Tuesday, July 20, 2010
A saint for secularism!
Hagiography, indeed martyrology, lives! "Agora," the Spanish/Portuguese historical drama directed by Chilean director Alejandro Amenábar, is about the 4th century philosopher Hypatia, who stood up for scepticism, science - we see her nearly scoop Kepler (!) - and liberal tolerance in the wrong place at the wrong time. No, the pathos is that it would have been the right place at the right time - sophisticated, cosmopolitan pagan Alexandria - were it not for the rise of intolerant Christianity. If only everyone had porcelain skin and a toney British accent and knew the axioms of Euclid by heart. Swarthy black-clad middle eastern-looking fanatics (like Cyril of Alexandria and the SA-like Parabolani) outwit Roman-looking romantics and German-looking bishops, but it is the virginal Hypatia - the film's only woman - who must die, and the (already devastated) Great Library of Alexandria with her. It's historically problematic, and as troubling in its racial politics - noble white liberals threatened by dark Taliban-like religious rabble? Puleeze! Did Oriana Fallacci write your screenplay? But it's worth seeing. It's beautiful - a whole world has been lovingly recreated. And it's quirky - from time to time the camera pans up into the sky, sometimes far out into space, for no very clear reason. (The starry-heavensy opening, including the music, evoke the start of "Battlestar Galactica.") And it's always good to learn about other religions and their hagiographies.