A historical drama set in Roman Egypt, concerning a slave who turns to the rising tide of Christianity in the hope of pursuing freedom while falling in love with his mistress, the famous philosophy and mathematics professor Hypatia of Alexandria.
Alexandria, 391 AD: Hypatia teaches astronomy, mathematics, and philosophy. Her student Orestes is in love with her, as is Davus, her personal slave. As the city's Christians, led by Ammonius and Cyril, gain political power, the institutions of learning may crumble along with the governance of slavery. Jump ahead 20 years: Orestes, the city's prefect, has an uneasy peace with Christians, led by Cyril. A group from the newly empowered Christians has now taken to enforce their cultural hegemony zealously; first they see the Jews as their obstacle, then nonbelievers. Hypatia has no interest in faith; she's concerned about the movement of celestial bodies and "the brotherhood of all". Although her former slave doesn't see it that way. Written by
This is arguably the best film of 2009, depending on whether or not you understand the filmmaker's perspective. I believe, in some ways, full appreciation of this film can only be achieved if you have watched a completely unrelated work: "Cosmos", by Carl Sagan.
Both the Library of Alexandria and Hypatia were terms that constantly came up in Cosmos; and although it is unclear if Sagan had any influence in the making of this film, it really embodied Sagan's philosophy. For example, there are a lot of aerial shots, looking at the Earth from afar - often during dramatic scenes of either love or violence that shows both how insignificant and how precious the human existence is. In spite of all our wars and hate and differences, we are all being carried on this lone blue vessel, journeying through the vast emptiness of space. Are we really that different? Or do more things unite us than divide us, like Hypatia says? In a moment of sheer ignorance, men can destroy their own proudest and most beautiful achievements and erase all of their accumulated knowledge. It's happened before, and it could happen again. This film delivered this message with beautiful precision - are we naive, like Orestes of Alexandria, to think we have finally changed? Or should we look at ourselves in the mirror and know that we still have a long road ahead to better ourselves? The choice is up to us.
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