Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Reel People: Rachel Weisz is Hypatia

The film is Agora which has been released in various countries around the world, but has not yet been released in the United States. It is directed and written by Chilean Alejandro AmenĂ¡bar.


Hypatia was a greek scholar who was believed to have been born some time in the middle 4th century in Alexandria, Egypt to the scholar Theon.
She traveled from Egypt studying in Italy and Greece. She is considered to be the first notable female mathematician. Her knowledge of mathematics and philosophy led her to be not only a scholar but the head of a Platonist school in Alexandria. There she encouraged study by reason and logic, rather than experience.

Hypatia was a unique, dressing as a scholar rather than traditional female clothing. She also rode her own chariot.

Hypatia was declared the wife of Isidore of Alexandria was said to have not had sex, at the request of Hypatia who's views towards logic did not persuade her to have interest in sexual interaction. In fact, Hypatia is said to have shown evidence of her menstrual bleeding to potential suitors to ward them off from having sexual interest in her.

She is known for being a pagan, although traditionally not hostile towards the Christian community. Because of her paganism and connection to the pagan governor Orestes who was not kind to the Christian community, some believed her to be hostile to Christians. This was particularly believed due to the popular Christian bishop objection to Hypatia's teaching.

Some believed it was even Hypatia that caused strain between the Athens governor and popular bishop.

In 415 a group of fanatical Christians led by Peter the Reader (Cyril's assistant) attacked Hypatia in her chariot during lent. They stripped her, dragged her through the streets. From her the brutality of her death is described at times at being cut into pieces and scattered in the streets. Other times she is said the have been burned alive by the mob.

Upon her death, a letter attacking the Christians and Cyril was released as having been written by Hypatia. The authenticity of Hypatia as the author is debated.


The film Agora, previously released in Spain was the highest grossing film in 2009. It tells the story of Hypatia with the love story thrown in with her slave Davus (Max Minghella). Oscar Isaac plays Orestes and Sammy Samir plays Cyril.

Despite it's popularity with the Goya's (Spanish film awards: 7 wins, 13 nomination) and it's Oscar winning star, the film has had problem getting American distribution. It is believed that some of the problems with distribution has had to do with the religious overtones of the story that could be viewed as anti-Catholic.

Will Rachel Weisz portrayal of this controversial female Grecian have any chance for an Oscar nomination/win for portraying this Real (Reel) Person?


Anonymous said...

It depends if the film is widely seen by the academy. Rachel Weisz's performances has garners heavy praise but not many people have seen the movie.

Andrew K. said...

I saw this recently, and as I said before I absolutely LOVED it. Rachel is exceptional, but I don't know if the movie will be seen or well recieved. Her death is handled more tastefully than history tells us.

PS. the menstrual blood thing to ward off suitors is actual woven into the plot.

Lorna said...

this is fascinating; I hope I get a chance to see it.

Parjanya said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Parjanya said...

Few films manage to strike as poetic a resonance as Amenabar’s Agora...and at the heart of the film is Rachel Weisz’s superbly nuanced and layered performance as the proto-feminist philosopher.

Weisz gives her character the objective idealism that it requires, at the same time evoking a plethora of complex emotions.

Her performance, especially towards the end of the film is flawless...very few actresses could have pulled off a dialogue like "Oh Orestes! Cyril has already won"... or "You do not question what you believe in...you cannot...I must" with this amount of subtlety!...

She definitely deserves an Oscar nomination (if not a win) and the same goes for the film as well... that is if the film's outspoken stand on Christian fundamentalism does not manage to piss off American audiences and critics...

vlm58 said...

It is in fact a piece of false propaganda based of the romanticised version of the fact by the thoroughly Anti-Christian Gibbons. There never was a burning of the library of Alexandria in the V century AD. Only a satellite library was destroyed by the Moslems about 2 centuries later. Sequence of events: Prefect Orestes uses the Jewish community to attack Alexandria's Christians. Christians strike back and expel Jewish community. Orestes tries to suppress the majoritary Christian community. Hypatia (friend of Orestes and as a 'Neoplatonist' publicly backing elitism and denying the 'absurd' Christian thought that all can be saved in Christ as a freebie without 'winning salvation by oneself), declares for Orestes' position and then has the incredible bad judgement for an intelligent woman of science to wander into a riot of the Christian working class of the city, NOT the paralabenoi and unrelated to Bishop Cyrill. For political reasons, she's lynched. Horrible and a tragedy, but not, as proclaimed since Gibbons (mid XIX Cent. AD), for religious reasons or for not being Christian. The film is a great work of art I am sure, but do see it as fiction. The director is the same one who (with public taxpayer's funds economic support from the socialist Spanish current administration) has created propaganda in defense of other initiatives of the left such as euthanasia ('The Inner Sea'), so it is not strange that he would create such a film based on non-historical made up legend, attacking not only the Catholic Church (synonimous with Christianity at that time), but Christianity itself.

Anonymous said...

According to Wikipedia and several other sources, Hypatia was not parried to isidore:

The claim made in the Suda that Isidore was the husband of Hypatia,[7] must be in error since Isidore was born long after Hypatia died.


Carl Sagan also states she was unmarried in his Cosmos television show.

Anonymous said...

> It is in fact a piece of false propaganda based of the romanticised version of the fact by the thoroughly Anti-Christian Gibbons... etc.

vim58, you say the standard history is wrong and give a rewrite that you preface with the words "in fact," but you give no sources for your "facts" and you make such leading statements as, "and then has the incredible bad judgement for an intelligent woman of science to wander into a riot of the Christian working class of the city," again supported by no citations or facts. So for now, though they may not be perfect or agree in every particular, I'll stick with the standard account. The problem with you pro-Christians is you like your facts without "facts."