A group of Anglican nuns, led by Sister Clodagh, are sent to a mountain in the Himalayas. The climate in the region is hostile and the nuns are housed in an odd old palace. They work to establish a school and a hospital, but slowly their focus shifts. Sister Ruth falls for a government worker, Mr. Dean, and begins to question her vow of celibacy. As Sister Ruth obsesses over Mr. Dean, Sister Clodagh becomes immersed in her own memories of love.
- Sister Clodagh: Deborah Kerr
- Mr. Dean: David Farrar
- Sister Philippa: Flora Robson
- Sister Ruth: Kathleen Byron
- The Young General: Sabu
- Kanchi: Jean Simmons
- Sister Honey: Jenny Laird
- Sister Briony: Judith Furse
- The Old General: Esmond Knight
- Angu Ayah: May Hallatt
- Joseph Anthony: Eddie Whaley Jr.
- Con: Shaun Noble
- Mother Dorothea: Nancy Roberts
- Phuba: Ley On
- Draughtsman: Elliot Scott
- Director of Photography: Jack Cardiff
- Editor: Reginald Mills
- Production Design: Alfred Junge
- Writer: Emeric Pressburger
- Writer: Michael Powell
- Original Music Composer: Brian Easdale
- Novel: Rumer Godden
- Sound Designer: Stanley Lambourne
- Hairstylist: Biddy Chrystal
- Producer: George R. Busby
- Makeup Artist: George Blackler
- Costume Design: Hein Heckroth
- Special Effects: Sydney Pearson
- Special Effects: E. Hague
- Special Effects: Jack Higgins
- Special Effects: James Snow
- Boom Operator: George Paternoster
- Still Photographer: Max Rosher
- John Chard: Do you think it’s a good thing to let her feel important?
Black Narcissus is directed by Micheal Powell and Emeric Pressburger, who both adapt the screenplay form Rumer Godden’s novel of the same name. It stars Deborah Kerr, Sabu, Jean Simmons, David Farrar, Flora Robson and Kathleen Byron. Music is scored by Brain Easdale and cinematography by Jack Cardiff.
A group of nuns travel to the Himalayas to set up a school and hospital at the disused Palace of Mopu. Once set up high in the mountains, some of the nuns find themselves seduced by the atmospheric sensuality of the place. Which spells trouble as inner demons start to seep out.
I haven’t got much of a review here for you, it really would be redundant due to the widespread availability of detailed works written about the film over the years. Besides which, I can only really agree with 99% of what has been said about the film before. Is there anything new that can be said? I don’t think so, really I don’t.
Black Narcissus is an experience, a sort of ode to spiritual cinema and a bastion of visual splendour. Some call it a masterpiece, others say it’s just shy of being as such, but either way a vast majority of film lovers agree it’s film making of considerable skill.
Negatively, however small in the grand scheme of things, it’s thin on story and a couple of our lead nun protagonists here are actually too filmy and pretty; I mean I don’t intend to insult the thousands of real nuns in the world, but none are surely as foxy as Kerr and Byron as presented here?! You can kind of tell it’s the meeting of a visualist and a story teller trying to find a common ground, but the visualist (Powell) holds sway for this one and film lovers the world over are all the better for it.
With a spitfire on form cast, matte paintings and Technicolor so beautiful that eye orgasms are guaranteed, and sensual suspense dripping from the roof, Black Narcissus is landmark British film making. Brought to us by two directors whose every plaudit is definitely justified. 9/10