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
A film about nuns and lust ... but it's not what you'd expect.
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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