Black Narcissus


(out of 5)

One of the best British films ever made is this pioneering effort by independent filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Shot entirely at Pinewood with painted matte backgrounds to recreate the Himalayas (and astonishingly well at that), the film is superbly textured and mature, thematically ahead of any movie made in its period.  heads a superb group of performers as the Sister Superior of a group of Anglican nuns who move to a convent in a remote mountain village in India, only to find that their confidence and strength in their religion is no match for the mystic powers of the East. Sexual frustration over local white man , weakening faith, harsh climate and the growing fondness for their homeland soon get to the sisters and they are forced to leave or die. Interestingly enough, Kerr’s flashback scenes of her youth and teenage sweetheart were cut by American censors upon first release, even though they were completely without sexual content, explicit or implicit; perhaps it was too taboo to show a nun who has taken her vows to escape a failed love affair (the scenes have since been restored and are now available on home video). Funny how the nun who throws herself off a mountain because she goes bug-eyed every time she sees Farrar in his shorts didn’t even make the Prude Alert blink.

United Kingdom, 1947

Directed by Michael Powell,

Screenplay by Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, based on the novel by

Cinematography by

Produced by Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

Music by

Production Design by

Costume Design by

Film Editing by

The Criterion Collection

Cast Tags:  , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Academy Awards
Best Art Direction (Colour) (art direction: Alfred Junge; set decoration: Alfred Junge)
Best Cinematography (Colour) (Jack Cardiff)

Golden Globe Award
Best Cinematography-Colour (Jack Cardiff)

New York Film Critics Award
Best Actress (Deborah Kerr)

Best Actress (Kathleen Byron)


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