Set in the 4th century city of Alexandria, in the Roman Empire just before its split in to two separate Empires. The narrative revolves around the Greek philosopher Hypatia (a teacher at the Platonic school) where the future elite are educated. Her story is told against the back ground of a Roman Empire running out `steam', and is turning rapidly from Paganism to the early form of Christianity .The metamorphosis of the relatively new religion is neither pain less or consequence free. Religious tolerance seems non-existent, from this new faith. In turn the Pagans either convert on mass and the few who remain try to keep a low profile. The Christians then turn their attention to the Jews, and soon they come into conflict, committing violent acts against each other. The majority soon prevail, with the Christians ultimately wresting power from the only other religious group remaining. During this time of changed which at times are punctuated by a years of peace our philosopher Hypatia, continues with her quest for knowledge. However, her study of heliocentrism, is not permitted by the new faith and soon she has to focus on working privately on her theories and experiments.
Heliocentrism is the study of `astronomical model' in which the Earth and planets revolve around a stationary Sun at the centre of the solar system. This type of study was at odds with the accepted theory that all heavenly bodies, including the Sun, revolved around the Earth, the Earth was the centre of all things. While film is based on key main events in the Historical record, the narrative, the characterizations are fictional. The colour and iconography are rich and sumptuous, and remind me of such classic films as Ben-Hur or the Ten Commandments.
This review does not wish to give away plot themes and the narrative that encompasses this rather fictionalized view of a rather extraordinary person who was ahead of her time by nearly 500 years plus, both as an accomplished scientist and women who was not abashed in speaking her mind in the company of men, these men being the elite of Alexandria in their own home patch. This then brings Hypatia into conflict as it is believed that she is the cause of strained relations between Orestes (a former pupil who loves her and values her intellect), the Imperial Roman Prefect, and the Patriarch Cyril, thus she attracted the hatred of the Christians of Alexandria, who wanted the politician and the priest to reconcile. One day, in March AD 415, during Lent, a Christian mob of Nitrian monks, way lay, attack and finally kill what they perceive is a Witch of the worst kind.
I do not believe this film is anti Christian and for that matter nor is it anti religion. As one reviewer has puts it, the film is about `fanaticism and unreason'. Well I see the threads here that may lead to this inclination. However, for me I felt it was more about power play and influence, the religious conflict etc are the tools of the conflict, at the end of the day it was about power and who has it. The same is true in today's world. That said it's a film worth seeing, a beautiful but sad story worth 5 stars