Rated 4.0

There’s a reason this film by Spanish director Alejando Amenábar didn’t get much attention during its extremely short and limited theatrical run: It’s not particularly sympathetic to religious zealotry, and this time, the zealots who are terrorizing the community are members of the early Christian church. These early Christians, led by St. Cyril of Alexandria, persecuted non-Christians with righteous abandon, and while this drama of the life of the female philosopher Hypatia plays fast and loose with history (it throws in unrequited love and a suggestion that she solved the question of elliptical orbits 8oo years before Kepler), the story is fairly accurate. Hypatia (portrayed as chaste and open-minded on every issue save slavery by Rachel Weisz) was a great mind of the ancient world, a teacher and curator of the remains of Alexandria’s great library. When Christianity went from being a banned cult to the accepted state religion, its followers turned on first the pagans and then the Jews. Amendábar spares us the grisly reality of Hypatia’s end, but we know what’s coming. Too bad we don’t learn from history.