Black Narcissus (1947)




This is a stone-cold classic, lust and repressed desire in the Himalayan Mountains. Adapted from the Rummer Gordon novel and written and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, while being shot beautifully by Jack Cardiff. This is a movie with some nuns in a palace, high up in the mountains, on paper not the most enthralling watch but, with its lush vibrant colour pallet, with its vivid greens and blues of the surroundings, it takes you into a dream like world. This movie is like watching a watercolour painting; it’s better than a trip to an art gallery, and you don’t even have to stand behind a red velvet rope. The film sees Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr) along with other members of her convent: sister Philippa, Sister Blanche, Sister Briony and Sister Ruth, sent to set up a school and hospital in Mapu, high in the Himalayan Mountains. Its East meets West, lust, celibacy, and a clash of cultures; it probes religion, philosophy and class. It is a film of tension with Mr Dean (David Farrar) & Sister Clodagh desires front and centre there repressed desire eventually sends sister Ruth insane. The movie can say more with a glance or mise en scene, than some movies can say in three hour running time.  The exchange of looks between the young general (Sabu, not the wrestler) and Kanchi (Jean Simmons, not from Kiss), shows the desire, passion and tension and causes problems inside and outside of the palace. With the young well-bred general and the young low born Kanchi, becoming infatuated with each other.




Black Narcissus blends the questioning of post war British social relations and dissects the ideas of empire and repressed desire through the narrative, while this is topped off with stunning cinematography and a gripping story, ahead of its time in the repressed late 1940s. With mountains painted on glass, stunning set pieces filmed at Pinewood studios, and a tropical garden in Surrey, it is a beautiful piece of film. But there are also the great performances centrally from David Farrar with his secret past, and Deborah Kerr getting over a failed romance and subtly of performance of Sabu and Jean Simmons, to the spiralling descent into madness by Kathleen Byron, this film will stay with you. Be it from the beating of the drums, to the howl of the wind and the soundtrack, this double academy award winning movie is a must see for any film fan.

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