interview with him here about the origins of the movie -laying in a book looking up at the stars and then an awakening curiosity about astronomy- and how he came upon the story of Hypatia and why he chose the title), and with an amazing lead actress. As a fan of the genre (historical fiction), and anything that brings science and philosophy to the forefront, I really liked this movie. I loved the story that was told, the wonderful (and very international) actors who brought the vivid characters to life, the production design, but most of all this amazing woman, Hypatia. As enthralled as I am with strong female historical figures, how did I not know about her?
Report back here! ;o) (particularly you Juliette! I'd love a classical student's take on this)