Wednesday, 28 April 2010
Going in to a film I knew to be about religious tension in turn of the AD Alexandria, centering specifically on the supposedly asexual mathematician and philosopher Hypatia. I had the sense it was going to be one of those films where even if I liked it I wouldn't like it. But maybe it speaks to my growing pretentiousness or perhaps to just a well-made film, but I ended up liking it quite a lot.
Agora comes from director Alejandro Amenabar, perhaps best known to English speaking audiences for his very well-executed Sixth Sense rip-off The Others, but has also made at least two brilliant films in his own language, Open Your Eyes and The Sea Inside. With Agora, he returns to the English language and does so better this time, with the dialogue sounding a lot less forced, but in fairness the period setting probably plays a large part in that. Its assured and knows what it wants to say, but I would say that some of the religious stuff is a bit on the nose, and similarly some of the political scenes could come straight out of HBO's Rome. But still, there's some good performances so its OK. Max Minghella is essentially required to just look soulful whilst saying very little as Slave turned revolutionary Davis, which he does very well. I also enjoyed Paradise Now's Ashraf Barhom as a charismatic street preacher. But the main reason why this film, for me at least, isn't Kingdom Of Heaven with slightly less money and Orlando Bloom is Rachel Weisz's terrific performance as Hypatia, and its says a lot to her talent the scenes of her scientific discovery are somehow more thrilling and engaging then the battles or the political intrigue. She doesn't get the hysteria Kate Winslet gets, but generally her work is just as good. Its to the film's detraction that as it goes on, she becomes more of a side-character, second to the Jew-Christian smack down the film clearly had more interest in. I liked the fact that that the film didn't present that fact that she had no interest in men as her loss or fault, instead showing her as an adjusted, approachable human being. You would never have got that in American movie.
But still, it's nice to see a film approach these issues intelligently, if a little blatantly, but for me Weisz lifts what would have been a 6/10 movie to something a bit more interesting. And look I didn't make one joke about The Mummy all the way through my review, because I take my responsibility seriously damn it. Wait.