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Poor Agnes [2017]: Fantasia Film Festival Review

In a strange change of tone, the serial killer narrative soon becomes an indulgent look into the subconscious ugliness that resides in the head of an abnormal human being. Agnes is a driven individual who can do great things, but instead, she chooses a life of manipulation and narcissism. She believes that she could easily play God if she can kill people by slowly torturing them.

“When you take a human life you become God just for an instance. But if you take a human mind you own a soul. Then you are God”, says the protagonist of Poor Agnes. She isn’t your regular independent woman who lives by the barn in solitary confinement. She is a strong (physically), cold-blooded, narcissistic serial-killer who kills because she feels that people ought to be punished for existing in the wrong ways. 




Most of her time alone in her big house is spent on complaining about the world. In her dreamy contemplations about the same, she randomly plans for her next prey. It can be seen that she enjoys the process of slowly torturing people before killing them. As she visits a confession circle of people who are deeply disturbed by the various tortures they have faced in their life. Between all the lost souls, Agnes sites with a notepad and a pen, asking weary questions about how good/bad they felt when they were subjected to torture.

One of these days, a private investigator named Mike (Robert Notman) comes knocking on Agnes’s door. What follows is a somewhat disturbing romanticization of violence, sex, and human manipulation. In a strange change of tone, the serial killer narrative soon becomes an indulgent look into the subconscious ugliness that resides in the head of an abnormal human being. Agnes is a driven individual who can do great things, but instead, she chooses a life of manipulation and narcissism. She believes that she could easily play God if she can kill people by slowly torturing them.

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Taking narrative inspiration from both David Fincher & Stanley Kubrick, Navin Ramaswaran’s ‘Poor Agnes’ could have been a brilliant character study about a woman who’s psychotic tendencies are not driven by anything but her own self-made philosophies. There are some fine dialogues and unpredictable moments in the film but it never feels focused on its intentions. The problem lies in the acting by everyone involved. Instead of getting into the skin of the characters that they are meant to play, the actors feel like they are reading off the script. I do get that Agnes is portrayed as a woman who has no emotions inside her, but her overtly blabbering voice-overs and dialogue delivery makes it impossible for one to be surprised by any shock that’s thrown our way.




Having seen Liliana Cavani’s ‘The Night Porter‘, I can understand how a person can be truly obsessed with the person who tortures them but even so, Ramaswaran’s film fails to form a link between Mike & Agnes. A link that would keep Mike from running away from Agnes’s house especially when he is not chained or is roaming around the supermarket. The idea of him getting psychologically manipulated into Agnes’s stories works on paper but doesn’t play out well on the screen. He is supposed to be an intelligent private investigator and even a suspension of disbelief doesn’t feel right. This only leads to a loss of the initial thrill that the film managed to build up.

Blasting off with The Black Angels’s The Sniper At The Gates Of Heaven, which in my opinion talks about a serial killer following people to the gates of hell, Navin Ramaswarna’s film only goes downhill until it just becomes a sappy film with good ideas waiting for the right execution.

★½

“Poor Agnes” Premiered at the 2017 Fantasia International Film Festival.
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