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Black Narcissus (1947)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama  |  December 1947 (USA)
8.0
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Ratings: 8.0/10 from 14,347 users  
Reviews: 129 user | 103 critic

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.

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(adapted from the novel by), , 1 more credit »
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Title: Black Narcissus (1947)

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Flora Robson ...
Jenny Laird ...
Judith Furse ...
...
...
The Old General
...
The Young General
...
Mr. Dean
...
Kanchi
May Hallatt ...
Angu Ayah
Eddie Whaley Jr. ...
Joseph Anthony
Shaun Noble ...
Con
Nancy Roberts ...
Mother Dorothea
Ley On ...
Phuba
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Storyline

Sister Clodah is dispatched with four other nuns to establish a new convent far in the Himalayas. It's a difficult journey and their new house is a ramshackle old building on the edge of a cliff that had been abandoned by a religious Brotherhood many years before. They soon establish a school and an infirmary though the local General's agent, Mr. Dean, warns them against treating the deathly ill as they would no doubt be blamed if the patient doesn't recover. The location, the culture and the mountain air all begin to have a strange effect on the Sisters. Sister Clodagh, who is also on her first assignment as Sister Superior, begins to remember a romance she had as a young woman before entering the sisterhood. Another however, becomes obsessed with Mr. Dean, which leads to tragedy. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

nun | convent | cliff | doubt | mountain | See All (206) »

Taglines:

A story of exquisite yearning in a strange and beautiful land. Towering over the screen...as the mountains that saw it happen. See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

December 1947 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Narciso negro  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

£280,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Jack Cardiff said that the lighting and color palette of this film was inspired by the works of 17th-century Dutch painter Vermeer. See more »

Goofs

An Australian kookaburra is heard laughing in a bamboo forest in the Himalayan foothills. See more »

Quotes

Mother Dorothea: Give her responsibility, Sister. She badly wants importance.
Sister Clodagh: Do you think it's a good thing to let her feel important?
Mother Dorothea: Spare her some of your own importance... if you can.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits:- Convent of the Order of the Servants Calcutta See more »

Connections

Featured in Damned If You Don't (1987) See more »

Soundtracks

Lullay My Liking
Old Edwardian Carol
Music by Sir Richard Terry
New music by Brian Easdale
See more »

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User Reviews

 
The palace in the mountain
1 February 2006 | by (New York) – See all my reviews

Wind is always blowing throughout the monastery the Servants of God nuns have inherited in a remote part of India. In accepting being in charge of the new place, Sister Clodagh will question her faith as she faces one of the greatest challenges of her life.

Michael Powell, working with his usual collaborator, Emeric Pressburger, on the Rumer Godden's novel, created a film that stands the test of time. His achievement is even more incredible as he shot this film in an English studio. The film, brilliantly photographed by Jack Cardiff, one of the best men in the business, and a frequent ally of Mr. Powell, is one of the best pictures of the English cinema. The glorious Technicolor still looks great.

"Black Narcissus" questions how some Christians, in this case, nuns of a religious order, can be so blind about things that deviate from what it deems is the right way. When the young General wants to be part of the school the nuns are creating, they reject him, yet, he asks about how would a God, made human in the form of Christ, would respond to his petition.

Sister Clodagh is also put in a spot when she wants to get rid of the old man who day after day sits staring at the distant mountains. It's Mr. Dean who challenges her in asking how would her God deal with the old man. Sister Clodagh's past is revealed in flashbacks when she was a young woman and in love with a young man who wanted to emigrate to America and she wasn't ready to follow him.

Also, Sister Ruth, who is a rebel, decides to abandon the order because she is in love with Mr. Dean. The highlight of the film is the scene in which Ruth begins applying the deep red lipstick, which makes quite a contrast with her beautiful reddish hair to the horror of Sister Clodagh, who clearly is not prepared for the desertion.

There is also an undercurrent between Sister Clodagh and Mr. Dean, who one feels loves her. The nun is too loyal to the principles that made her take the vows. She realizes at the end that while she had the best intentions to transform the place, she is only a human being who suffers a defeat because of her surroundings.

Deborah Kerr enjoyed one of the best triumphs of her career with the role of Sister Clodagh. She is seen as a young woman of great beauty and the austere nun she became later in her life. David Farrar is Mr. Dean, the Englishman who is now living in that remote part of India and knows the people well. Kathleen Byron makes an excellent contribution as the rebel Sister Ruth. Flora Robson plays the kind Sister Philippa. Jean Simmons appears as a cruel Indian girl, and Sabu has some interesting moments in the film.

This is one of Mr. Powell's best movies in his influential film career. He was one of the most innovative film makers of his generation and it shows well in "Black Narcissus".


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