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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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
A film about nuns and lust ... but it's not what you'd expect.
A story about a community of nuns ... doesn't sound very exciting. But in fact, `Black Narcissus' is as erotic, spellbinding, and suspenseful as any of today's psychological thrillers.
Directing team Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger manage to combine a number of unlikely and potentially sensational elements - eroticism, desire, and isolation - into the story of a company of Anglican nuns who attempt to establish a civilised community in the former bordello of the Rajah, in the untamed hills of the Himalayas.
Their leader, Sister Clodagh, communicates with the indigenous leader of the land via a profligate Englishman, Mr Dean. Worn down by the hostile surroundings and the isolation, Sister Clodagh finds her nuns becoming restless and discontent. It is when one of her them, Sister Ruth, becomes infatuated with Mr Deans, that the fragile and repressed community begins to implode.
Pressburger and Powell deliberately used studio exteriors and special effects rather than shooting on location in order to ensure that the characters and their story remained the focus of the film, and not its exotic setting. This lends to the movie a heightened, mesmeric atmosphere which contributes highly to its artistic success, and earned two Academy Awards.
The famous wordless sequence towards the end of the film displays a particularly interesting approach. The music to this sequence was written and recorded first. Played back during the recording of the sequence, it dictated the movements and motivations of the actors.
Still completely convincing today, `Black Narcissus' is one of Britain's most important and innovative films.
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