This is what happens when your car breaks down on a Sunday morning and you have nothing else to do…
After opening a convent in the Himalayas, five nuns encounter conflict and tension as they attempt to adapt to their remote, exotic surroundings.
In a perfect world, this is what comic book movies would look like. Powell and Pressburger took every visual trick in the book, it feels like, to craft this. It's not just the colors (which are widely touted) nor the painted backdrops (which feel more real than the best CGI) nor the huge spaces (which convey isolation and expansiveness at once--you feel so small and alone knowing how much of the world there is). It's also the blocking (see how Kanchi relates to the Little General, for instance) and the movement (the birds in their cages, the edges of the mountain making people flinch, the camera adjusting angle in an angular room) and the transitions (fading from Mr. Dean to…
The theme is from Forster and I Know Where I’m Going!, worked out "at the back of the beyond" by The Archers at their most carnal-bonkers-sublime. The old harem known as "the House of Women" is perched on the edge of Himalayan precipices, turning it into "the House of St. Faith" is the mission accepted by the Irish Sister Superior (Deborah Kerr) and her Anglican order. Quite a challenge for sanctity: There are howling winds up above and drums in the bamboo jungle below, plus the hirsute thighs of the sardonic government agent (David Farrar) to erode the resolve behind the pale habits. The stony cloister with clogged-up plumbing, the bejeweled Little General (Sabu) and the wayward odalisque (Jean Simmons),…
I suppose it was only fitting that I rejoined my run of The Archers films today with this particular film after making this list earlier!
I have to admit to being rather daunted by the prospect of watching Black Narcissus. In fact, it's probably a feeling I have about almost all of The Archers films. Not because I was worried about them being difficult or complex - in fact, so far they have all been about as approachable a selection of films that the uninitiated could possibly hope them to be.
It was more to do with the writing about them afterwards that I was daunted by. You become aware, even…
Film #29 of Project 40
”Remember, the superior of all is the servant of all.”
To put it simply Black Narcissus is about failure. About limitation. About arrogance. About madness. It was a terrifying experience to tell you the truth. On the surface it is a gorgeously shot movie with sharp colors and beautiful scenery but beneath this dazzling superficial layer lies a petrifying world of carnal desires, verbal threats and mental confusion with characters who are haunted by their own fears and doubts. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger take their characters to the end of the world and leave them alone with their own erratic minds and erotic fantasies and then witness their physical, spiritual and mental collapse. Black…
Director: Michael Powell (and Emeric Pressburger) (Third Film)
Black Narcissus is startling. It's startling because of its omniscient and thick erotic atmosphere, and all of this, in a film about nuns setting up a school in India. The immediate purity of the clothing worn by the nuns is (yet again) masterfully inventive as it opposes the natural and vibrant colours of the Himalayas and its surrounding terrain. Carnality meets oppressed sexuality in a film that doesn't rely on plot or story but wholly on the colours to express, and the atmosphere to emote and the occasional spike in emotional verbalisation from a hysterical Kathleen Byron.
Her moments are the pinnacle because of her fantastical performance: and her hysteria…
This one's going to take some time and another viewing or three to properly absorb. But it's absolutely brilliant.
A meditation on spiritual commitment versus the temptations of the world, set in a nunnery high in the Himalyas. And what a world. Gold, silk, flowers, mountains. Men who run around with their shirts off -- and who remind Deborah Kerr's nun of her lost love. Sensual Indian paintings on the wall of the old palace where the nuns now reside; look carefully, and you'll find a few bare breasts on the walls. Candlelight dancing in the dark hallways.
And all of it shot in gorgeous technicolor by Jack Cardiff. It's not as unreal as The Red Shoes, and yet the…
Oh, the cinematography. Every shot is a Renaissance masterpiece.
A fantastic melodrama.
Culture shock distilled. I had no idea this would end up being a thriller but it was so perfectly structured, looking back on it. Deborah Kerr also demonstrates that she's one of the most versatile actors ever. I especially appreciate that both religious practices featured in the film are depicted as equally valid while maintaining that religion is important for those who give it importance, a very grounded outcome for a film that is, to use its own term, "exaggerated."
My favorite part was anytime Mr. Dean entered the scene on one of those little ponies.
Nobody was doing more interesting things with Technicolour in the 1940s than the British directing duo of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, whose various collaborations from the period are all virtuoso cinematographic works. Black Narcissus deservedly collected the Oscars for Cinematography and Art Direction for its superb depiction of an isolated Indian convent-school, where a small band of nuns is increasingly drawn away from their cloistered life into the tumult of emotions and entanglements they had tried to leave behind. Released in the same year as the British withdrawal from India, attempts have been made to read a political statement into it, though in truth it follows an earlier source novel in that broad sense. The supporting cast somewhat awkwardly…
Eating your peas. Sometimes I feel like I am eating my peas when I watch a movie I have been told or heard was a great one. I hold my nose and watch.
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeois is a good example. The English Patient is another. Hooey. No more.
I watched an hour of Black Narcissus. There were forty more minutes to go. I turned it off. If you can't keep me interested after an hour, then that's on you. This was boring and really not very watchable.
The flashbacks were uninteresting. The characters were uninteresting. The story was uninteresting. It wasn't shot particularly well.
I didn't care. Meh.
Go ahead and watch it. Eat your peas. Not me. Not any more.
No rating as I didn't finish it. I'd give it a star and a half for the difficult shoot but it was mostly filmed with backdrops.
I think I need to watch again to fully realize the depth of Black Narcissus―there's just something about those mountains, the Himalayas. The flashbacks. The isolation. The faces. The impeccable set design. The identity crises. This film took me somewhere, yet I just can't put my finger on it. But damn, is it something.
"I don't love anyone!"
The most erotic film about nuns you could ever see. That's not to say this is a steamy flick from the forties, but it's the lust that lies repressed beneath those white robes that makes the film so suggestive. Examined is the conflict of the heart with that of religious duties and custom, and each nun deals with the tension differently. The climactic final scenes with Sister Ruth are so perfectly chilling. Plus, virtually every shot is worth framing on a wall. Magnificent color picture. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful...
Order/disorder. Repression/desire. (Yes, it’s all about sex.) This is the classic territory of melodrama, and Black Narcissus is surely the great British melodrama. But the British critical establishment prized social realism and Black Narcissus was not much liked (Rummer Godden hated it), and even in the 1960s when Raymond Durgnant wrote what was perhaps the first study to take Michael Powell seriously (Movie 14), he was dismissive of Black Narcissus. It is since the 1970s, when melodrama began to gain a little critical respect, that Black Narcissus has slowly gained its reputation as a key Powell and Pressburger film. A group of nuns, under the leadership of Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr), are sent by their order to found a mission…
Movies that are slightly off.