8.0/10
18,284
145 user 127 critic

Black Narcissus (1947)

Not Rated | | Drama | December 1947 (USA)
Trailer
2:34 | Trailer

Watch Now

From $3.99 (SD) on Prime Video

ON DISC
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 »
Reviews
Won 2 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

The Red Shoes (1948)
Drama | Music | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

A young ballet dancer is torn between the man she loves and her pursuit to become a prima ballerina.

Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Stars: Anton Walbrook, Marius Goring, Moira Shearer
Drama | Romance | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

From the Boer War through World War II, a soldier rises through the ranks in the British military.

Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Stars: Roger Livesey, Deborah Kerr, Anton Walbrook
Comedy | Drama | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

A British wartime aviator who cheats death must argue for his life before a celestial court.

Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Stars: David Niven, Kim Hunter, Robert Coote
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A young Englishwoman goes to the Hebrides to marry her older, wealthier fiancé. When the weather keeps them separated on different islands, she begins to have second thoughts.

Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Stars: Wendy Hiller, Roger Livesey, George Carney
Comedy | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

Three modern day pilgrims investigate a bizarre crime in a small town on the way to Canterbury.

Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Stars: Eric Portman, Sheila Sim, Dennis Price
Peeping Tom (1960)
Drama | Horror | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A young man murders women, using a movie camera to film their dying expressions of terror.

Director: Michael Powell
Stars: Karlheinz Böhm, Anna Massey, Moira Shearer
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

Meeting a stranger in a railway station, a woman is tempted to cheat on her husband.

Director: David Lean
Stars: Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard, Stanley Holloway
Fantasy | Music | Musical
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

A melancholy poet reflects on three women he loved and lost in the past: a mechanical performing doll, a Venetian courtesan, and the consumptive daughter of a celebrated composer.

Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Stars: Moira Shearer, Robert Rounseville, Ludmilla Tchérina
Drama | Fantasy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

A beautiful young woman takes her father's place as the prisoner of a mysterious beast, who wishes to marry her.

Directors: Jean Cocteau, René Clément
Stars: Jean Marais, Josette Day, Mila Parély
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

The theatrical life of a beautiful courtesan and the four men who love her.

Director: Marcel Carné
Stars: Arletty, Jean-Louis Barrault, Pierre Brasseur
Adventure | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

A humble orphan suddenly becomes a gentleman with the help of an unknown benefactor.

Director: David Lean
Stars: John Mills, Valerie Hobson, Tony Wager
The Innocents (1961)
Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

A young governess for two children becomes convinced that the house and grounds are haunted.

Director: Jack Clayton
Stars: Deborah Kerr, Peter Wyngarde, Megs Jenkins
Edit

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
Edit

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 to Storm Your Heart! Drama at the top of the world ... where winds of the exotic past sweep men and women to strange and fascinating adventure... See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
Edit

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 »

Edit

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 »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

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 »

Goofs

During a shot of the Himalayan mountains, stagehands can be seen standing and walking about behind the scrim on which the mountains are painted. 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 »

Connections

Referenced in 20,000 Days on Earth (2014) See more »

Soundtracks

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

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Black Narcissus is a story of ghosts, wind, faith, frustration, sexual tension and madness.
31 August 2001 | by countryway_48864See all my reviews

I have seen Black Narcissus in three different ways. First I saw it in a movie theater when I was 7 or 8 with my mother. I remembered it as being beautiful to look at and rather strange, and I fell in love with the idea of The Roof of The World.

I next encountered Black Narcissus as an older adult. I purchased Black Narcissus in VHS format. I devoured the film scene by scene.

The film is ravishing, spectral and profound. The idea of someone being given a trust much heavier to bare than their abilities can handle opens the door to all sorts of possibilities. The suggestion that all the nun's had lives before they became nuns and not all of them are suited to "The Life" adds depth and tension. The introduction of a bare-chested, handsome man in shorts adds lust and temptation to the mix.

One of the best characters in the film is one that no other poster has mentioned. The marvelous character actress who plays the role of Aiyah, the caretaker of "The General's House of Women." A woman who is already slightly mad when the film begins. A woman who lives in the glorious past of the place. She conjures ghosts. She casts shadows. She has a voice as harsh as a parrot's. She is priceless and wonderful in every scene, for she is not just mad, but wise. She is the key to "The House of Women".

In the Alfred Hitchcock film of Rebecca, Mrs. Danvers, the mad housekeeper of Manderly, asks the new Mrs. DeWinter: "Do you believe that the dead come back to watch the living?" In Black Narcissus, the viewer gets the feeling that just around the next turn or at the top of the stairs is one of "The General's Women", watching these odd women who live without men.

A previous poster mentioned the superb sense of "place" in the film and I agree. The Palace is a player. It has a personality and a mystery of its own. So is the ever-present wind. Jack Cardiff, the genius who performed miracles with light and painted backdrops to photograph a film set in the Himalayas without ever leaving England, can't be praised highly enough.

The cast is splendid. Deborah Kerr's tortured Sister Clodagha registers every emotion, every longing, every doubt and every fear with her eyes and the set of her chin. Dame Flora Robson, better known as Elizabeth I in so many films, portrays Sister Philippa, the nun in spiritual crisis. Her, "I think it is this place. You can see too far. I think you either have to give in to it, like Mr. Dean, or leave", neatly sums up the entire film. When she can't bring herself to plant vegetables instead of the flowers she loves, she knows she MUST leave or lose herself and all she has worked for, forever. Judith Furse, the capable and sturdy Sister Brione has no such concerns. Hers is an unquestioning faith. Kathleen Byron as Sister Ruth, (the extra burden the Mother Superior foists on Sister Clodagha as a test of her dedication and skill at managing a small but dynamic group of women),is excellent in her demanding role as the nun who cracks.

A beautiful young Jean Simmons is sensuous as Kanchi who seduces Sabu who is very good as the young Prince, who has set himself to learn just about everything and who thinks the nun's shunning men "Isn't very nice. After all, Christ was a man..." He is named Black Narcissus by Sister Ruth.

David Ferrar as Mr. Dean may have "given in to the place" but he is still civilized enough to empathize with Sister Clodagha and resist Sister Ruth's advances. He has predicted that the nuns will last "until the rains come..."

Black Narcissus is filled with magic images and haunting echos. The "flowering of the snows" scene is breathtaking. The chapel scene frightening and tense. The "Bell" scene horrifying. The final view of "The House of Women", viewed by Sister Clodagha from the valley below is heart-stopping: A mist rises slowly and inch by inch blots out the Palace, until it is only a dream in your mind's eye. Then, a large leaf is seen. One drop falls. Then another, like tears of regret. A black umbrella is opened. Mr. Dean sits on his pony and runs his hand through his thick black hair. He had said the nuns would be gone with the first rain, and he was right.

Brian Easdale's brilliant score underlines the changing moods and the mounting terror, but never overwhelms the action.

My most recent encounter with Black Narcissus is the new Criterion DVD. The commentary and behind-the-scenes photographs and the marvelous documentary, Painting with Light, is as extraordinary as the film. It is a revelation. The sharper image doesn't bother me as much as it does a previous poster, but I do, when I have friends over to watch Black Narcissus, start with the VHS film and then put on the DVD for the special features. That way I get the best of both worlds.

If you love great films, great acting or just stunning cinematography, purchase Black Narcissus. It will haunt you forever.


117 of 125 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 145 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page



Recently Viewed