February 26, 2017


Black Narcissus – 1947 | 100 mins | Drama | Colour


Plot Synopsis

Black Narcissus

Archers pairing Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger once again deliberately courted controversy and censorship with their 1947 adaptation of Rumer Godden’s novel Black Narcissus. Set in the fantastic Palace of Mopu, which faces a five-mile-high mountain in the Himalayas, comes a band of nuns to open a Anglican school and hospital in a one-time bordello. The unceasing wind saps their vitality, their faith is also sorely tested by the culture clash and and carnal desires. Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr) has to seek help from cynical British government agent Mr. Dean (David Farrar), the owner’s agent. From that moment orderly conversion goes forward. A chapel, is built, a lovely garden springs from the wilderness; school rooms and a dispensary are added. Mr. Dean persuades Sister Clodagh to look after a beautiful native Indian girl, Kanchi (Jean Simmons), who is well aware of her own charms; next, the young General Dilip Rai (Sabu) begs for lessons.

Christmas finds the convent’s work prospering. But Sister Clodagh is perturbed. Sister Honey is giving the native children too much love and attention. Sister Philippa, oldest and wisest of the nuns, finds her faith waning. Sister Ruth must be warned that she is too interested in handsome Mr. Dean. And the young general, with his jewels and “Black Narcissus” perfume, is upsetting the calm of the convent by courting Kanchi. Sister Briony is mindful of Mr. Dean’s advice not to treat children who are seriously ill in case they die. But Sister Honey’s love for the young overcomes her sense of duty, and secretly she treats a baby that Sister Briony has turned away. When it dies, the villagers think she has killed it.

Then, one night, Ruth creeps out of the palace to Mr. Dean’s bungalow. He insists on her returning to the convent. Next morning, Sister Clodagh is ringing the angelus when a wet hand possessed with the strength of madness reaches over her shoulder to grip her throat. For a moment the two women struggle on the parapet before Ruth falls screaming to her death. Sister Clodagh decides to go back to Calcutta with the other nuns, and for the first time she feels a sense of spiritual humility.

The film won Oscar’s for best cinematography by Jack Cardiff and best art direction by Alfred Junge.

Production Team

Michael Powell: Director
Emeric Pressburger: Director
Arthur Lawson: Art Direction
Sydney Streeter: Asst Director
George R Busby: Asst Producer
Jack Cardiff: Cinematography
Hein Hockroth: Costume Designer
Reginald Mills: Editing
George Blackler: Makeup
Brian Easdale: Music Direction
Michael Powell: Producer
Emeric Pressburger: Producer
Alfred Junge: Production Design
Rumer Godden: Script
Michael Powell: Script
Emeric Pressburger: Script
Stanley Lambourne: Sound
Jack Higgins: Special Effects
Douglas Hague: Special Effects
Sydney Pearson: Special Effects
W Percy Day: Special Effects


Deborah Kerr: Sister Clodagh
David Farrar: Mr Dean
Flora Robson: Sister Philippa
Jean Simmons: Kanchi
Kathleen Byron: Sister Ruth
Sabu Young: Prince
Esmond Knight: Old General
Jenny Laird: Sister \’Honey\’ Blanche
Judith Furse: Sister Briony

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