Jennifer Lawrence’s new movie is based on a disturbing true story

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Kayleigh Dray
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It’s official: Jennifer Lawrence will be playing Agnes Magnusdottir, the last woman who was executed for murder in 1830 in Iceland. 

Agnes was born into a life of unspeakable hardship on 27 October 1795, just 10 years after the catastrophic Laki volcanic eruption in south west Iceland. The lingering toxic gases had poisoned the crops and many farm animals starved to death – and, by the time Agnes was born, infant deaths were at an all time high. Indeed, it was lucky she survived into adulthood at all: the daughter of unmarried landless farm workers, she was “raised on a porridge of moss and poverty”, and began doing adult’s work when she was just eight-years-old.

And yet, despite all of this, Agnes was determined to better herself: described in Undirfell church book as having “an excellent intellect”, she learned to read and write – skills which she used to pen poetry whenever she could.

So it came as something as a shock to the rural community when Agnes was sentenced to death for killing two men (one of whom was her former employer) and setting fire to their home.

Rather than delving into the events that led up to this, though, Burial Rites – based on parish records and Hannah Kent’s novel of the same name – begins shortly after Agnes’ supposed crimes.

Just like the haunting book, the film sees Agnes (Lawrence) packed off to an isolated farmstead in the Icelandic wilderness while she awaits execution.

Understandably, the family that owns the farm is horrified at the prospect of sharing their home with a killer – particularly as they are so cut off from the rest of the world.

But, as the disturbing stranger disrupts their lives in more ways than they can imagine, it quickly becomes apparent that there is something uncomfortably familiar about Agnes…

Variety reports: “Agnes was sentenced to death for killing two men and setting fire to their home.

“[However], this story takes place as Agnes awaits confirmation of her death sentence by the high court, a period of time that finds her reluctantly forging emotional and romantic bonds, while reflecting on her supposed crimes.”

The film will be directed by Luca Guadagnino, who’s coming off Call Me By Your Name, and Lawrence will produce, as well.

Honestly, we can’t wait to see it. In the meantime, though, we’re going to buy ourselves a copy of Burial Rites and indulge in a serious binge-reading session…

Images: Rex Features