After opening a convent in the Himalayas, five nuns encounter conflict and tension - both with the natives and also within their own group - as they attempt to adapt to their remote, exotic surroundings.
Joan Webster is an ambitious and stubborn middle-class English woman determined to move forward since her childhood. She meets her father in a fancy restaurant to tell him that she will ... See full summary »
Sister Clodagh, currently posted at the Convent of the Order of the Servants of Mary in Calcutta, has just been appointed the Sister Superior of the St. Faith convent, making her the youngest sister superior in the order. The appointment is despite the reservations of the Reverend Mother who believes Sister Clodagh not ready for such an assignment, especially because of its isolated location. The convent will be a new one located in the mountainside Palace of Mopu in the Himalayas, and is only possible through the donation by General Todo Rai of Mopu - "The Old General" - of the palace, where the Old General's father formerly kept his concubines. On the Old General's directive, the convent is to provide schooling to the children and young women, and general dispensary services to all native residents who live in the valley below the palace. Accompanying Sister Clodagh will be four of the other nuns, each chosen for a specific reason: Sister Briony for her strength, Sister Phillipa who... Written by
Jack Cardiff drew inspiration for his shots from the great painters; he experimented with the tones of Van Gogh, for example, or the reds and greens from Rembrandt. In her British Film Guide book on Black Narcissus, Sarah Smith quotes Cardiff, who explained the influence of Vermeer and Caravaggio: "They both lit with very simple light. Many painters did, but with Vermeer and Caravaggio you were very conscious of it; they really used the shadows. Caravaggio would just have one sweeping light over everything so that you were aware of the single light." The resulting lighting was unusual for Technicolor films of the time, and initially caused concern for Technicolor consultant Natalie Kalmus. She grew to appreciate the look Cardiff was creating once she saw the initial rushes, however. See more »
Two similar Christian religious statues are shown in the convent in the film. One is on the floor in the blue room where Dean first meets Sister Clodagh to talk business. It is hidden behind the nuns where they enter to speak to Dean. Another very similar statue, but bearing a cross (possibly St Faith), is shown next to Dean as he converses with Sister Clodagh. It has some packing material (straw) on it (19:02). Later on, this second statue is shown being unpacked from its crate by Dean and a servant to be placed above the doorway leading to the yard (27:27). See more »
A film about nuns and lust ... but it's not what you'd expect.
A story about a community of nuns ... doesn't sound very exciting. But in fact, `Black Narcissus' is as erotic, spellbinding, and suspenseful as any of today's psychological thrillers.
Directing team Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger manage to combine a number of unlikely and potentially sensational elements - eroticism, desire, and isolation - into the story of a company of Anglican nuns who attempt to establish a civilised community in the former bordello of the Rajah, in the untamed hills of the Himalayas.
Their leader, Sister Clodagh, communicates with the indigenous leader of the land via a profligate Englishman, Mr Dean. Worn down by the hostile surroundings and the isolation, Sister Clodagh finds her nuns becoming restless and discontent. It is when one of her them, Sister Ruth, becomes infatuated with Mr Deans, that the fragile and repressed community begins to implode.
Pressburger and Powell deliberately used studio exteriors and special effects rather than shooting on location in order to ensure that the characters and their story remained the focus of the film, and not its exotic setting. This lends to the movie a heightened, mesmeric atmosphere which contributes highly to its artistic success, and earned two Academy Awards.
The famous wordless sequence towards the end of the film displays a particularly interesting approach. The music to this sequence was written and recorded first. Played back during the recording of the sequence, it dictated the movements and motivations of the actors.
Still completely convincing today, `Black Narcissus' is one of Britain's most important and innovative films.
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