Monday, June 20, 2011


Netflix sez...2009 R 126 minutes
As Christianity gains steam in Roman Egypt toward the end of the fourth century A.D., a young slave (Max Minghella) weighs his desire for freedom against his growing love for his mistress (Rachel Weisz), an atheist as well as a professor of philosophy. Alejandro Amenábar (The Others) directs this epic drama based on the life of Hypatia of Alexandria, a noted Greek scholar and mathematician. Rupert Evans co-stars.
The 73rd Virgin sez...
If you had told me there is a movie that effectively blends CGI shots of classical Alexandria, including the lighthouse, huge panoramic weeping God's point-of-view shots of the North African coast swooping down to birds-eye views of rioting crowds, long-winded intense discussions of planetary motion, re-creations of presumed actual events surrounding the burning of the library of Alexandria, St. Cyril-led attacks on the Jews, and Rachel Weisz (and one egregious and obvious bit of naked body-doublery on her behalf), I would have been sceptical. But its all here and very nicely woven together.

The under-appreciated 1,000-year history of Alexandria as a center of culture and learning (and frequently riotous Egyptian and Jewish populations under Greek-ish pharaohs followed by Greek-ish Romans) is worth a dozen movies, but this focuses on the 390s, or therabouts. The movie distorts history greatly by combining all the damage done to the famous library by Julius Caeser around 48 B.C., and Aurelian around 270 A.D., and blaming it all on the Christians for their historically anti-climactic destruction of what was left by 391 - which wasnt much, Aurelian having done the most damage.

That all said, it is still an engrossing story of an historical figure, Hypatia, and does a good job of estimating what it must have been like for an upper class, slave-owning humanist in the second or third most important city in the world, before the Dark Ages. And its still entertaining and rather moving at the end. Very pleasantly surprised.

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