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
This spellbinding movie from that spellbinding film-making team (Powell and Pressburger) is another entry in the long line of literary and film stories that revolve around British restraint and repression unraveling under the force of mysterious foreign cultures (usually Eastern and frequently Indian), and it's one of the best.
A group of nuns travel to the Himalayas to do missionary work among the natives, but instead find themselves coming under the mystical spell of the place and people around them. Deborah Kerr is stunning as the head nun, who's determined to maintain order and British civility at all costs. I still can't decide whether this or "The Innocents" (1961) gave her her best role. At the other extreme is Kathleen Byron's Sister Ruth, who renounces her vows, paints her lips bright red, and engages in a fierce battle of wills with Kerr. What follows is a film that is surprisingly sexual, erotic and wild.
Powell and Pressburger are experts at using color. Instead of employing their Technicolor to simply make their film look pretty, the color almost becomes a character in itself, creating a feverish, hyper-realistic glow to the film. Legendary cameraman Jack Cardiff is responsible for the sterling and Oscar-winning cinematography. Equally stunning is the art direction, which created very realistic mountains out of papier-mache.
A simply sensational film, one that holds up completely and could be watched again and again. This and "Out of the Past" vie in my esteem for best film released in 1947.
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