Agora on DVD and Helen Mirren’s Tempest

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For those of you, including me, who didn’t get a chance to see Alejandro Amenábar’s “Agora”, based on the story of Hypatia of Alexandria, at the handful of art theaters it played at this Summer the wait is finally coming to an end. The film is being released on DVD on October 9th, as well as being made available on Netflix. “Agora”, despite doing very well in Europe, got a mixed response from American movie critics (literally split down the middle), and never managed to break out from its delayed and limited release schedule. However, among Pagans who saw it, the response was almost unanimously positive and emotional.

“By the end of the film I was weeping: for Hypatia, for our destroyed Pagan history, and for humanity itself, that doggedly pursued zealotry and ignorance over and above knowledge and reason.” T. Thorn Coyle

Even those who had some troubles with the historical changes made in Amenábar’s film, like feminist scholar Max Dashu, were generally positive about the work as a whole.

“I’m not a movie reviewer, but a cultural historian, and approach the film from that perspective. What did they do right?  Casting the talented Rachel Weisz was an excellent choice, and all the actors are good.  The cinematography is luscious.  I liked the thematic return to views of the heavens, with the night sky seen from a balcony or through the open roof of an atrium, and occasionally pulling back to satellite shots of earth.  A sympathetic treatment of Pagans is not something you often see in historical movies.”

So needless to say, I’m looking forward to seeing this for myself. There are far too few films that present historical paganism in a positive light (one look at the train-wreck that was the “Clash of the Titans” remake proves that).

So while we’re waiting for “Agora” on DVD, and for “The Wicker Tree” to get a release date, what other films can the Pagan moviegoer look forward to? I was perusing The Boston Globe’s run-down of film releases for the rest of 2010, and one picture in particular caught my eye.

Helen Mirren!

The Tempest Julie Taymor is a director of adequate fearlessness. She can be gimmicky (“Across the Universe’’). She can even be somewhat conventional (“Frida’’). But she’s always interesting. In this version of the Shakespeare desert-island play, she’s cast Helen Mirren as Prospero (it’s Prospera now). Djimon Hounsou is Caliban, Felicity Jones is Miranda. Ben Whishaw is Ariel, David Strathairn is Alonso, Chris Cooper is Antonio, and Russell Brand is Trinculo. See? Interesting.”

Dame Helen Mirren as Prospera? Sign me up. Also, check out this quote from Mirren about playing a female version of Prospero.

“Women have been punished for being powerful for many centuries and I thought that was the remarkable thing about making Prospero into Prospera. You can bring in that history of female struggle. We can see now in the extreme fundamentalist states, whatever religion they are, that they want to exclude women from education. An educated female sex is dangerous for the status quo, they believe. Women with any interest in education are persecuted for being witches, herbalists, evil. I thought of all these women, now and throughout history, as I was playing Prospera.

I’m just hoping that Prospera decides to not renounce her magic at the end. Plus, with Taymor directing you know it’s going to be a visual feast. Once there’s a trailer, I’ll post it for you. “The Tempest” is set for release on December 17th. Other interesting-looking films include “Tibet in Song” (November 12th), and Vision: From The Life OfHildegard Von Bingen” (November 5th).

What movies are you looking forward to?