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.
Sister Clodagh, currently posted at the Convent of the Order of the Servants of Mary in Calcutta, has just been appointed the Sister Superior of the St. Faith convent, making her the youngest sister superior in the order. The appointment is despite the reservations of the Reverend Mother who believes Sister Clodagh not ready for such an assignment, especially because of its isolated location. The convent will be a new one located in the mountainside Palace of Mopu in the Himalayas, and is only possible through the donation by General Todo Rai of Mopu - "The Old General" - of the palace, where the Old General's father formerly kept his concubines. On the Old General's directive, the convent is to provide schooling to the children and young women, and general dispensary services to all native residents who live in the valley below the palace. Accompanying Sister Clodagh will be four of the other nuns, each chosen for a specific reason: Sister Briony for her strength, Sister Phillipa who... Written by
Jack Cardiff drew inspiration for his shots from the great painters; he experimented with the tones of Van Gogh, for example, or the reds and greens from Rembrandt. In her British Film Guide book on Black Narcissus, Sarah Smith quotes Cardiff, who explained the influence of Vermeer and Caravaggio: "They both lit with very simple light. Many painters did, but with Vermeer and Caravaggio you were very conscious of it; they really used the shadows. Caravaggio would just have one sweeping light over everything so that you were aware of the single light." The resulting lighting was unusual for Technicolor films of the time, and initially caused concern for Technicolor consultant Natalie Kalmus. She grew to appreciate the look Cardiff was creating once she saw the initial rushes, however. See more »
An Australian kookaburra is heard laughing in a bamboo forest in the Himalayan foothills. See more »
Brooding atmosphere of its own...gorgeous color photography...
Deborah Kerr is designated to establish a convent in the Himalayas at a remote cliffside dwelling, a palace of dubious origin. She takes her assignment seriously and faces strange customs and unfamiliar peoples as well as a harsh climate. There are inner struggles as well, and Kerr is excellent at revealing these. Huge closeups reveal what her character is supposedly thinking as she peers at others, often in unspoken disapproval of their actions, particularly David Farrar, Jean Simmons (as an Indian girl), and Kathleen Byron--who gives the film's most urgent performance as the distraught nun with worldly pleasures on her mind. Kerr gives a faultless performance, the mainstay of the film, since most of the story is seen from her viewpoint.
The striking color photography and set decoration were rightfully awarded Oscars. A haunting, powerful study of the effects of loneliness and isolation on a group of nuns--and what happens when one of them goes beserk. The struggle between the two nuns at the bell tower is one of the most gripping climaxes ever. A richly detailed British film with a windswept atmosphere all its own.
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