Black Narcissus (1947)
Movie InfoBritish filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger once again deliberately courted controversy and censorship with their 1947 adaptation of Rumer Godden's novel. Deborah Kerr and Kathleen Byron play the head nuns at an Anglican hospital/school high in the Himalayas. The nuns' well-ordered existence is disturbed by the presence of a handsome British government agent (David Farrar), whose attractiveness gives certain sisters the wrong ideas. Meanwhile, an Indian girl (Jean Simmons) is lured down the road to perdition by a sensuous general (Sabu). While Kerr would seem most susceptible to fall from grace --we are given hints of her earlier love life in a long flashback--she proves to have more stamina than Byron, who delivers one of moviedom's classic interpretations of all-stops-out, sex-starved insanity. The aforementioned flashback was removed from the US release version of Black Narcissus so as not to offend the Catholic Legion of Decency. While the dramatic content of the film hasn't stood the test of time all that well, the individual performances, production values, and especially the Oscar-winning Technicolor photography of Jack Cardiff are still as impressive as ever. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi … More
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Critic Reviews for Black Narcissus
There's something truly unearthly about this place of howling winds, yawning chasms and atmosphere thick with temptation. Sanctity, it will be proven, is no match for sin.
Powell's equally extravagant visual style transforms it into a landscape of the mind -- grand and terrible in its thorough abstraction.
Production has gained much through being in color. The production and camerawork atone for minor lapses in the story, Jack Cardiff's photography being outstanding.
Theatre this Michael Powell film most certainly is, as stressed by the gothic melodrama of the story and the acting, the studio setting with its beautiful backdrops and vivid colours and the most deliberate of characters and events.
While Messrs. Powell and Pressburger may have a picture that will disturb and antagonize some, they also have in Black Narcissus an artistic accomplishment of no small proportions.
Michael Powell was right when he called Black Narcissus an "erotic film," but the attraction is pure Pygmalionism.
A 1947 English film classic about the challenges of desire faced by some nuns in a new mission in the Himalayas.
Run, don't walk to see this 1947 classic from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.
Powell and Pressburger created a film that still feels light years ahead of the opposition.
Sexual tension hangs in the air as the wind blows and native drums beat, but it's on a visual level that the film excels.
In a breakthrough role as the new nun, Deborah Kerr heads a superb cast, including Flora Robson and Jean Simmons, in one of the most stunning color films ever made, deservedly winning the Oscars for cinematography and art design.
Beautiful technicolor film, with a slow-moving, but intriguing plot.
The cinematography is unforgettable.
The cinematography of Narcissus -- notably an ending that must have stuck in Hitchcock's mind for decades -- is to die for, utterly pioneering for its time and deserving of its two Academy Awards), but its story has never totally grabbed me.
Audience Reviews for Black Narcissus
In rugged outback In-juh, a handful of pious British nuns lean to their work amongst the sweaty, heathen native hordes, only the climate, the people, the atmosphere, and A MAN, all combine to insidiously fragment the constitutions of these seeking only the Lord's good work. Surprisingly filmed entirely in England in lustrous Technicolor, this adds little to the coliseum of opinion that going native is ultimately maddening, but does make for riveting entertainment nonetheless. Simmons and Sabu simmer showing subtle, subordinate, savage seduction.More
Quite an amazing film - especially considering it was filmed in a studio 65 years ago using painted backdrops to represent the panoramic Himalayas. Even the topic is refreshing - not all goes according to plan even for nuns.More
Nuns on a mountain? Heck yes! Glorious technicolor mountains (colored in with pastel chalks, according to IMDB) where a veritable fortress hides in the Himalayas. The sisters are sent there to administer medicine to the local population (although the local population is highly superstitious of them). The only friend they have waiting there for them is Mr. Dean (David Farrar), assistant to the General. Ironically, this "palace" was originally built to house the original General's many wives (and now it houses the brides of Christ). It's not long before the isolation begins playing at the minds of the nuns and they begin to have doubts of faith.
The technicolor illusions created in this film were said to be inspired by the dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, and the amazingly vivid and colorful backdrops are almost worth the price of admission alone. The film is practically a painting come to life. The story of the nuns is amusing and sometimes frightening and directed with a real flair by writers/directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. It is deservedly one of the top films of it's decade.
Black Narcissus Quotes
- Sister Clodagh:
- We all need discipline. You said it yourself they're like children. Without discipline we should all behave like children.
- Mr. Dean:
- Don't you like children, sister?
- Sister Clodagh:
- [to Mr. Dean] You are objectionable when you are sober and abominable when drunk!
- Old General:
- Do you see that crate? Sausages! They will eat sausages. Europeans eat sausages wherever they go.
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