Plot: What’s it about?
Sister Agnes (Meg Tilly) is a young, naive nun who lives in a very strict convent, so when she becomes pregnant, it is most unusual indeed. This fragile young woman claims no knowledge of the birth, how she became pregnant, or much else, to be honest, but when the baby turns up dead, the outside world becomes involved. As Sister Agnes says she is a virgin and the birth was divine, the court system has no real wish to put her in prison, but of course, they want an expert opinion before a decision is reached. So Dr. Martha Livingston (Jane Fonda) is sent out to the convent to uncover some answers, but she is greeted with a less than warm reception. Mother Superior Miriam Ruth (Anne Bancroft) insists that Agnes has told her side of the story and shouldn’t be bothered any further, but Livingston pushes ahead, nonetheless. As she speaks with Agnes, some unusual personality traits start to surface, ones that make Livingston take notice. What happened in this convent? Was Agnes chosen to be part of some divine plan, or does her mind simply convince her that she was?
As much as I want to really like Agnes of God, I’ve seen it many times and can never say I’ve enjoyed it as much as I expected to. The premise is excellent, direction from Norman Jewison (Jesus Christ Superstar) is always reliable, and the cast is loaded with talent, but somewhere along the line, this one takes one too many wrong turns. The story seems too loose for my taste, without enough letting us in closer to understand the situation, it seems like we’re kept at a distance, which lessens the impact. The idea of questioning our own faith has been explored countless times and Agnes of God doesn’t open many new doors, though it does have plenty of good moments, just not enough of them. But this is still a solid movie and one I will revisit, thanks to the music, cinematography, and superb performances from several of the leads. Jane Fonda, Anne Bancroft, and Meg Tilly all hand in wonderful efforts and when Oscar time rolled in, Bancroft and Tilly were given nominations, a testament to their work here. I recommend this as a rental to those interested, especially Columbia has done little to warrant a purchase of this disc.
The title role in Agnes of God is played by Meg Tilly, who as I mentioned above, was given an Oscar nomination for her performance. This film relies on its lead trio for much of the material, so I’m sure there was some pressure, but they all came through in fine form, especially Tilly, who has perhaps the best turn here. Tilly started off her career with a run of impressive efforts, but after Agnes of God, she hasn’t been as acclaimed. Which is a shame, as she proves here she has immense talent, but personal injuries have often sidetracked her, including the one that forced her to move from dancing to acting, oddly enough. Even so, Tilly has a lot of talent and when given the right role, she can light up the screen, without question. Other films with Tilly include The Big Chill, The Girl in a Swing, Bullets Over Broadway, The Two Jakes, and Psycho II. The cast also includes Jane Fonda (The China Syndrome, Klute), Anne Bancroft (The Graduate, The Elephant Man), and Anne Pitoniak (The Survivors, Unfaithful).
Video: How does it look?
Agnes of God is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This film has a dim, subdued visual scheme and that is well preserved here, so don’t think the transfer is flawed, this is supposed to be a dark, natural looking picture. Columbia has given us a good overall print, with minimal wear signs and no real instances of grain, aside from a light layer which has always been evident with this movie. The colors have a murky, not too bright texture, which is intentional and in terms of how the hues should look, this transfer nails it. I found contrast to be solid also, though a few scenes do seem a little darker than they should be, but not to an extreme degree, so no serious problems here. The visual nature of this film renders it a tough sell as far as sharpness or refinement, but Columbia’s treatment is quite good on all fronts.
Audio: How does it sound?
Aside from the musical score, the included 2.0 surround option has no room for depth, since this is a film driven by dialogue. But the score sounds good and adds some range to the mix, which is welcome here. The main element is dialogue however, so there isn’t much power to speak of, though this material doesn’t need it. The vocals are clean, crisp, and well balanced at all times, so no words wind up muffled or drowned out. Not the most memorable mix out there, but it covers the material and that’s all we need in this case. This disc also includes a French language option, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc contains no bonus materials.