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Black Narcissus (1947)

Not Rated | | Drama | December 1947 (USA)
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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.

Writers:

Rumer Godden (adapted from the novel by), Michael Powell | 1 more credit »
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Won 2 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Deborah Kerr ... Sister Clodagh
Flora Robson ... Sister Philippa
Jenny Laird ... Sister Honey
Judith Furse ... Sister Briony
Kathleen Byron ... Sister Ruth
Esmond Knight ... The Old General
Sabu ... The Young General
David Farrar ... Mr. Dean
Jean Simmons ... Kanchi
May Hallatt ... Angu Ayah
Eddie Whaley Jr. Eddie Whaley Jr. ... Joseph Anthony
Shaun Noble Shaun Noble ... Con
Nancy Roberts Nancy Roberts ... Mother Dorothea
Ley On Ley On ... Phuba
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Storyline

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 Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

A story of exquisite yearning in a strange and beautiful land. Towering over the screen...as the mountains that saw it happen. See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

December 1947 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Narciso negro See more »

Filming Locations:

County Galway, Ireland See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

£280,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The embroidery being done by Sister Clodagh is of St Francis of Assisi. See more »

Goofs

An Australian kookaburra is heard laughing in a bamboo forest in the Himalayan foothills. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Mother Dorothea: Sita, go and tell Sister Clodagh I wish to speak with her.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits:- Convent of the Order of the Servants Calcutta See more »

Alternate Versions

The closeups of Sister Ruth applying lipstick and wearing makeup were deleted from the original U.S. prints. See more »

Connections

Edited into The Road to Hong Kong (1962) See more »

Soundtracks

Lullay My Liking
(uncredited)
Old Edwardian Carol
Music by Sir Richard Terry
New music by Brian Easdale
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Nuns story.
2 April 2002 | by dbdumonteilSee all my reviews

As time goes by,Powell and Pressburger's movies become more and more important and crucial in the evolution of the seventh art.The first time I 'd seen "black narcissus" I had missed the whole point:this is the kind of film you've got to see several times.

Five nuns are leaving their Calcutta convent for a mission in the Himalaya mountains.In this place,where the wind never stops blowing,they will settle in an old "palace".These nuns have faith,they believe in what they are doing ,be it teaching,nursing,educating,or carrying the word of God.But their faith will clash with a thousand -tear-old wisdom(the Holy Man),a population who mixes up religion with magic,and Mister Dean, a Bunuelesque pragmatic man.

The natives will not change,but the nuns will.Their faith gets still tangled in prejudices;two examples:

-A young noble man wants to study in the mission.When sister Clodagh (Kerr) refuses,he points his finger at the crucifix and says "Wasn't HE a man?"" He took the shape of a man" the baffled nun answers.

-Sister Clodagh wants to get rid of the Holy Man,who spends his time gazing upon the world around him."What would Jesus Christ have done?" Dean ironically asks her.

After hearing sister Philippa's (Flora Robson)worried confidences,sister Clodagh feels that her past is coming back to haunt her.The flashbacks are extraordinary,dreamlike and a bit eerie.Clodagh comes to the door to meet her fiancé ,there's only darkness.The past and the present are worlds apart,in time and in space and seem to be two unconnected ones .It recalls the real world and the beyond in "a matter of life and death" (1946).And the infinite space of the 1946 work is here the highest mountains in the world.By the same token,the hunting with hounds flashback forecasts "gone to earth" (1949).Powell and Pressburger are real auteurs who build a coherent work.

The nuns actually discover that they are women made of flesh and blood.One of them,sister Ruth goes as far as falling in love with Dean and relinquishes religion.The night scene during which she paints her lips against a hellish backdrop in front of a terrified sister Clodagh is a riveting tour de force that even Luis Bunuel did not equal.The fighting around the (hell) bell between a white Clodagh and an all dressed in black Ruth will leave you on the edge of your seat.

There are so many things to say about "black narcissus":Jean Simmons appears in a silent ,but vicious part.This is probably Deborah Kerr's towering performance,and she's only on the threshold of a brilliant career -she will play a nun once more in John Huston's "heaven knows mister Allison" ,but although I do love that director,her part here is far superior-.Jack Cardiff's award-winning color cinematography was years ahead of its time.It works wonders in the sensual scenes but the most beautiful picture remains for me the last one when the rain begins to fall on green leaves.

A sparkling black diamond.


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