Agnes of God (1985): Jewison Convent Melodrama Starring Anne Bancroft and Jane Fonda

Set in a Canadian convent, Norman Jewison’s hysterical melodrama concerns a young nun (Meg Tilly), who has given birth and then murdered her baby.

Playwright John Pielmeyer adapted to the big screen his long-running stage play, which premiered in 1982.

The main joy is to see Jane Fonda, as the investigating psychiatrist Dr. Martha Livingston, and Anne Bancroft as mother superior Miriam Ruth, sharing the same screen together for the first and only time, though neither is particularly good.

For some reasons, the producer cast Bancroft in a role that was originated in the theater by Geraldine Page.

Seen from today’s perspective, it’s amazing to observe Fonda’s Livingston chain-smoking.

The film is well mounted, with good production design from Ken Adam and sharp cinematography from Sven Nykvist, but in the end, you feel manipulated by the sensationalistic elements of the work to little cumulative emotional effect.

 

Oscar Nominations: 3

Actress: Anne Bancroft

Supporting Actress: Meg Tilly

Original Score: Georges Delerue

 

Oscar Context

In 1985, the Best Actress Oscar went to Geraldine Page for “The Trip to Bountiful” and the Best Supporting Actress to Anjelica Huston for “Prizzi’s Honor.”

John Barry won the Score Oscar for “Out of Africa,” which swept most of the awards, including Best Picture.