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Black Narcissus (1947)

 -  Drama  -  December 1947 (USA)
8.0
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Reviews: 127 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 ...
...
Sister Ruth
...
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:

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

Le narcisse noir  »

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

The embroidery being done by Sister Clodagh is of St Francis of Assisi. See more »

Goofs

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

Quotes

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 »

Connections

Spoofed in Legally Blonde (2001) 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

 
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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