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SapereAude
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A movie about Hypatia, a greek philosopher in Alexandria during the Christian rise to power in Rome.

Became available on Amazon online rental and I've been wanting to see it since I first heard it was being made but didn't have a chance to check it out until last night.

All in all an excellent telling of the story. The performances, costumes and sets were all top-notch. The directing style rarely distracted from what was going on which is a quibble I have with most historical epics these days. Same with the score, not overly melodramatic or overwhelming, often it faded entirely into the background.

There were some flaws that I found disappointing.

1) does every movie really have to emphasize romantic relationships, artificially treating them as the center of the plot?

2) the ending, which I won't spoil (well-if you read any Greek,Roman,Egyptian or Christian history you should kind of know how it ends for Hypatia) was a bit grating to me in its historical inaccuracies. I tend not to be a stickler on this matter but here I really thought it took away from the meaning of what happened to her.

Other- I found the way they chose to portray Orestes especially interesting.

The best movie I've seen all year.

Edited by SapereAude
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I finally saw this movie last week. Rachel Weisz literally carries the entire movie, and (her) acting was well done. I had a different experience with this movie than yourself. This was, in fact, one of the 3 worst movies I have seen in the last 3 years. The characters lacked depth and were one dimensional, I could not connect in any way to any of them except for on the most basic and artificial level. The visuals were well done so I will give them that, the clothing, the set-pieces, and so on were absolutely splendid. Unfortunately, if you put a pretty dress on a boring old hag, she is still a boring old hag so this is in no way its saving grace.

The overall story is a bit on the bland side and not very inventive. This could have worked if only the characters were more interesting than watching paint dry. The ending lacked the emotional weight necessary to carry its point (I had little real emotional reaction/sympathy to what happened to "the person") and there is a poorly developed bit of a romance sub-plot that is completely non-existent during most of the movie, and then comes in at the most awkward times (like the ending!). All in all I think the IDEA was excellent, the movie's execution of the idea not so much. I kept getting this feeling that they were trying to make an epic movie, or one portrayed as such, or at the very least just an epic tale retold, but there seemed to be a complete lack of said epicness within the movie itself.

Also, the historical inaccuracies that you mentioned were kind of topped it all off for me.

I realize movies for what they are. Movies that should be good I have high standards for. However, if it is not one of those kinds of movies, or if it is obvious after some viewing time that it will not reach these standards, I usually can quite successfully entertain myself by just blanking my mind out and watching things happen, but I could not even do that for this movie. It's a bit of a shame, since I was looking forward to this movie being really good from the trailers, and I had high hopes.

Has anyone else seen this? If so, what is your opinion on it?

Edited by CapitalistSwine
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When the movie first came out, I posted to RoR. Robert Malcom directed us to the sources that Edward Gibbon relied on to tell this story.

Interpretations of the past are always about the present. That is true of science fiction as well. It is always about us, here and now. Should Hypatia have been played by Helen Mirren instead of Rachel Weisz? What is essential?

I got THE ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY by Socrates Scholasticus and read the relevant sections, before, during and after Hypatia. In fact, I read a bit more...

The book is available on Google Books. I like the real thing.

Anyway, it is as you say, a brief and secular account in which Cyril himself is not to blame for inciting the crowd, but one of his self-appointed mobsters, Peter.

Socrates does allow that Hypatia's "influence" with Orestes -- who was himself struck by a stone thrown during a mobbing earlier -- was a barrier to Cyril's political goals.

But there is not much more, the entire account running about 250 words.

So, what we have, pretty much, is like the much-touted 300, a movie about a time and place in which the director and the audience bring themselves to a historical event. In a sense, it is art, not history.

Similarly -- and differently -- how many versions of the Gunfight at the OK Corral have you seen? I don't know if the Clantons will ever come out well, but you never know ...

Interpretations of the past are always about the present. We will have to judge the movie on its own terms, as always.

The narrative of Socrates Scholasticus is contemporary, more or less. He was born perhaps in 380 CE and his tutors were men who had come to Constantinople from Alexandria when the pagan temples there were torn down. Also, the narrative about Hypatia is believable specifically because it does not contain any mention of demons, spirits, angels or miracles, all of which run through the history as if physically real.

Edited by Hermes
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I suppose. But seeing savage christian mobs running after people for half of the movie gets a little old in the artistic sense after awhile. I also don't think the goal of being artistic means you should under-develop critical elements of a movie that are necessarily must be developed to a certain extent to make a well rounded movie.

Edited by CapitalistSwine
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I suppose. But seeing savage christian mobs running after people for half of the movie gets a little old in the artistic sense after awhile. I also don't think the goal of being artistic means you should under-develop critical elements of a movie that are necessarily must be developed to a certain extent to make a well rounded movie.

