Black
Narcissus
(1947)


Image1
 
 ‘Black
Narcissus’
is
a
film
concerning
the
lives
of
five
nuns
as
they
are
sent
to
the
 Himalayas
to
set
up
a
school
and
an
infirmary
and
the
subsequent
turn
of
events
 as
they
try
to
adjust
to
unfamiliar
surroundings;
some
prevail
and
others
fail
 with
dramatic
consequences.
The
story
is
based
on
a
novel
by
Rumer
Godden.
 The
film
adaption
directed
by
Emeric
Pressburger
and
Micheal
Powell
and
 released
in
1947.
 
 In
the
early
period
of
technicolour
film
production
and
little
with
regards
to
 visual
effects
available,
the
filmmakers
of
Black
Narcissus
used
what
they
had
to
 their
advantage.
Gloriously
expansive
scenery
achieved
through
sumptuous
 matte
paintings
result
in
scenes
that
are
so
realistic
that
in
the
eyes
of
a
Film4
 reviewer
‘the
sets
and
backdrops
suggest[ing]
that
this
was
a
film
shot
on
location,
 rather
than
one
that
was
cobbled
together
at
Pinewood
Studios.’
It
also
lent
itself
 to
create
one
of
the
most
iconic
and
tense
scenes
in
cinema
history.
Image2
 makes
it
clear
just
how
a
matte
painting
can
create
an
incredibly
strong
mood
 and
this
becomes
a
recurring
theme
throughout
the
film.



 The
cinematography
by
Jack
Cardiff
is
quite
incredible
due
to
it
use
of
angles,
 shadow
and
light
and
most
noticeable
of
all
colour.
In
scenes
of
calm
and
 collected
nature
the
environment
and
the
nuns
appear
to
be
very
white
and
 serene,
but
yet
as
soon
as
there
is
a
hint
of
tension
of
the
lustful
or
tempting
 variety,
a
flash
of
red
can
be
seen.
As
has
been
spotted
in
an
article
by
Empire,
‘A
 slash
of
red
lipstick
clashes
with
the
bleached
white
of
a
nun’s
habit
to
say
so
much
 about
repressed
desires.’
(Empire,
2007)

(Image3)
This
use
of
colour
was
one
of
 many
ways
in
which
frowned
upon
subjects
such
as
lust
and
sexuality
were
able
 to
be
touched
upon
without
explicitly
doing
so,
although
with
scenes
such
as
 Image3,
it
does
become
rather
obvious.
 


Image2



 To
emphasize
the
erratic,
decline
of
sanity
of
the
character
Sister
Ruth
(played
by
 Kathleen
Byron)
there
seems
to
be
an
increase
in
the
number
of
shots
of
her
in
 extreme
lighting.
Peering
out
of
the
shadows,
the
fervent
eyes
of
a
sex
starved
 woman
are
lit,
becoming
besotted
with
a
strapping
male
agent
named
Dean
who
 frequents
the
convent
as
an
aid
to
the
General
and
the
Sisters.
(Image4)



Image3


Image4
 
 When
compared
to
the
Sister
Superior
Character,
(Sister
Clodagh,
as
played
by
 Deborah
Kerr,)
Sister
Ruth
is
described
as
‘a
violent
cauldron
of
conflicting
 desires
and
acts
as
a
mirror
to
Sister
Clodagh’s
repression.‘
(DC,
2005)
It
would
 appear
the
isolation
of
the
newfound
convent
and
the
unwanted
but
necessary
 presence
of
Dean
is
stirring
up
memories
of
sister
Clodagh’s
life
before
joining
 the
order,
where
it
is
clear
she
had
a
love
interest.
But
yet
she
focuses
with
steely
 determination
on
her
vocation,
all
the
while
the
other
Nuns
appear
to
begin
to
 fall
apart
in
their
duties.
The
clear
air
and
the
alienation
of
the
villagers
they
 were
sent
to
help,
clearly
takes
its
toll.

 
 As
is
to
be
expected
with
any
love
triangle,
the
story
culminates
in
a
 confrontation
of
sorts,
however
‘Black
Narcissus’
see’s
the
situation
resolved
in
 the
most
dramatic
of
sequences
ever
seen
in
cinema.
It
becomes
a
fight
for
 survival
between
the
completely
berserk
Sister
Ruth
(
once
rejected
by
Dean)
 and
Sister
Clodagh,
The
film
is
definitely
worth
a
watch.
It’s
incredible
scenery,
 film
style
and
symbolism
subconsciously
communicates
with
the
audience
of
the
 psychological
unrest
and
desires,
as
five
women
try
to
do
their
best
in
some
 extraordinary
conditions.

 
 
 
 


Bibliography



 
 
 Film4
(2012)
Black
Narcissus
 http://www.film4.com/reviews/1947/black‐narcissus#
 
 Empire
(2007)
Black
Narcissus
 http://www.empireonline.com/reviews/ReviewComplete.asp?FID=11330
 
 DC
(2005)
Black
Narcissus
(1946)
 http://www.timeout.com/film/reviews/67935/black_narcissus.html
 


Pictures
 Image1:
IMDb
(2012)
Black
Narcissus
(1947)
 http://www.imdb.com/media/rm749641216/tt0039192
 
 Image2:
Movie
Picture
Database
(2010)
Black
Narcissus
1947
 http://www.moviepicturedb.com/picture/519828c7?qid=2
 
 Image3:
GlamourDaze
(2012)
1940’s
Make
up:
The
famous
Lipstick
Scene
in
Black
 Narcissus
 http://glamourdaze.com/2012/09/1940s‐makeup‐the‐famous‐lipstick‐scene‐ in‐black‐narcissus.html