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Black Narcissus (1947)

Not Rated | | Drama | December 1947 (USA)
2:34 | Trailer

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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.


(adapted from the novel by), | 1 more credit »
Won 2 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Jenny Laird ...
The Old General
The Young General
Mr. Dean
May Hallatt ...
Angu Ayah
Eddie Whaley Jr. ...
Joseph Anthony
Shaun Noble ...
Nancy Roberts ...
Mother Dorothea
Ley On ...


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 concubine. 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 Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Exquisite Yearning ! . . . Exotic Living ! High in a hidden mountain village of a strange land and extravagant dreams and desires become exciting realities ! See more »




Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

December 1947 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Narciso negro  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


£280,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Jack Cardiff came up with the idea of starting the rainfall end scene by first having a few drops hit the rhubarb leaves before cueing a full-force rainstorm. He personally created the first drops with water from a cup when the scene was shot. Michael Powell was so pleased with the effect that he decided to make the scene, originally the penultimate one, the closing shot. Cardiff, however, was a great fan of the original scene (which had already been shot) that was supposed to follow this one and close the film. To this day Cardiff amusingly calls the opening drops of the rainfall "the worst idea I ever had". 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 »


Young Prince: 5am to 7am, algebra with the mathematical Sister. 8am to 10am, religion, especially Christianity with the scriptural Sister. 10am, art. 1pm to 3pm, French and Russian with the French and Russian Sisters, if any. 3pm to 4pm, physics with the physical Sister.
See more »

Crazy Credits

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


Referenced in Saving Private Ryan (1998) See more »


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User Reviews

Nuns story.
2 April 2002 | by See all my reviews

As time goes by,Powell and Pressburger's movies become more and more important and crucial in the evolution of the seventh art.The first time I 'd seen "black narcissus" I had missed the whole point:this is the kind of film you've got to see several times.

Five nuns are leaving their Calcutta convent for a mission in the Himalaya mountains.In this place,where the wind never stops blowing,they will settle in an old "palace".These nuns have faith,they believe in what they are doing ,be it teaching,nursing,educating,or carrying the word of God.But their faith will clash with a thousand -tear-old wisdom(the Holy Man),a population who mixes up religion with magic,and Mister Dean, a Bunuelesque pragmatic man.

The natives will not change,but the nuns will.Their faith gets still tangled in prejudices;two examples:

-A young noble man wants to study in the mission.When sister Clodagh (Kerr) refuses,he points his finger at the crucifix and says "Wasn't HE a man?"" He took the shape of a man" the baffled nun answers.

-Sister Clodagh wants to get rid of the Holy Man,who spends his time gazing upon the world around him."What would Jesus Christ have done?" Dean ironically asks her.

After hearing sister Philippa's (Flora Robson)worried confidences,sister Clodagh feels that her past is coming back to haunt her.The flashbacks are extraordinary,dreamlike and a bit eerie.Clodagh comes to the door to meet her fiancé ,there's only darkness.The past and the present are worlds apart,in time and in space and seem to be two unconnected ones .It recalls the real world and the beyond in "a matter of life and death" (1946).And the infinite space of the 1946 work is here the highest mountains in the world.By the same token,the hunting with hounds flashback forecasts "gone to earth" (1949).Powell and Pressburger are real auteurs who build a coherent work.

The nuns actually discover that they are women made of flesh and blood.One of them,sister Ruth goes as far as falling in love with Dean and relinquishes religion.The night scene during which she paints her lips against a hellish backdrop in front of a terrified sister Clodagh is a riveting tour de force that even Luis Bunuel did not equal.The fighting around the (hell) bell between a white Clodagh and an all dressed in black Ruth will leave you on the edge of your seat.

There are so many things to say about "black narcissus":Jean Simmons appears in a silent ,but vicious part.This is probably Deborah Kerr's towering performance,and she's only on the threshold of a brilliant career -she will play a nun once more in John Huston's "heaven knows mister Allison" ,but although I do love that director,her part here is far superior-.Jack Cardiff's award-winning color cinematography was years ahead of its time.It works wonders in the sensual scenes but the most beautiful picture remains for me the last one when the rain begins to fall on green leaves.

A sparkling black diamond.

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