Agnes Of God

Agnes Of God (1985)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Jane Fonda, Anne Bancroft, Meg Tilly
Extras: Bonus Trailers

When a dead infant is discovered in a convent, psychiatrist Dr. Martha Livingston is called in to evaluate a young nun named Agnes (Meg Tilly) to see if she is fit to stand trial. But, this task turns into an obsessive investigation for Martha, as she becomes quite intrigued with the strange Agnes, who denies any memory of a child and claims that she doesn’t know where children come from. Unable to get many straight answers from Agnes, Martha turns to Mother Superior (Anne Bancroft), but she is convinced that the naive Agnes didn’t know what was happening, and thus can’t be blamed for the baby’s death. As Martha digs deeper into the mystery, she begins to learn that the convent holds many secrets and that Agnes may be the greatest enigma of them all.

Based on a stage play by John Pielmeier, this version of ’Agnes of God’ uses the precise language and storyline of the theatrical production to create an engrossing movie. Unlike most films with a mystery, the audience is in the dark along with Martha, so each revelation is surprising and intriguing. Thus, we are allowed to take the journey along with the characters and make our own guesses. Unfortunately, the ending is incredibly ambiguous, and while it’s clear that it was intended to allow the viewer to make their own decisions about Agnes, it will leave many viewers simply confused and angry. Also, a subplot concerning Martha’s family, which at first appears to be very important, is never fully fleshed out. Despite these setbacks, the film is very well made by director Norman Jewison, and the three female leads are wonderful, most notably Tilly, who was nominated for an Oscar and won a Golden Globe for this role. (But, I can’t believe that the annoying and heavy-handed music was nominated for an Academy Award.) ’Agnes of God’ is a unique film which a very different kind of mystery tale.

’Agnes of God’ is delivered unto DVD from Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1, but is strangely not enhanced for 16×9 TVs. The image is sharp, but there is noticeable grain throughout the film. The look of the film is dark and drab overall, but even still, the image here appears slightly washed out, although the occasional splashes of bright colors truly stand out. The Dolby 2.0 Surround audio track provides clear dialogue, with no distortion, and intermittent occurrences of surround sound action, consisting mainly of musical cues and echoes. The only extras on this DVD are bonus trailers for ’A Soldier’s Story’ and ’The China Syndrome’.