(director/writer: Anne Fontaine; screenwriters: Sabrina B. Karine, Alice Vial, Pascal Bonitzer, Philippe Maynial; cinematographer: Caroline Champetier; editor: Annette Dutertre; music: Gregoire Hetzel; cast: Lou De Laage (Mathilda), Agata Buzek (Maria), Agata Kulesza (Mother Superior), Vincent Macaigne (Samuel), Joanna Kulig (Irena), Eliza Rycembel (Teresa), Anna Prochniak (Zofia), Katarzyna Dabrowska (Anna), Helena Sujecka (Ludwika), Dorota Kuduk (Wanda), Klara Bielawka (Joanna), Mira Maludzinska (Bibiana); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer; Mars Film; 2016-Ftance/Poland-in French & Polish with English subtitles)

A compelling religious drama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A compelling religious drama formally helmed by Anne Fontaine (“Two Mothers”/”Adore”) about the horrors of war. The story is by Philippe Maynial, while the screenplay is by the director, Sabrina B. Karine and Alice Via. It tells of a Polish convent in a provincial village that’s in psychological damage control in the postwar period in 1945. The film was inspired by a true story of Soviet soldiers who raped the Benedictine nuns in the convent they liberated and impregnated them. At a French hospital in Warsaw, a French Red Cross doctor, Mathilda (Lou de Laâge), is asked by one of the Polish nuns to help and reluctantly disobeys French hospital protocol to go to the wintry Polish convent to help deliver a child. There she finds 7 nuns who are in the late stages of their pregnancy, and the non-believer leftist doctor comes to admire the nuns for their strong beliefs and courage.Agata Kulesza is the tormented Mother Superior, whose sense of honor makes things unbearable in the convent. Agata Buzek brilliantly plays the most worldly of the nuns, and is the melodrama’s heroine. Vincent Macaigne is Mathilda’s superior. The Jewish doctor is also her boyfriend. Such grief is solidly handled when the women victims bond and get by their shaken faith through friendship. It leaves the viewer in a meditative mood, wondering who really are the innocents (maybe only the babies!). It was originally released under the title of “Agnus Dei.” The painterly film is eye-catching in photographing the snowy terrain and dark forest surroundings, with rays of light breaking through. It had the composition of a Vermeer painting.