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
The story line for this movie has been covered by many reviewers and I will make no attempt to further explain the plot. What I will point you to are the most incredible cinematography and acting elements of this classic presentation. Technicolor is remarkably presented by Jack Cardiff and I have yet to see a movie which is so visually vibrant and pleasing. Some of the still paintings and sets at Pinewood are truly remarkable considering this picture was made over 50 years ago. Alfred Junge must take credit for those remarkable designs and sets. The acting is pure theater with an absolutely insane delivery by Kathleen Byron (Sister Ruth) as the emotionally fragile nun slowly loosing grip with reality. Her red lipstick scene is pure magic as is her appearance from the large wooden doors, pale, insane and soaked in water towards the end of the movie. What a terrific shot displaying her insanity captured in all the right mood, music and color. Deborah Kerr (Sister Clodagh) does same amazing acting with visual delight and incredible facial expressions. Her anger scenes are quite remarkable throughout the film as she shakes with pure venom at Sister Ruth. The terror in her face where she prays alone in the chapel with Sister Ruth roaming the stairways is quite remarkable. There are many other memorable scenes with light, color and music which makes this the best movie of Powell and Pressburger (IMHO). Buy the Criterion DVD and watch it endlessly.
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