Black Narcissus (1947) - Rotten Tomatoes

Black Narcissus (1947)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Black Narcissus Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

British 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, Rovimore
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Faith & Spirituality, Classics
Directed By: ,
Written By: Rumer Godden, Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jan 30, 2001
Universal International Pictur


Deborah Kerr
as Sister Clodagh
Flora Robson
as Sister Philippa
David Farrar
as Mr. Dean
as Young Prince
Kathleen Byron
as Sister Ruth
Esmond Knight
as Old General
Jenny Laird
as Sister 'Honey' Blanc...
Judith Furse
as Sister Briony
Eddie Whaley Jr.
as Joseph Anthony
Nancy Roberts
as Mother Dorothea
May Hallatt
as Angu Ayah
Ley On
as Phuba
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Black Narcissus

Critic Reviews for Black Narcissus

All Critics (28) | Top Critics (7)

This is a landmark of Hollywood-on-Thames trompe-l'oeil.

Full Review… | August 3, 2015
New Yorker
Top Critic

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.

Full Review… | January 1, 2013
Time Out
Top Critic

Powell's equally extravagant visual style transforms it into a landscape of the mind -- grand and terrible in its thorough abstraction.

Full Review… | March 23, 2010
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

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.

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top Critic

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.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

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.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

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.

Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer


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.

Red Lats

Super Reviewer

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.

Mr Awesome
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer

Black Narcissus Quotes

– Submitted by Andrew C (3 years ago)
– Submitted by Andrew C (3 years ago)
– Submitted by Andrew C (3 years ago)

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