I just read some stuff online by the makers of the movie. It was a Spanish production and apparently the ending was written that way (historically inaccurate) to appease the Catholic Church. The Church got to go over their production, scripts, post production and suchlike. The Church wasn't interested in having the actual savagery shown apparently.

Edited by SapereAude
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My gripe with the ending was not the historical inaccuracy. It was just a bad ending. It could have been a good ending if the other parts were developed properly. The main point is: the movie is its own representation, and this is what most people will see, and nothing else. It speaks (or should) speak for itself. When people need to read up on the other details by the director/etc. to come to a proper conclusion about a movie, then they goofed up.

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My gripe with the ending was not the historical inaccuracy. It was just a bad ending. It could have been a good ending if the other parts were developed properly. The main point is: the movie is its own representation, and this is what most people will see, and nothing else. It speaks (or should) speak for itself. When people need to read up on the other details by the director/etc. to come to a proper conclusion about a movie, then they goofed up.

My posting that wasn't an attempt to excuse it, as you seem to have inferred- I just found the information about the Church putting pressure on the film-makers interesting- especially in context of what Hypatia represents, what happened to her and who did it.

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Regardless of it's problems, I enjoyed it, simply for finally bringing Hypatia's story to the screen (inaccurate as it was) and for Rachel Wiesz's fine acting.

Regarding the rioting in the film, that seems to have been pretty common at the time in Alexandria, as it was a period of transition and unrest.

Regarding the Library, there is no historical evidence that Christians "burned the Great Library of Alexandria." It was severely damaged prior to this by Julius Caesar when he went after Pompey. The library depicted in the film was a "branch" library, and there is no account of the Christian mobs having burned the works inside. More likely, they simply fell into disuse and deteriorated.

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Regarding the Library, there is no historical evidence that Christians "burned the Great Library of Alexandria." It was severely damaged prior to this by Julius Caesar when he went after Pompey. The library depicted in the film was a "branch" library, and there is no account of the Christian mobs having burned the works inside. More likely, they simply fell into disuse and deteriorated.

Right, the Great Library was trashed before the Christians.

The one depicted in the movie would be the Serapeum, which contained the texts surviving from the Great Library. I think that's why so many people confuse the pillage of the Serapeum with the Great Library- because it contained those extant works. I've definitely read books that claim the Christians under order of Theodosius (sp?) burned the texts remaining in the Serapeum. Busy at the bar tonight.. I'll see if I can't look it up and maybe get some references Monday.

I can see what you're saying about the movie CS to be sure it is a flawed movie. I just experienced it differently- one because Hypatia has received so little recognition so the movie would have had to be pretty awful for me to dislike it. Also I didn't have the same issue with the other actors that you did. It is very stage-y acting to be sure. It reminds me of the style of say, the I Claudius series from the BBC. In context I can enjoy the style although many find the mannered affectations distracting.

For me, it was the ending that really pissed me off. I had another martini and got over it. :thumbsup:

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My posting that wasn't an attempt to excuse it, as you seem to have inferred- I just found the information about the Church putting pressure on the film-makers interesting- especially in context of what Hypatia represents, what happened to her and who did it.

Thank you for the clarification.

Regardless of it's problems, I enjoyed it, simply for finally bringing Hypatia's story to the screen (inaccurate as it was) and for Rachel Wiesz's fine acting.

Regarding the rioting in the film, that seems to have been pretty common at the time in Alexandria, as it was a period of transition and unrest.

Regarding the Library, there is no historical evidence that Christians "burned the Great Library of Alexandria." It was severely damaged prior to this by Julius Caesar when he went after Pompey. The library depicted in the film was a "branch" library, and there is no account of the Christian mobs having burned the works inside. More likely, they simply fell into disuse and deteriorated.

I agree with all of your comments. I have not read up on the Library in some time, mostly what I remember is that it incurred multiple, separate fires that destroyed its contents over time, rather than a single great fire as is commonly suggested. This movie has sparked my interest on the matter however and I will most likely be looking into this in more detail for myself in the coming days.

Regarding your comment about the one depicted in the movie as being a "branch" of it, I too noticed that I had remembered the Library being depicted differently and as being much larger than it was in the movie. This is not a gripe on my part however as it is not of any detriment to the movie or its purpose.

I can see what you're saying about the movie CS to be sure it is a flawed movie. I just experienced it differently- one because Hypatia has received so little recognition so the movie would have had to be pretty awful for me to dislike it. Also I didn't have the same issue with the other actors that you did. It is very stage-y acting to be sure. It reminds me of the style of say, the I Claudius series from the BBC. In context I can enjoy the style although many find the mannered affectations distracting.

For me, it was the ending that really pissed me off. I had another martini and got over it. :thumbsup:

Fair enough. I think it was more my high expectations from the trailer that gave me a bit more of a negative view of the movie than I would have had otherwise.

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