Agnes (1995)

Runtime: 100 minutes
Language: Icelandic (no subtitles available)
Country: Iceland
IMDb Link:
Director: Egill Edvardsson
Maria Ellingsen.—Agnes
Baltasar Kormákur—Natan
Egill Ólafsson—Sýslumaður
Hanna María Karlsdóttir—Sýslumannsfrú

One of the last known Witches to be executed in Europe, in 1828.  

Description: Based on events surrounding the last public execution in Iceland in the 1820s, “Agnes” tells the  story of a poor working-class girl, who kills her lover, but also loses her own life due to cruel injustice. 

María Ellingsen in the title role won best actress prize for Agnes at the Schermi d’Amore Film Festival in Verona, Italy and the words of the jury were: “María gets the prize for her elegant, honest, thoughtful and precise acting.

“The film is a reminder of a period when powerful men were easily able to crush and even eliminate a woman who tried to stand up for herself, and the tragedy of Agnes is that she refuses to accept her fate without a struggle. Ellingsen gives an effective performance as the feisty, hedonistic and ultimately doomed heroine.” VARIETY

Agnes (Maria Ellingsen) is the young single-mother housekeeper of the sheriff of a small Icelandic outpost, who makes the mistake of attempting fierce independence and trying to control her life in a world dominated by men.

Agnes is desperate to get herself and her young daughter away from her brutal employer, the County Sheriff she works for. When Agnes fights back and loses her job as a housekeeper, she has nowhere to live.

Agnes is then sold at a public auction, in the town square – to Natan (Baltazar Kormakur) a local homeopathic doctor or apothecary. So Agnes becomes his property.   At first she is happy as there is a classic romance blooming with frolics in glorious thermal springs, but soon after she moves in with him, she discovers there is another side to him ( sound familiar?) when his womanising makes him several enemies amongst the other townsfolk.  As Natan continues to lust after other women, and irritate the men, Agnes seeks protection from his brother, who is an expert axeman.

When money is stolen from the Sheriff’s home Agnes becomes one of the main suspects, but she provides testimony and evidence to indicate Natan acted alone. However, she is immediately charged with being an accessory.

Caught in a trap with little hope of escape Agnes has to face the local court (all men) and the penalty is severe. Her friend the axeman, now becomes her executioner. Her young daughter is left praying in the church.

Cinematography with the use of landscape is breathtaking, with early 19th century Iceland depicted in all its glory with rocky volcanic outcrops, incredible lush green slopes, waterfalls and thermal springs. This stunning landscape, along with a haunting musical score is framed in contrast with the violence of the story.

An English trailer can be seen at:

More information about the film is available from Maria Ellingsen’s website at:


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