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Black Narcissus (1947)

 -  Drama  -  December 1947 (USA)
8.0
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Ratings: 8.0/10 from 13,636 users  
Reviews: 126 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:

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:

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

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 »

Goofs

From 57:29 to 1:00:03, the glass of water is next to the short square black object, except when seen at 57:53 and 59:38. See more »

Quotes

Mother Dorothea: [At their Order's office in Calcutta] Sister Clodagh, we may proceed with our plans at Mopu. It will be called "Saint Faith."
Sister Clodagh: [Mechanically repeating the Reverend Mother's words] "Saint Faith."
Mother Dorothea: And YOU have been appointed to take charge of Saint Faith.
Sister Clodagh: I, Reverend Mother?
Mother Dorothea: You... You will be the youngest Sister Superior in our order.
Sister Clodagh: Thank you, Reverend Mother.
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

A film about nuns and lust ... but it's not what you'd expect.
30 January 2001 | by (Sydney, Australia) – See all my reviews

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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