Black Narcissus (1947

)
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

Figure 1. Film Poster

Directed by, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, Black Narcissus is a film based on a Novel of the same name, about Nuns moving to the Himalayas for a missionary assignment, things get very bad as the nuns are isolated in the valley, tension rises and there are shock plot turns, black Narcissus is an atmospheric film, and it’s very symbolic with its use of colours and suggestive gestures. The film begins with visuals of a wide open vast environment, this was possible due to the cleverly painted matte paintings which were able to turn an ordinary vast environment to something with an exciting backdrop. The house which was previously named the house for women, was now being taken over by nuns; the nuns tried changing the environment around them instead it had the opposite effect, the nuns were tempted to stray while they were on top of the mountain, the spaces in this film are filled with suggestive colours easing the viewer visually and slowly showing audience the mind state of a character, as the viewers are shown the slow descent into craziness for sister Ruth.

Figure 2. The Himalayas

Some of the nun started getting rashes, though this was physical it seemed more like it was a symbolism for the environment getting to them, one of the sisters wanted to leave due to how difficult it was for her to stay due temptation, even the Sister Superior Kerr begins to recall her former life, an explanation as to why this was happening could be the simple fact that the nuns weren’t no longer in the confinements of a holy place rather, they were miles away with wide open lushes spaces, and the freedom drove them to insanity, the significance of English agent Dean was also odd at first but, other explanations as to the significance of his character was that he was to symbolise God, whose presence was purposely there to test his servant (the nuns), as his presence caused a lot of hysteria amongst them.

Figure 3. Sister Ruth putting on Red Lipstick

One sister who was completely infatuated by him was Sister Ruth whose decent into insanity was a magnificent performance by Kathleen Byron “her final appearance in the film, gaunt and wraithlike, is still one of the scariest moments in British cinema history” (Bradshaw, 2005) use of red was very effective in this last segments of the film, the appliance of red lip stick as Ruth prepares herself for the encounter with Dean; which didn’t go the way she wanted, was like getting herself ready sexually for the encounter at this point the environment takes a step back, everything else is dark with Red

rim lighting and bright colours shinning on her face, she was the centre of attention, and this is what made her final appearance so scary, and visually outstanding.

Powell builds tension throughout the whole film, the viewer’s get the sense of what is about to happen and throughout the whole film the audience is left waiting for the tension to be released and when it is, it’s done cleverly, “his perspective-oriented angles and fluid, slight dollies evince a loyal concern for what and how his characters are thinking and feeling.” (Lanther, 2010) Lanther of the slant magazine website talks about how the film can be all put down to repressed sexuality, and as the director uses odd angles and to show his as he also stated, Powell uses red a lot throughout the film to symbolise the tension and what goes on around the character, the care for what they feel and think is shown through this as all the nun get caught up in a situation when they aren’t thinking clearly and their mind wonders, as there are a lot of sexual tension throughout the film. All together Black Narcissus is a film about temptation, probably the most sexiest film about nuns out there to this date, the theme is about sexual desires, it could have a hidden message about nuns behind it but nevertheless, for a film released 1965 its beautiful, though it have could prove challenging to a modern audience due to how different it is from modern films, when watched and analysed for what it is, only then could a modern viewer understand the genius of it all. “Filled with bold colors, grand gestures, and more sexual repression than any film dare possess” (Cale, 2007), black Narcissus not only has the storyline as its main strong point, but the environmental change in the beginning, from the where the nuns originally resided at to the beautiful lushes spaces they have, it’s no wonder the nuns minds seem to wonder, the sexual repression come from the characters and the tense moments but the wide open spaces in those moments lend themselves to this and make what could have been a scene to a moment where sexual desires and constantly repressed.

Bibliography Illustrations Figure 1: http://www.doctormacro.com/Movie%20Summaries/B/Black%20Narcissus.htm Figure 2: http://parallax-view.org/2009/03/03/bob-bing-and-the-caseof-the-traveling-matte/ Figure 3: http://glamourdaze.com/2012/09/1940s-makeup-the-famouslipstick-scene-in-black-narcissus.html Quotes Brandshaw, P. (2005) her final appearance in the film, gaunt and wraithlike, is still one of the scariest moments in British cinema history. In: guardian [online] http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2005/aug/05/3 (Accessed on 09/12/12) Lanther, J. (2010) his perspective-oriented angles and fluid, slight dollies evince a loyal concern for what and how his characters are thinking and feeling. In: slantmagazine [online] http://www.slantmagazine.com/dvd/review/black-narcissus/1774 (Accessed on 09/12/12) Cale, M. (2007) Filled with bold colors, grand gestures, and more sexual repression than any film dare possess [online] http://www.ruthlessreviews.com/927/black-narcissus/ (Accessed on 09/12/12)

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