Still looking for distribution, Alejandro Amenabar‘s Agora will show at the Toronto Film Festival. In my Cannes reaction, posted on 5.18, I called it “a visually ravishing, intelligently scripted historical parable about the evils of religious extremism. And I don’t mean the kind that existed in 4th century Alexandria, which is when and where this $65 million dollar epic is set. I mean the evils of the present-day Taliban and the Neocon-aligned Christian right, and the way Agora metaphorically exposes these movements for what they are.

“As Adam Curtis‘s The Power of Nightmares wisely explained, these two extremist faiths are similar in their loathing for liberalism and militant yearning to turn back the clock and to above all hold high the flag of religious purity. The 9/11 attacks kicked off their holy war against each other — a war that fortified their positions in their respective cultures during the Bush years.

“And now comes Agora, dramatizing how purist zealotry among 4th Century Christians led to the persecuting of Jew and pagans, to the sacking and burning of the great library of Alexandria, and to the murder of Hypatia (Rachel Weisz), the first widely-noted female scholar who taught philosophy, astronomy and mathematics. (Note to whiners: Noting a well documented event that happened 1600 years ago can’t be called a spoiler.)

“Amenabar’s film, an English-language Spanish production that was shot in and around Malta, seems to me like the most thoughtful and intellectually-talky big-screen epic ever made, although there’s a fair amount of strife and sword-stabbing and mob violence all through it. The intense conflicts, exacting and cultured dialogue, dashing visual energy and top-notch performances from Weisz, Max Minghella, Oscar Isaac, Rupert Evans, Ashraf Barhom, Rupert Evans and Michael Lonsdale make Agora more than gripping for its entire 141 minutes. I was surprised, really, that it moved as fast as it did.

Some are calling it too talky or insufficiently emotional, which translates into the imprecise term known as “boring.” It isn’t that, trust me, although I admit it’s hard to imagine the U.S. fans of sludge entertainment being keen to see it. You need to be keyed into what it’s saying about our world and to be rooting against the bad guys (i.e., old-time Christians) to really get into it, I suppose, although the high-quality sheen is unmistakable in every department. It’s well worth it for the CG alone.

Is it an Eloi costume epic? Does it have a muscular macho figure like Brad Pitt in Troy or Russell Crowe in Gladiator driving ther narrative and kicking ass? Does it have an intense erotic relationship as an emotional centerpiece? No — it’s a stirringly shot epic that is essentially cerebral in nature. After looking at the above trailer internet trolls have been calling it boring, stillborn, a tank waiting to happen, etc.

  • bryce_david

    Agora can’t find a distributor because no one in it is hit with a baseball bat to the head.

  • Travis Crabmeat

    I concur, Wells.

    Certainly one of the best films I’ve seen this year.
    And I found it to be far more worthwhile than Basterds.

  • Travis Crabtree

    mmmmm. Delicious red meat.

    I hope those who watch this will realize that modern day christians are JUST as bad, nay, WORSE than the taliban.
    (one need look no further than the recent wave of Lutheran suicide bombers plaguing Europe.)

    Some things never change. (sad face)

  • Travis Crabmeat

    You’re right, Travis

    Like how you continue to shill for your vile brethren, and how show utter disdain for your fellow man as you continue to spread lies about the public option.And this from a man that admits he cries when he watches Titanic.

    You have more empathy for actors in a melodrama on a screen than you have for your fellow humans in the real world, out in the ether, present in reality.

    That says a lot about a man.

  • Hallick

    Whatever the movie “Agora” actually is, the trailer “Agora” is a laughably bad joke that makes the film look like something you’d find on one of those religious cable channels like 3ABN or something (which is probably the opposite of the filmmakers’ intentions, I’m sure). For instance, I understand the context of why Hypatia would implore people with the line “We are brothers!”, but it’s unintentionally funny and kind of ridiculous for a fourth century woman to say that, sorry.

    And for my part, if your movie is built around a strong, forceful female character who’s taking a stand against the forces of prehistoric stupidity, I don’t want to see the expression of utter terror and passivity on that character’s face that I see at the 1:47 mark in this trailer. Especially RIGHT AFTER you get the text card that reads, “the courage of a woman”.

  • Hallick

    Sorry, that for instance in my first paragraph was a total non sequiter. But the movie does look like the sequel to “One Night With The King”.

  • matt cousens

    At least QT uses subtitles, because the English here isn’t distracting at all…

  • arturobandini2

    Except for cliched music, this trailer works fine for me. All it had to say was “A film by Alejandro Amenabar” to put my ass in a seat. Abre Los Ojos and The Others were both top-notch. And, unlike the trailer for Shutter Island, I don’t feel like I’ve just seen the entire story arc rammed into two minutes.

