A group of nuns struggle to establish a convent in the Himalayas, while isolation, extreme weather, altitude, and culture clashes all conspire to drive the well-intentioned missionaries mad.


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





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


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 concubine. 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


A STORY OF FASCINATING ADVENTURE in a Strange and Beautiful Land! See more »




Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Director of Photography Jack Cardiff said that the lighting and color palette of this movie was inspired by the works of seventeenth century Dutch painter Vermeer. See more »


From 57:29 to 1:00:03, the glass of water is next to the short square black object, except when seen at 57:53 and 59:38. See more »


[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 Of Mary - Calcutta See more »

Alternate Versions

The flashbacks of Sister Clodagh's life prior to her becoming a nun were deleted from the original U.S prints of the film. See more »


Featured in Arena: A Pretty British Affair (1981) See more »


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

User Reviews

Painting with Light
12 May 2005 | by RathkoSee all my reviews

The story concerns a group of nuns opening a new convent school/health clinic high in the Indian Himalayas. The high altitude, the native people, and the mountain vistas, have profound effects on the woman, and each, in their own way, begins to question their commitment to their chosen life. The performances are good, though somewhat typical in that rather dry, post-war kind of way. Kathleen Byron makes a very modern attempt to create a startling and unusually frank image of female sexuality. Her quick kiss of Mr. Dean's hand as he evicts her from his home is part childish defiance, part serpent's bite, and is just one of the many highlights of her performance. The 70-year-old May Hallat is also note-worthy, creating a bizarre and thoroughly original character in the form of the servant Angu Ayah.

The movie's true stars however are production designer Alfred Junger and cinematographer, the legendary Jack Cardiff. Junger manages to create a vivid and hallucinatory vision of northern India on an English sound stage. The interiors of the crumbling palace, with their intricately carved screens and painted murals, are beautiful, and the courtyards, full of goats and chickens caught in the howling winds, convey an incredible air of authenticity. With a Technicolor camera, nobody ever really knew exactly how the developed film would look. All you could hope for was that a gifted cinematographer and a Technicolor consultant could twiddle those little dials in just the right way so as to alter the light spectrum and burn vibrant reds and haunting indigo onto the film forever. The virtual alchemy of the process, the unexpected serendipity, is what lends this film its excitement, and Cardiff's Oscar win is one of the most deserved in the Academy's history.

An amazing visual feast, that while lacking in strong performances, teaches us much of the bravery, science, craft and artistry of vintage cinema.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 173 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.






Release Date:

December 1947 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Black Narcissus See more »


Box Office


GBP280,000 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed