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.
Joan Webster is an ambitious and stubborn middle-class English woman determined to move forward since her childhood. She meets her father in a fancy restaurant to tell him that she will ... See full summary »
A 'Land Girl', an American GI, and a British soldier find themselves together in a small Kent town on the road to Canterbury. The town is being plagued by a mysterious "glue-man", who pours... See full summary »
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
Because of the Technicolor camera and film stock, the sets needed an astounding 800 foot-candles (8,600 lux) of illuminance just to operate at T2.8, which was the widest lens aperture setting. See more »
Two similar Christian religious statues are shown in the convent in the film. One is on the floor in the blue room where Dean first meets Sister Clodagh to talk business. It is hidden behind the nuns where they enter to speak to Dean. Another very similar statue, but bearing a cross (possibly St Faith), is shown next to Dean as he converses with Sister Clodagh. It has some packing material (straw) on it (19:02). Later on, this second statue is shown being unpacked from its crate by Dean and a servant to be placed above the doorway leading to the yard (27:27). See more »
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 »
Opening credits:- Convent of the Order of the Servants Calcutta See more »
Wind is always blowing throughout the monastery the Servants of God nuns have inherited in a remote part of India. In accepting being in charge of the new place, Sister Clodagh will question her faith as she faces one of the greatest challenges of her life.
Michael Powell, working with his usual collaborator, Emeric Pressburger, on the Rumer Godden's novel, created a film that stands the test of time. His achievement is even more incredible as he shot this film in an English studio. The film, brilliantly photographed by Jack Cardiff, one of the best men in the business, and a frequent ally of Mr. Powell, is one of the best pictures of the English cinema. The glorious Technicolor still looks great.
"Black Narcissus" questions how some Christians, in this case, nuns of a religious order, can be so blind about things that deviate from what it deems is the right way. When the young General wants to be part of the school the nuns are creating, they reject him, yet, he asks about how would a God, made human in the form of Christ, would respond to his petition.
Sister Clodagh is also put in a spot when she wants to get rid of the old man who day after day sits staring at the distant mountains. It's Mr. Dean who challenges her in asking how would her God deal with the old man. Sister Clodagh's past is revealed in flashbacks when she was a young woman and in love with a young man who wanted to emigrate to America and she wasn't ready to follow him.
Also, Sister Ruth, who is a rebel, decides to abandon the order because she is in love with Mr. Dean. The highlight of the film is the scene in which Ruth begins applying the deep red lipstick, which makes quite a contrast with her beautiful reddish hair to the horror of Sister Clodagh, who clearly is not prepared for the desertion.
There is also an undercurrent between Sister Clodagh and Mr. Dean, who one feels loves her. The nun is too loyal to the principles that made her take the vows. She realizes at the end that while she had the best intentions to transform the place, she is only a human being who suffers a defeat because of her surroundings.
Deborah Kerr enjoyed one of the best triumphs of her career with the role of Sister Clodagh. She is seen as a young woman of great beauty and the austere nun she became later in her life. David Farrar is Mr. Dean, the Englishman who is now living in that remote part of India and knows the people well. Kathleen Byron makes an excellent contribution as the rebel Sister Ruth. Flora Robson plays the kind Sister Philippa. Jean Simmons appears as a cruel Indian girl, and Sabu has some interesting moments in the film.
This is one of Mr. Powell's best movies in his influential film career. He was one of the most innovative film makers of his generation and it shows well in "Black Narcissus".
42 of 48 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?