  • Hallick

    On a complete tangent, but go look at some pictures of Michael Lonsdale when he was young and tell me he isn’t the spitting image of Peter Dinklage.

  • lazespud

    Gruver —

    Just a quick question; did you have any idea who Hyaptia was before seeing or hearing about this film? Did you know even the most basic aspects of her life enough to imply that her murder is somehow common knowledge enough to render its “spoiler status” moot?

    I ask this in all honesty because you managed to get through life not knowing what a dreidel was, even though it was a fairly significant plot point to movies that you’ve professed to liking.

    If you see a historical film, and then seeing that film prompts you to go home and read the wilkipedia page and other sources, thus learning that the main character’s murder is “well documented,” it doesn’t mean that is in any way common knowledge.

    Thanks for reminding me that I’m a whiner for wanting to be surprised by the events of a new film. ‘preciate that.

  • Travis Crabtree

    So, I generally ignore Jonah so he creates Travis Crabmeat…..

    Jesus H. Criminey what is up with that throbbing hard-on you have for me, Johan/Crabmeat?

    Do you really just come on here scouring the threads for my posts? Did I disappoint you by not commenting on the Michael Moore thread a while back? Already have your retort written?

    And you can’t even get your story straight? “spreading lies about the public option”? I haven’t said a fucking thing about the public option. In fact, I’ve pretty much stayed out of the health care debate so far as this movie site goes, other than to point out the perils of questioning the motives of those opposed to UHC.
    Show me the quote where I talk about the public option.
    Yeah, right. Good luck with that.

    And stay on topic.

    What a total disappointment. Like I said before, I thought that a like-named evil twin on HE would be entertaining, like actionmam. Instead it’s just a wimpy-ass attempt by Jonah to get me to notice him.

    I weep for the future. (of this thread)

    Who’s up for a 3:30 show of “Inglorious Basterds”? I heard it’s good.

  • p.Vice

    I think his “hard-on” is explained by the fact that your comments are always full of shit, Crabass.

  • Travis Crabtree


  • Travis Crabmeat

    Well said, Vice.

    And I’m not Jonah, you mouth-breathing, low-brow, ignoramus.

  • Travis Crabass

    Well said, Meat.

    Off to grab a box of Klennex. Titanic is on my 2nd favorite station (ya know, after We?), TBS.

  • Travis Crabtree

    Well said, Crabmeat….. I guess that was easier than finding quotes of me that I never said.

    Told ya.

  • Jeffrey Wells

    Wells to lazespud: Oh, my God…you are claiming that a well documented event that happened 1600 years ago can be called a spoiler. Unbelievable! Yeah, I had read about Hypathia. I’ve been exposed to a certain education. Go ahead, ask me anything. I’ve heard about several Roman emperors and generals. I know the names of a few Pharoahs. I know a few things about Russia before the 1917 revolution. I’ve read portions of the Bible.

  • q.Vice

    Why don’t you go make love to your Neo-Con boyfriends Glen Beck and Sean Hannity and everyone else on your beloved Fixed Noise Chunnel, Tapas Crabbytree.

  • Travis Asshat


    So what you’re saying is, you didn’t say it here?

    I guess you’re for the public option then, huh?

    Oh, Jack!
    Oh, Rose!

    Sniffle. Sniffle.

  • Travis Asshat

    “Told ya”. Really!?

    Thanks for codifying yey another typical Conservative debate strategy. That’s as childish as yelling “flip-flop” whilst waving the titular beach shoe.

    Told ya? Really? Niki?

  • Travis Crabtree

    Oh lord.

    I look forward to being the continued obsession of Jonah. Okay, not really.
    I hope you’re a friend of mine fucking with me, because it’s a little creepy thinking that there is some guy on here willing to go to the trouble of registering with TypeKey at least three extra times just to address my presence.

    Because he’s got such a stick up his ass.


    Do you live in L.A.?

  • Travis Crabtree


    I KNEW you’d be back!


  • Travis Asshat

    Must I say this again, Cro-Magnon man?

    I’m not Jonas, you nitwit.

  • lazespud

    Gruver —

    OK, I will bite. Here’s my counter example CHOCK FULL OF SPOILERAGE, so everyone’s been warned.

    I am probably North America’s leading expert on the Baader-Meinhof Gang. It’s a weird thing to be an expert in, but there you go. Obviously the new movie is coming out now. I would venture to guess, from the comments that I get from people when I talk with them about the movie, and read from them, that pretty much 99% of them have no idea that they all died in prison under mysterious circumstances late one night in 1977, which just happens to be the climax of the movie.

