Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Agnes of God

Another movie that I watched over the weekend to free up space on my DVR is Agnes of God.

The movie starts off rather shockingly, with the screaming of a young woman giving birth, followed by the baby being killed. That's bad enough, but this is all happening at a convent not far outside of Montreal, Quebec, and the young woman in question is a nun. Even if you're not Catholic, you probably know that nuns aren't supposed to be having sex, and in a cloistered place like this, where are the men coming from? The nun who gave birth, Agnes (Meg Tilly), is going to have to stand trial, but first it needs to be determined how she got pregnant and if she's even fit to stand trial.

To determine the latter question, the authorities send in psychologist Martha Livingston (Jane Fonda), a woman who has her own psychological baggage regarding the Catholic Church. she goes to the convent where she is met by the Mother Superior, Mother Miriam (Anne Bancroft). Miriam unsurprisingly has her own problems with outsiders, thinking they're out to destroy the reputation of the Church, never mind what you think about whether the Church is causing its own problems. But she's also defending Agnes who, as Dr. Livingston talks to her, it becomes clear is a woman who has serious problems above and beyond however she got pregnant. She seems to know nothing of the outside world, and talks elliptically about what happened to her.

Dr. Livingston takes it upon herself to investigate not only the question of whether Sr. Agnes is sane, but also what actually happened to her. Mother Miriam continues to be wary of her, and we get the feeling that the latter knows a lot more than she's letting on. But what actually did happen to Agnes?

Agnes of God is an interesting movie, and one that is certainly thought-provoking. I can imagine that both anti-clerical people and religious Catholics might have some probems with the movie at first, however. (I was born Catholic, but outside of weddings and funerals haven't been to a Mass in probably 20 years.) Fonda's character is drawn so one-dimensionally that I found myself wondering whether the script was trying to make a negative point about the Church, or about people with hangups about the Church. But Bancroft's character certainly isn't a saint either, and probably any institution in a situation like this would probably do some unethical things to try to save its repuatation.

Bancroft and Tilly are excellent; Fonda adequate although again I think that's more down to the script. The cinematography is also glorious, with director Norman Jewison having used rural Canaidan locations as well as Montreal for shooting. Georges Delerue's evocative score is also a nice touch.

Amazon lists Agnes of God as being on DVD, but it doesn't seem to be available at the TCM Shop. Amazon does also have it on streaming, as far as I could tell.

3 comments:

Usama butt said...
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