    Now it’s important to note that these are among the most “famous” terrorists in the world. They paralyzed Germany for a decade. Imagine an American terrorist group that kills Bill Gates, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, in separate incidents, all within a year. Because that’s what they did in Germany. They killed many American, many germans, and were all around nasty people. They made the cover of Time and Newsweek. And this happened in our lifetimes.

    So should we assume people know all about these terrorists and their fates going into this movie? I think not. Even J. Hoberman in the village voice suggested that people have a cheat sheet when watching the movie to keep up.

    Here’s the best I can come up with for thinking about whether to pre-warn someone about a spoiler.

    — Is the spoiler a critical feature of the movie (like the climactic scene).
    — Does the film seem to treat the spoiler as shocking, or inevitable.
    — Does your audience (say, the readers of HE), seem to

  • lazespud

    …. accidentally hit “post”

    — do you think your audience (HE headers) would likely know this information?

    In total, if some or all of these things has a yes answer, you should probably do a spoiler warning.

    Essentially you warned us after the fact, and then called us out whiners… wouldn’t it have been just as easy to do it before and leave out the whiners part?

    I guess in the battle of the intellects, you and I must be at a draw, because I was unaware of how Hypathia died, and you didn’t know what a dreidel was. We’re even.

  • chris7crows

    I’m really looking forward to this film (and I liked “Inglorious Basterds”).

    And for once, I’m with Jeff: Historical facts cannot be considered spoilers, whether they’re about Hypatia, the Baader-Meinhoff Complex, or anything else. What, we’re supposed to not mention that Joan of Arc was burned at the stake or Elizabeth defeated the Spanish Armada because someone fell asleep in history class and wants to be “surprised” during the movie?

  • Ronald McFirbank

    Ah quz gonna take mah girl to this but’n they don’t allow unmarried female-type wimmen to be out in public with fellers in Tennessee no more

  • Ronald McFirbank

    Oh, and ah know who Hypatia is cuz ah read Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy hidin’ in the barn from the Relijus Police

  • lazespud

    “Historical facts cannot be considered spoilers”

    Really? Have you thought this through? Does it not matter the level of common knowledge about the subject?

    Off the top of my head, I remember loving “Black Hawk Down” about an event that happened just ten years before the movie came out, I totally knew of the event but I had no idea who was killed and at what point in the battle… if someone had pointed out to me going into the movie that “hey, Eric Bana’s gonna bite it,” I would have been pissed (I think he was one of the killed; can’t totally remember).

    There are movies made where the producers absolutely know that people are well versed in the facts of the event; such as Flight 93. And there are movies where people might be vaguely aware of them or completely unaware of the facts; like the Assassination of Richard Nixon. The director structures the movie with these assumptions in mind. Just because it’s a fact that some crazy dude tried to kill Nixon, doesn’t mean that it is common knowledge; and in fact the producer is clearly banking on this assumption.

    Ironically, my example of the Baader-Meinhof group is kind of a weird example, because German audiences (the true intended audience) is so well-versed in their history, yet American audiences generally have no idea who they were and how they died. So the film, in general, seems to have an inevitability and fatalism about it, that undermines any tone of surprise by the climactic deaths…

  • K. Bowen

    Hey, that sounds like the forties when National Socialism and International Socialism squared off to see which atheistic regime could slaughter more millions of people.

  • VictorLazlo

    No K. Bowen, not going to let you do it. The Nazi party was NOT in any way shape or form an atheistic regime. Hitler invoked god and Christianity to the very end.

    And just because someone calls out the Christian thugs who want to ban gay marriage and teach kids that Jesus rode Velociraptors does not mean we support the extremism of the Stalin mold.

  • K. Bowen

    But they were definitely leftists.

  • Ronald McFirbank

    Victor, that’s a really simplistic answer. The Nazis unquestionably saw the established churches as an enemy to their plan to remake every aspect of society, and K. Bowen is right that in this, they were no different from the Communists– there was to be no alternative power base in their total society.

    That said, you don’t turn rabidly anti-Semitic if you’re a Druid. Obviously the pseudoscientific anti-Semitism they were part of has its roots in a millennium or two of Christian anti-Semitism, but it also was a modernist rebellion against mainstream Christian views on Jews.

    In any case, the subject is too complex for the foolish kind of comparison that claims kinship between this or that American mainstream church and some far harsher and more regressive or oppressive entity in another country that’s a different setting for religion in almost every way imaginable.

    The Straight Dope covered this subject quite well:

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